October 28, 2013

Missionary Work and Personal Insights

Dear Mom,

No, you didn't tell me that you were putting hardwood in the den. Why hardwood and not cork? (I'm just curious since it's like the only room in the whole house that will be hardwood, and that seems a bit weird to me.)

Monday was a really relaxing P-day, since we'd basically run out of money for the rest of the month and didn't have to do laundry. Sister Coleman caught up on all the letters she's supposed to write, and since I'm no longer getting the correspondence of a new missionary, I took a nap. (I was totally cool with that, because I feel like I'm okay with getting less mail, but naps are becoming more important to me the longer I go without sleeping in. Haha.) After P-day was over, we went to our lesson with Val and took Courtney, one of the members. It was totally awesome. Val was like, "I still have doubts about Joshua Smith being a prophet," and Courtney was like, "Well, I didn't believe it at first either." It was great. (And no, Val can never remember Joseph's first name. It's hilarious.) We had assigned her to read Moroni 10, but it turns out she's dyslexic and it totally didn't sink in at all. So we were reading with her, and at one point she stopped and was like, okay, explain the Smith thing to me again? So we re-taught the First Vision, and afterwards I could tell she was really thinking about it. I almost just kept reading, but instead I decided to ask a followup question. But I had no idea what to ask, so I was just like, "So...do you have any questions or thoughts about that?" She was like, "Yeah, I do actually. I was just thinking to myself, I can believe Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but I can't believe in Joe Smith?" It was a really awesome moment that led to her realizing it was true, and she said, "So what do I do now?" and we were like, "Get baptized on December 14!" It was fantastic! I was SO glad I listened to that subtle prompting and asked what she was thinking about! Right after she accepted baptism, she asked, "Can this help me quit smoking?" and we were like, "Yes! Actually..." and taught an impromptu WoW AGAIN (except we only talked about smoking and decided to teach the rest next time), and she committed to live it. After that, we went to a lesson with Mohammed and Amina. The Hofmanns invited them over for FHE, so we watched some Mormon Messages about the Restoration and the Atonement and played "Button, Button Who's Got the Button?" It was really great. Then we went to contact a referral, but she wasn't interested.

On Tuesday we brought a member to a lesson with Samantha. When we got there, she was all like, "I'm not feeling well," but finally she decided to let us in and "get it over with." Haha. She's a pretty cynical person and I think she's more genuinely interested than she lets on, but I'm still not sure how well this is going to continue to last. We really tried to focus on prayer, reading the Book of Mormon, and why she needs to know it's true and how it can bless her life. We were pretty bold. I'm pretty sure I extended the baptismal invitation like twice. Once in a while I realize I haven't been being bold for a few weeks, and then I try to do that more and it feels awesome. After that, Tuesday was basically the story of successfully bringing members to appointments and all the appointments falling through, which was a bit frustrating since we really want to focus on having member present lessons. They all understood though, which was nice. One of the members gave us a big bag of groceries when we dropped her off back at her house, which was really sweet of her. We had a DA with the Claytons, which went really well. Their kids are SO adorable. After that, we tried to go to a lesson with the Dallings, but they were "sick" (pretty sure they're avoiding us because their oldest daughter is visiting and she's been making fun of it), but that worked out okay, because it turned out that the member we took had her non-member sister visiting with her. So she invited us back to her house to come meet her sister, who is a retired opera singer and is very strong in a non-denominational Christian church she attends in NYC. It was interesting because on one hand, she's SO close to the truth. She's put a lot of effort into studying the Bible and going back to the original Hebrew and stuff, and she kept saying stuff like, "You may not know this, but there are different levels of heaven, and these are who gets to each level..." and we were like, yep! We know! Haha. But it was sad because she really just sees it as this elitist thing, like the Celestial Kingdom is Mensa or something and God only wants to save a select few of us, so of course most people don't know these truths. As opposed to, these truths were lost and needed to be restored so EVERYBODY could be taught them and have the opportunity to return to God. And she "draws a hard line at the Book of Mormon" because of that verse at the end of Revelations, which was frustrating. But it was a really good conversation. I thought it was really interesting how all these things WERE in the Bible, and you CAN still get them from it, but they've just been lost or obscured or distorted.

