missionary plaque picture

missionary plaque picture

Monday, March 30, 2015

"Cool temperature, relatively... Can't complain!"

"Cool temperature, relatively... Can't complain!"
--Elder Christiansen from "The District 2." Sis Navarro and I quote that at some point almost every day.

Something you should know about mission culture is that missionaries love nothing better than 1) quoting Disney movies, 2) quoting Harry Potter ("well done slytherin, well done slytherin") and 3) quoting the District, basically the only thing we actually watch. This week Sis Navarro was like "I have to marry a return missionary so that we can quote the District together," and I was like, this girl truly knows her priorities. Haha :)


Oh dearest family, I hope you had a great time in Washington! It sounds like it was a blast! Congratulations on having bladders of steel; it looks like you've taken an entire half hour off our record driving time from Idaho to Seattle. Also congratulations to Nelson for basically being the smartest person on the face of the planet. You should transfer to Provo and tutor anatomy and show 'em how it's done! Mom, I think your email got stuck in the filter or something. Hopefully there wasn't anything super urgent you needed me to respond to this week :)

Are you so excited for CONFERENCE?! Oh man. Have fun at the conference center, you lucky ducks! I've had a deep love for conference since I was 16 but as a missionary it's just so much better, I don't know how to describe it. The Women's broadcast was amazing. The stake put on a really nice pre-broadcast social with homemade muffins and apple cider and it had a really good turnout. 2 recent converts came and watched it with us, Anne and Kassie. They're both not the biggest fans of Relief Society, so I was praying the whole time that it would be a deeply spiritual experience for them. By the end of the broadcast, Anne was bawling. So that's good ;) I think the broadcast really changed her perspective on Relief Society.

Well this weekend, Kassie got baptized on Friday and then I got to go back to Kingman for Andy's baptism the next day! With that and the women's broadcast, it was the best weekend ever! I'm so excited for them. I'm especially excited for Andy, because he's become such a great patriarch for his family. I just never could have known that first time that Sister Martin and I talked to him at the mailbox that he would lead the way for his family to accept the gospel. Anna and Braden shouldn't be far behind :)

Sister Cook came to my area on exchanges this week and it was the most amazing day. I feel like I spent the day with Walt Disney and he told me to go live my dreams. All I did was mention to her that I would love to be a piano teacher my whole life, and she dreamed up a design for my own piano studio and drew it out for me. She also encouraged me to make my little apartment a home, and take the time at lunch or on Pday to organize it and decorate it. That's actually something I've been wanting to do all transfer and it felt so good to have someone give me permission. I've been turning into a little homemaker :) Sister Cook and Hutchings were sitting in front of us at the women's broadcast, and when the speaker said something along the lines of "anyone can help to make their house a home wherever they live" they slowly turned around and gave me a knowing smile. Our little one-bedroom apartment is now a much cleaner, more orderly, more beautiful little place where the Spirit can be felt in abundance.

Kassie's baptism! Toby, Kassie, and us. She was glowing!

Bro Walker, the sisters, Andy, his son Braden and his wife Anna :) What a champ. I've learned more about faith and humility from him than just about anyone else.

I love you all! Have a great week!
With love,
Sister Browning

Monday, March 23, 2015

"The Gospel is a QUEST, not a Club!"

--A very smart YSA in church yesterday.

Hey Howdy Hi :)
Wait, Mom's got some scoliosis too? Do you all have scoliosis? "Did they all go to florida?" Name that movie! Anyway, you are all making me nice and self-conscious about my posture. I slump and slouch all the time, so I'm probably next. Haha ;)
I told Katherine my heartiest congratulations as she begins being the cutest, most darling, scrub-wearing, blood-pressure taking, butt-wiping CNA student that ever lived. She's amazing!
You know, the more you tell me about it, the more I kind of wish I could read that Crucial Conversations book on my mission. I feel like it would help a lot, with my companion, investigators, working with members, etc... But I guess that's what PMG and the scriptures are for!
Speaking of communication. I'm still genuinely considering changing my major to communications, or human resources, or something. I really don't think I'm committed enough to the idea of being a public school teacher. Anyone want to do some research for me? Find out what avenues are out there? :)
Ok, on to my week. My week was good! Wait... what even happened this week? They're all starting to blur together. I can only imagine how I'll feel when I've been out for a year. Oh! Family home evening with President Snow! Yeah, that was a blast. Apparently that was the first time he's held a family home evening in the mission home. I hope he makes it a habit and invites a different set of missionaries each time. He and Sister Snow really just need to take a break more often and let someone else teach them! They work so hard! 

The members in this ward are awesome. I'm slowly getting to know more of them and it's delightful. On Tuesday, we brought a member named Nick to a first lesson with an investigator named Fausto. As we were prepping him before the appointment, we asked, "will you invite him to be baptized?" At the end of the lesson, we turned to Nick, and he goes"and, we would like to ask, will you be baptized by someone holding the Priesthood authority of God?" Yeah, Nick! Whatta champ. That was a first for him and for us. :)
On Friday we street contacted this old gentleman who gets this scary look in his eye and goes, "wait right here, this guy can Bible bash with the best of 'em!" Ohh noooo. We were terrified, but stuck rooted in front of his apartment until this other old guy comes out. He had this HUGE drawing covered in scripture references from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and D&C. Turns out he's a member! The picture was his drawing of the valley of Lemuel and the river Laman. Every mountain is a gospel topic that he's studied and all the references he's found. SO cool! He knows his stuff, and has such a strong testimony, but he never goes to church... We'll sic the family ward elders on him and hopefully that will change :)
We had dinner one night with a member who said, "I think the difference between a good missionary and a great missionary-- because every missionary is good-- is that a great missionary really loves the people, and you can see it." I want to be that missionary so badly. I really, truly, just want to turn outward and do everything out of love. But love is the hardest attribute!

 I was pondering this as I drove to our next appointment with our investigator Kassie. Kassie has been through so much in her life. In the lesson she was crying about the difficulties she's facing as she prepares for baptism. She was really distressed and the Spirit kind of left, but as she calmed down, the Spirit told me to sing a song to get the Spirit back in the room. In my head I was just like, "um, Spirit, I can't just start singing to this girl..." but I said, "Kassie, we're here to help you come unto Christ, but we can't do it without the Spirit. This might be weird... but can I sing you a song?" So she said yes and I sang Just Like A Father Would, the song you sent me the sheet music for. I used to listen to it over and over when Josh first left on his mission, so I knew the words by heart. I had a feeling it would help her. Although the song did help the Spirit come back (thank goodness it didn't do the opposite, ha-ha) it might have been just as much for me as for her. As I thought about the words of the song I thought about her and how the thought of a loving Heavenly Father is probably so foreign to her. And I felt so much love for her and was able to express to her His love. I know that what I felt wasn't coming from me, it was coming from Him. The love you feel for people means so much more when you have to pray for them and serve them and struggle for it, because then you realize what you're feeling is coming from a source so much greater than yourself.
I just have to quickly give a shout-out to our STLs. They're teaching me a lot about how to have FUN and be a missionary at the same time. It has come to my attention that I'm a little bit of a stick-in-the-mud. My idea of what counts as "fun" is just not everyone else's apparently. Sometimes having fun even sounds like work to me. How sad right?? I don't want to be a stick-in-the-mud... I LOVE the way they approach their missions! Last Pday they had a spa day for us, they started a movie-quoting competition with us, and they decorated our doorway with leprechaun footprints and shamrocks for St. Patty's.

One day this week, I woke up and got ready and did not feel like going out and talking to people. So I teted the STLs,"Mayday! Mayday! Sister Browning and Navarro are stuck in the molasses swamp! We both feel super sluggish and like doing ANYTHING but work. What is your prescription to get us out of this funk?" 
They're amazing. They said "We have been caught by the swamp monster too but we have discovered to try something new or fun. Try things to bond. Go on a picnic. Go out to eat. Do something fun at lunch. Do a crazy contact, i.e sing to someone, or say you want to take a picture of them for a collage you are putting together, or challenge them to a dance battle. Call up a member that you love and ask to do some service. Take your pick :) we love you both and anything we can do to help we shall try. Sometimes it also just takes a good cry." President Snow was so inspired to send Sister Cook and Sister Hutchings to the zone at this time! 

Mom, I wish you could raise your hand and be my companion, too! Can you imagine how much fun we'd have together?! We'd be unstoppable! I can't imagine anything better! Dear President Snow, please let my mommy come be a missionary with me, love always, Sister Browning. Just kidding. :)
Say hi to Grandpa Snow and give him a big hug for me. Dad, good luck driving all the kids to Seattle! Bring lots of treats and even more movies and maybe some earplugs ;) Just kidding about the earplugs. I love you all so much and pray for you every day. As I was reading the Book of Mormon this morning I came full circle back to my favorite verse in Mosiah 4:19-21. We are all beggars and all depend on God for everything we have. Then why not serve each other in every way we can? I know the church is true, and God loves us!
Love, Sister Browning

Monday, March 16, 2015

Being a Mor-Mon Makes You More of a MAN!