On Wednesday we had correlation at the Cosman's, as usual, and Brother Cosman kept trying to make Elder Davidsen get all competitive with me about playing the piano, and we were both like, I'm so over it, who cares who plays better? Haha. I was perfectly happy to let him keep playing pop songs the whole time we were waiting for breakfast to be ready. Then we tried to go to a lesson with a potential, but he basically just didn't want to wake up by 11 (even though I specifically asked him if it would be too early when we set up the appointment), so that fell through. So we had studies, since we missed it for correlation, and then went to see a semi-LA RC who is going through some pretty bad health problems. She really just needed somebody to talk to, and I felt kind of bad because spending a long time just chatting isn't really what we do, but she doesn't have a lot of friends in the ward. There are a lot of times where I just think to myself, "THIS IS WHY MEMBER MISSIONARY WORK IS SO IMPORTANT." After that, we went and visited a sweet old lady in the ward whose husband is not a member, and we encouraged her to go to the temple, since she keeps planning on it and then it falls through. She gave us referrals to go see all her kids and invite them to the missionary concert that's coming in November, so that was awesome! After that, we had a DA with the Bishop, and he invited Courtney, one of the students who works at the library. We were kind of teaching her, but then she decided she didn't want to take the lessons just yet, so we just keep in touch. After the DA, we went home, because I started to get really bad stomach pain in the lesson with Sandra and it just kept getting worse all evening. So we called all of our investigators and tried to have contact with each of them, which legitimately took all evening since we had so many of them.

On Thursday I felt better, but I was just FREEZING all day, as if I were back in Newfoundland in March or something. We tried contacting in the Pedway, which is basically like the +15 in Calgary. It was an "experiment," in that we only planned it for half an hour in case it was ineffective and/or we got kicked out. It turned out to be super effective, since there were way more working people and way fewer crazy people than on the streets below, so that was great. Then we went for an LA visit, but she slept through it and didn't answer the door (as we found out later), so we tried a few other "creative" finding ideas that proved that "creative" is sometimes a euphamism for "ridiculous." Haha. I'm torn about thinking of new ways of finding – on one hand, they often turn out pretty dumb, but on the other hand, daytime tracting is totally ineffective anyways, and I think the Lord rewards us for taking thought instead of mindlessly picking streets to knock, and sometimes we hit on something great. So anyways, after that we started doing some knocking, and we got a new investigator on the third door! Her name is Sharon, and she's super nice. She grew up Catholic, but she converted Pentecostal after her life basically fell apart and a Pentecostal pastor prayed with her and everything resolved itself within a week, which was miracle. She believes very strongly in miracles – except for modern revelation. (Sarcastic comment redacted, because I'm genuinely trying to stop that.) We really tried to teach to her needs and got out a lot of concerns about being deceived or God somehow being displeased with her for looking into the church. I find that the two biggest tools Satan uses is teaching people not to ask questions, and giving them the spirit of fear. So we shared 2 Tim 1:7 with her and talked about how God would never want her to be afraid, and clearly that's just Satan trying to keep her from something good, etc. It ended up really well, and we have a lesson with her tomorrow. Then we had dinner, and then we went knocking again, because it's honestly been super effective recently, so we might as well keep doing it. We got a really strong potential out of it, who grew up Catholic but says she's open, but was just taking her daughter to dance. Then we went to the RS Provident Living activity to meet Sister Hofmann's non-member friend, and then we left about halfway through to go to a lesson with Mohammed and Amina. It was pretty awesome. We're about 95% sure Mohammed believes in Jesus Christ now, and we focused a lot on how because our religions have so many similarities, it's the differences that tell us which one is right – whichever difference is true points to the correct religion. And the major difference in our religions is Jesus Christ, and this dream he had where he was supposed to ask us about Christ shows that God wants him to know that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, etc. It was great. Amina's a lot less open though. She's a pretty devout Muslim, and the major barrier we're hitting with her is she believes it would be displeasing to God to even ASK which church is true. We committed her to pray about Islam vs. Mormonism if we'd do the same. Afterwards, Mohammed walked us out to the car, and he asked us to "please help his wife" believe it. He wants us to read the Coran because he thinks that will help convince her. So, that was some fun pondering. We decided eventually that we weren't going to, because whether we do or not isn't the POINT. The point is, we need to be open to following God and getting a personal answer and personal direction for ourselves. (Also, yes, I prayed about whether Islam or Mormonism was right, and the Lord was like, Sister Olson, just go baptize them. I guess the church is true.)