Being a Mor-mon Makes You MOR of a MAN!--Martel, a guy we street contacted this week. 

Dear Mom, 

I'm just going to start my letter to you today. Don't worry about me!! I've never been better! I think my letter last week was so short because... I'd forgotten how to talk. :P Sister Navarro and I had a SUPER awkward first week. Awkward silence all the time. We have talked about it since and both feel like we could be friends outside of the mission, but for some reason we have a hard time figuring out how to work together. She says I'm really strict and high-strung-- and she's probably right... I just haven't figured out yet how to be obedient and work hard without coming across as too much. It's hard to have a companion where you can constantly feel their annoyance with you. So last week I had all of that floating around inside my head and didn't feel like I could talk about it. This week, I'm walking slower, talking slower, letting her take the lead as much as I can, and trying to practice humility and patience. It's frustrating when I let myself start thinking about how much more effectively we could be working, but then I remember, if I'm not loving my companion, how can I expect to really love anyone else? 

Not only is there a stigma against saying anything negative as a missionary, (any Sister Training Leader will tell you when asked that they are "SO good!") but for the past 9 months I've been focusing on becoming a more positive person. I don't want to worry about things I can't control, so then I have a hard time talking about my struggles. That's probably the biggest reason I haven't talked much about the hard stuff in my emails home. Another piece of my personal pride puzzle that I'm working on chipping away. Don't get me wrong, I'm having a lot of fun with Sister Navarro. She's a good missionary. We've had some really good laughs where there were tears coming out of our eyes and we were worried we were gonna crash the car. XD 

Anyway. Questions. 1: Katherine has scoliosis?? So does Sister Luke, actually. Get that taken care of as soon as you can! The only thing that really helped Sis Luke is a weekly massage and she can't get permission to do that on her mission. 

2: What IS crucial conversations?? Is it a book of conversations? Or how to have conversations? Or is it just a novel with a funny name? I've never heard of it before your last few emails have mentioned it. "It must be good!" ;)

3: The Idaho Falls temple is closing for 18 months?!!! Noooo... It will be so beautiful when it opens again... but I was looking forward to going there :P I'd heard about this, but hoped it was a rumor. Haha it'll be worth it though :) 

4: No email from Dad today? How's the work-and-stake-president load for the week? Sure love him and have a lot of respect for how much pressure he's under! 

And a couple comments :) 
Happy Half-way Day Sister Browning!

5: YES, I got your beautiful package!! Thank you soooo much! I laughed so so so hard at the "tops and bottoms" thing. And had a lot of fun with them, as you can see from the picture. I think this is the best combination right here. 

6. Mom, if the Lord is directing your thoughts toward working with these people, than that is DEFINITELY missionary work! He doesn't want anyone to become a statistic. He loves His children too much for that. One of my big goals in this new area is to work on retention and reactivation with these young adults. Too many kids fall by the wayside because they don't feel like they have a good friend at church. A lot of recent converts have gone less active and we're doing our darndest to get them back to church, and enlisting the help of the active members to be good fellowshippers :) 

You know, I'm not really sure yet why the Lord has asked me to bloom and work in this part of the vineyard right now, to answer your question. Work in a YSA ward is fairly easy, as much as missionary work can be easy :P We get a lot of referrals from the other amazing hardworking missionaries, and we just drive around meeting all kinds of golden young adults and setting them with baptism dates. It's pretty cool. But there must be something more I need to learn about working with YSAs, or I wouldn't be back in a singles ward! 

We have an investigator named Karen who was going to get baptized this Saturday but we had to move the date because she invited too many friends to church and they made her late. Isn't that a great problem to have?? She's SO excited about sharing the gospel that she had to drive around and pick up 3 different people, and they all walked in together after the sacrament was over. One of her friends actually ended up being a less active member and we are going to help reactivate him.