Friday was weekly planning, which was a really good planning session, and then we had a lesson with Phoebe. She said she's been making the effort to read from the Book of Mormon every day, which was awesome, seeing that we nearly dropped her a few weeks ago because she refused to accept anything but the Bible. We were bold with her and really helped her see that she needs to know if it's true, and she accepted the soft commitment to baptism after we read with her in Acts 19 about people who got re-baptized when they received the fulness of the gospel. After that, we had a lesson with Val with the Elders, where they gave her a blessing to quit smoking. She's already doing really well with it, and the blessing was a great experience. Afterwards, she said she felt lighter inside, like a huge weight was lifted off her. It was really awesome because we were able to use that to explain more about the feeling of being cleansed from baptism and how it WILL be different from her previous baptism, because it's done by authority, just like that blessing, which made a tangible difference. I think it's really important for people to really have these experiences where they EXPERIENCE what we're talking about, instead of just understanding it intellectually or believing it because they trust us, but they don't totally understand. We also taught the rest of the Word of Wisdom and committed her to live it, which was great. Then we went to try to see some less-actives, but they were busy, so we went to the Halloween Primary Party since Carey and her kids came, and they'd never met anyone before. We were so excited! She and her kids had SUCH a great time! It was also great because we FINALLY got her address, AND she got to meet a bunch of members, AND we got her into the church building, which really helps people feel more comfortable with coming to church. After that, we went knocking for a bit, but I felt SO sick. The stomach pain was back and it was pretty miserable. I couldn't tell if it was some sort of subconscious stress thing (I didn't FEEL stressed, but I tend to get stressed without noticing I'm stressed), or if I was developing an intolerance to sugar (I only had like 5 pieces of candy, so it wasn't like I'd eaten a ridiculous amount), or if I was getting sick. But I kept knocking, because if it were the last two, then knocking wouldn't make it worse, and if it was stress, then that basically would boil down to not working because I didn't want to work, and that seemed like a bad idea. But I was really glad when we went home, haha. By the time we got home, I was just FREEZING, like I was shivering like never before in my life, even though I could objectively tell it wasn't cold. 

So I went to bed. At 3 in the morning I woke up again, just completely freezing, shivering harder than ever. And I knew I'd feel better if I got up and took some Advil and heated up the rice pack again, but I didn't want to, because then I'd be all the way awake and it was colder outside my bed. And as I'm lying there for about 15 minutes just keeping myself in misery, all I could think about was, "This is just like our non-progressing investigators. The solution to their problems is totally within reach, but because it requires some initial sacrifice and effort, they're rather just keep themselves in spiritual darkness and suffer." Then I finally thought, well if it's the right thing for them to do, then it's objectively the right thing for me to do. So I got up, and as I went back to bed feeling all nice and warm from the hot pack, I thought, "This is like the Holy Ghost they'd experience if they'd make the right choice." Then I thought, "I think I've been on my mission for too long." Haha.

I still felt super sick on Saturday, but whereas usually my mind feels really foggy when I get that sick, my mind felt completely clear, and so I didn't really feel incapacitated enough to not go out working. So we went to visit Heather, one of the less-actives we're working with. It was a really great lesson where we uncovered some of her deeper concerns and also encouraged her to get her patriarchal blessing. After that, we had lunch and then we went to Rockwood Park to go contacting, except it was only like 5 degrees, so instead we drove around all the roads surrounding it until we stumbled upon a dog convention thing, where there were enough people to talk. Then we stopped by the Dallings and Samantha, but neither of them were available, so we went to the university to make posters for a family history workshop that's coming up as a finding activity. After that, we got picked up by the Hofmanns to drive out to Fredericton for Stake Conference. They had to go early for leadership meetings, so we worked on the area book, prepared a musical number for Zone Conference, walked to Subway for dinner, and did some street contacting in Fredericton. Pretty much everyone we talked to was like, "I already got one of those cards" or "We just met missionaries from your church the other day," so we were like, good job Fredericton missionaries! Then we had the adult session, which was really great. One of the ward mission leaders talked about how the #1 thing we can do to be unified as members and missionaries is to be worthy of the Spirit, and how in D&C it talks about how missionary work will increase our faith and help us be forgiven more easily, so trying to do missionary work actually helps you become more worthy AND then you get the Spirit so you can do MORE missionary work. There was also a really great thought about how sometimes Satan tries to tempt us by convincing us to serve in the way WE want to serve, instead of the way the Lord needs us to serve. And Sister Leavitt gave a really great talk about being a mediocre member vs. really trying our best. I realized this morning that I was a totally lame member before my mission, haha. Seriously though, it's so easy to think that because you're keeping all the obvious commandments, you're doing all you have to, when really you're not magnifying your callings or serving others or doing MISSIONARY WORK, which is totally a commandment. I heard a quote from one of the other missionaries (who couldn't remember which prophet said it and it might not even be a real quote), which was basically, "A lot more members of the church are going to the Terrestrial Kingdom than they think they are." Haha. Whether or not it's a real quote, it really got me thinking about how it says in D&C 76 that the Terrestrial Kingdom is people who "weren't valiant in the testimony of Jesus," and how when we live our lives just turned inwards and really being selfish, even if we're not trying to be selfish, but we just genuinely aren't trying to serve others and bring them to God, we're living a very Terrestrial life. Which is basically one of the reasons I came on a mission, is that I knew on some level that I needed to learn to have more of a missionary mindset than I did. I just can't believe sometimes how much I was missing out on before and how I genuinely didn't see it in myself. And then sometimes I have this moment where I think "I'll be glad when I can go home and do X selfish thing want to do," and then I'm like, yep, not ready to go home yet. Haha.

We stayed at the Fredericton sisters' apartment on Saturday night and went to the regular session on Sunday, which was also really great. I was feeling better by then, just really tired, and I could tell I'd been sick because basically every talk made me tear up, which is unusual, haha. It was a really good Stake Conference though. It just continued to emphasize to me how important selfless service is in becoming like Christ and returning to God, and how the reason some of us were born into the Church is because we're given the responsibility to share the gospel. There are so many people out there who the Lord knows how to approach, and everyone can be reached by someone. But if we never open our mouths and try, then how will we know who they are? And when it really comes down to it, the work is going to happen either way. We just have the choice of whether to be a part of it or not. We certainly won't be hinderance, because the Lord won't let us. He could do this work all by Himself, but He refuses to do so because He wants us to take responsibility and fulfill the covenants he's made. I think we so often think of whether we're keeping our covenants by the quantifiable things, like the temple recommend questions and either you're drinking coffee or you're not, or either you paid 10% tithing or you didn't, or either you come to church or you don't. And we forget all that's contained in "sustaining our leaders" or "sacrifice" or "living the gospel." Like, how many leaders think they're sustaining their leaders, but just shrug off the Work of Salvation as "That's not my responsibility; that doesn't apply to me."

I've also found myself thinking a lot about how serving my mission is going to bless my children. I just really feel like it's going to bless them. The Stake President told a great story about Jesse Knight (who the JKB is named after and who saved the Church from financial ruin), and how faithful his mom was and how unselfish she was, and Jesse went less-active, but she was assured by the Lord he's come back, and he did, and became a huge force for good in the Church. And he was just talking about how when we live faithfully and do all we can, we can't even BEGIN to imagine the blessings it leaves our posterity. And I was just studying about all the blessings of missionary work, like increased faith and prosperity and forgiveness and testimony, and I was thinking about how I really want my home to be a member missionary home so that it can be this additional spiritual fortification for my kids. And I know I'd never have the desire or skills to have a member missionary home if I hadn't come on a mission.

After Stake Conference, we came home and decided to really take stock of the LA's, so we called every single one of them that we hadn't met yet. A lot didn't answer, but we got some great experiences out of it. One lady was like, "I've just retired and I'm looking for service opportunities." So we invited her to an upcoming RS service project, and she's so excited! Service is probably the most under-utilized way to bring people into the church. When people are prosperous and happy, they don't realize they need the Church. We know it, but when we tell them, they don't believe us. But when we ask them to serve, and tell them the Church needs them, they're happy to be needed, and then the Light of Christ shows them that they DO need to serve, and they can fill that need here. And then they realized they need the Church. And THEN they're open to all the other doctrine and realize why they need the Church. Service is really so great, but it's really something that depends so much more on the members or the missionaries. We can't ask non-member friends to serve in little ways like helping with an activity or something, and we can't spend all our time organizing service projects. But if the members seek out non-Church service opportunities, and then invite the service-minded people they meet there to Church service opportunities, great things happen!