This week we also started teaching a girl named Ehidy (pronounced Heidi). She was introduced to the church by a friend (YEAH!) who took her to the right ward even though he lives in Henderson. Now that's a good friend. She came to the Why I Believe fireside with us yesterday night (I finally get to go to those again, now that I'm in-valley!) and was really touched by the story of the recent convert whose catholic family was completely not supportive. She said "the way his family was, is exactly how my family is right now." But she's still going forward because she knows the church is true! Go Ehidy go! :) 

A few other people we're teaching right now: Kassie, the sweetest girl who grew up in foster care and is getting baptized with Karen; Cruz, this super tall bball player who is continually surprising us with how much he wants to learn, and Selena, Karen's friend. Selena has been reading and praying and got her answer in a dream! Her big hangup right now is the boyfriend. But she had this dream where she looked in the mirror and she was a handsome young man. As this handsome man she walked out of her house and saw a ton of beautiful women along the street. She could discern that even though the women seemed desirable they weren't beautiful on the inside. So she walked past all of them and saw one girl that was plan and small, wearing a red dress. But she walked up to her and asked her to dance. She told us, "I interpret it like-- the women are all the churches, and the girl I danced with was the Mormon church!" Because our church doesn't seem as flashy as others, but it's beautiful and the right choice to those who have the eyes to see it. 

We've had some pretty funny things happen lately. Las Vegas is crazy... in some ways crazier than Old Kingman... and that place is crazy. There are SO many people here. It's like an anthill, and I love it. We saw a man on the side of the road air-drumming violently to the music in his head. We met a man who's convinced he's the smartest man in the world and once killed 50,000 people "with his bare hands and feet." We street contacted a homeless guy and he dug through a cooler in his shopping cart to give us each a bottle of water. The thoughtfulness! I didn't drink it... but that is true charity right there. :)

At the Why I Believe I got to see DJ, Michael, Amber, and a bunch of other kids from Robindale again. DJ made a little bit of a scene running up and hugging me in the chapel... but I couldn't have been happier to make a spectacle of myself! I love her so much and it's so good to see her happy and strong in the faith. Seeing those kids just warmed my heart right up. It blows my mind how much room God can give you in your heart to love more and more people. 

I also got a call from Sister Hame and she told me some amazing news! Andy is getting baptized next week, and so is Kate. Did I tell you about Kate?? She is the 20 year old nanny for a family in Boulder Springs ward. She started coming to church two weeks before I got transferred, and she signed my transfer journal saying "by the time I see you next I hope that I will be a member." It was a huge tender mercy to hear about her because Boulder Springs struggled for so long. It was because she was starting to investigate that I felt like my work in Kingman was done and I could leave without any regrets. She is really an incredible young woman. I wish you could meet ALL of these people and understand how cool they are! 

There's the highlights of my week in a nutshell! President and Sis Snow invited Sis Navarro and I to the mission home for dinner and family home evening. How fun, right??We were preparing our thought this morning and were like... What do you share with the mission president and his wife for a spiritual thought that they don't already know?! We decided to talk about Jesus Christ and becoming like Him as we study His life. As with any lesson, we hope and pray the Spirit will be there and do the teaching. :) So I guess you could say I'm going to go have a "Snow family home evening" with the extended family! I expect there to be chips and salsa! ;) 

New favorite scripture: Matthew 10:29-31. Heavenly Father notices the little things. A sparrow can't fall out of its nest without His notice. He notices your triumphs and struggles, the big ones and the small ones. He celebrates with you and mourns with you even when you think you're the only one!

Love you so much! 
Sister Browning 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Here Comes Hump Day!

These are all the missionaries that were able to come to the baptism last night! 
Dear Family!
Yikes... in two days I hit my 9 month mark. Dad, you hit it on the head when you said it just goes by faster and faster the harder you work. Someone explained the mission to me as a rollercoaster. The first 6 months are like the uphill climb-- chug-chug-chug-chug-chug-- and the last year is like the whoooooosh of coming down! That's exactly what it feels like! No, I'm not ready to have less time left than I've spent. I'd like to stay forever, thank you very much :)
Uncle Kevin is right-- I meet in a church building right next door to the temple! The Las Vegas temple is quickly becoming one of my favorites :) It's so beautiful and it's HUGE. Saturday night, after a baptism for a boy named Blas we got to take him, another recent convert, and two investigators for a walk around the grounds and show them the lobby. There's nothing like serving in a place where everyone wants to know what the big white building is, and you can say, "come and see!"
I did get to go back and see Helen and Gaven's baptism. No, I wouldn't say president Snow is necessarily too strict! But he's a great, loving understanding president. I wish you could have been at that baptism-- there were so many missionaries there, some that have already been released, and some that are still serving-- and almost the whole ward turned up for it. We filled the whole chapel. I at least wish I could bottle up the love and the Spirit that was in that room and send it home in a box so you could feel what it was like. Fun fact: The woman who drove me there (and another sister missionary who is serving in North) has been good friends with the Smedleys since 1994, Her name is Sister Montandon. Love having these connections! She knows Grandma and Grandpa Snow, too!
My New Companion is Sister Navarro. She's been out for 4 months :) She knows the area a lot better than I do (correction... we cover 3 stakes, so I never know where I am!) and is making sure we don't die on these crazy Vegas roads. Hopefully I'll get the hang of everything soon.
Katherine, don't drink backwash chocolate milk! It's not worth it! ;) Hahaha. I love you all!
Love, Sister Browning

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Without Me, Ye Can Do Nothing"

Dearest Family, I'm getting transferred! 

President Snow has a funny way of never doing what I expect at transfers... probably because he is guided by the Spirit... and that guy knows a lot more than I do! So, my out-of-valley stint/probation/vacation is over and tomorrow they're hauling me back to Vegas!! I'll be serving in the Temple View YSA ward....


 I feel like the luckiest sister in the world that I get to serve in another YSA area! It covers three stakes-- central, sunrise, and east-- and from the sounds of it, probably overlooks the temple?? Who knows. ;) I'm sure hoping I run into my old Robindale friends (or the Smedleys!) if ever they have regional firesides or anything. 

Hooray hooray hooray!! This isn't missionary work, this is missionary fun!

Well my last week in Kingman was great. Helen's wedding went off without a hitch and so did her and Gavin's baptism interviews! After the interview our district leader goes, "Helen, thank you for your all your spiritual wisdom, I'm pretty sure you know more about the gospel than I do." She's an elect lady! We're so excited about this miracle of the century! I should be able to come back for the baptism next week, fingers crossed. 

Doug dropped us and we're SO sad :( He's decided to go to Praise Chapel instead. I told him that now that he knows the Church is true, nothing will ever feel quite the same again. He will know that something is missing everywhere else he goes. And that something is the fullness of Christ's gospel, with Him at the head, and His priesthood authority that makes it all work. I just hope and pray that he changes his mind. It's sad when people choose to only live the comfortable doctrine. He has so much potential!  

I have to jot down the last of the quotable Hame quotes before I never have another Hame quote to send :( I will miss her so much!! 

In the stake center bathroom: "There are no evils in the world worse than nuclear weapons and cold toilet seats" 

Reporting what she learned in personal study: "And that's what I got out of the Conference ensign... there's a lot of beautiful Mormons." 

Shortly after: "But really, why are Utah girls so pretty? ...Maybe they're just having really extensive baby blessings" 

Sister Fotheringhame, ladies and gentleman. :) 

Mom, I'm going to spend the rest of the email answering your questions: Jesus the Christ is SO GOOD. I haven't read it straight through... but I've read most of it. What I've been doing is reading a chapter in the New Testament and then finding the chapter in JTC that corresponds. It makes the 4 gospels mean so much more. I'd recommend reading it that way!

I can hardly believe all the changes on the house. And in the winter, too! Are you all shivering and cold in there?? It looks like part of the roof is missing! 

It sounds like your new calling (I almost wrote your new transfer.... what..) is going great. You can never study charity too much. One of my STLs, Sister Mayfield, challenged me to spend five minutes studying a Christlike attribute every day for the rest of my mission. And she promised that if I do, I'll be unstoppable. So that's exciting :) 

Does it feel like I've been out almost 9 months, longer, or shorter? Mmm... in some ways it feels shorter. In some ways it feels like I've been a missionary forever. The mission is a little bit of a time warp. But I think about everything I've experienced the past 9 months and then I think to myself, "Can I do all 9 months of this again?" With Heavenly Father's help, you betcha I can!! :)

I had a study on humility this week that changed my mission. I'm realizing that for me, humility needs to be a prerequisite to everything I do. My mission is constantly knocking me down, over and over, compelling me to recognize my constant and total dependence on Christ. I read the story in Luke about the woman who washes Jesus' feet with her tears, and Jesus says "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." Are Sister Browning's sins forgiven because she loved much? The humility of that woman is the kind of humility that I need to have in order to accomplish anything worthwhile out here. Because all I'm doing is loving God's children, and I can only do that through the grace of Christ. 

A favorite quote by Elder Holland: "The Savior said, 'Without me, ye can do nothing.' I testify that that is God's truth. Christ is everything to us and we are to abide in Him permanently, unyieldingly, steadfastly, forever; for the fruit of the Gospel to blossom and bless our lives, we must be firmly attached to Him." 

I know this is true! Have a great week!

Sister Browning
My best bud Gavin, all set for his baptism next week! I'll miss hearing him pray for "everyone to have the fully ghost and the fully heart" at the end of every lesson.