After that, we had a DA with a really great member family, and then we taught Val. It was a really good lesson. It's great to see her receiving personal revelation on what's going on in her life. She's just so straightforward and tells us her concerns and then we resolve them. I wish more people would do that. Then we had a lesson with Mohammed and Amina, which wasn't so great. Amina's basically hit this roadblock where she believes it's forbidden in Islam to pray and ask God like she needs to. And then meanwhile, we need to focus on Mohammed as well so his testimony builds instead of dwindles. We had some great moments at the end though where we bore our testimony of the Book of Mormon and getting a personal witness from God, but overall we were a bit frustrated when we came home. It's okay though, because at least now we feel like we know exactly what the challenges are so we can prepare for them.

Sister Olson

October 21, 2013


Dear Mom and everyone,



Backing up...I don't remember if I told you about President Leavitt's goal for the mission to have 50 baptisms by the end of the year. But he does, which basically works out to one baptism per companionship. So he asked all of us to prayerfully set a goal for our companionship, so we prayed about it and felt impressed to set a goal of 5, which seemed crazily high, but we weren't exactly about to say, "No way Heavenly Father, we think we'll just ignore the Spirit and aim low." Haha. So we told our district leader, and Elder Jensen was like, "Just to be clear, this goal is supposed to be between now and December 31" and we were like, "Yes...our goal is to baptize at least one family." Haha. So President Leavitt organized a mission-wide fast, which was supposed to be on Wednesday, but we had meals scheduled for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so we got permission to do it on Thursday. And ever since then (or maybe even before then, but we've REALLY noticed it since then), we've just had appointments from 11 in the morning when we're done studies to 9 pm when we return home. Sometimes we don't even have time for meals except a peanut butter sandwich. And when we DO have time to go finding, we find ANOTHER new investigator. I'm really, REALLY happy, and also kind of freaking out at the same time because we have to take care of ALL OF THEM???

So I'll give you a rundown of the week so you can see what I mean.

On Monday we emailed at the church since the University library was closed for Thanksgiving. After that, we had a meal with a partly less-active family for Thanksgiving dinner. Which was really nice of them. It would have been nicer if their adult son had showered recently and/or was sitting further away from me, but we really did appreciate them having us over, haha. After that, we went contacting formers who looked likely to be single, since people get pretty defensive about their holidays around here and we were tired of knocking into people's Thanksgiving dinners. We found one former, Jackie, who was just headed out the door but was willing to have us back, but other than that we didn't get much done on Monday.

Tuesday was district meeting, where we practiced How To Begin Teaching and Elder Jensen gave a long discussion on having faith, and how faith is really an expectation, so we can EXPECT to accomplish our baptismal goal. It was really awesome. After that, we practiced a musical number we're planning to do in Sacrament meeting. We're going to sing "Go Forth With Faith" to the tune of "Abide With Me; 'Tis Eventide." I wrote an accompaniment in my head that starts out in C major for the first two verses and then modulates to the original key for the last verse. It's going to be pretty cool. (People think ad-libbing accompaniments is more difficult than it is; I just make the left hand into alberti bass or arpeggios and then I move the right hand up an octave.) After that, we didn't have time for lunch, so we went to an appointment with Carey. She's on date, but she's really busy (we can basically only meet with her between 1 and 2:30 in the afternoon about once a week) and also a little flaky. But she LOVES the Book of Mormon. She says that every time she thinks about it she just feels so calm, and all these things in her life are going better and she doesn't get upset or worried about things like she used to. So we focused on helping her recognize the Spirit, and we kind of went over the Restoration and also talked a lot about the structure of the church. She really loves the sense of community and the idea of things like home and visiting teaching. And then it kind of morphed into talking about what the gospel would mean to her, and she said she hoped it would help her quit smoking, so we taught an impromptu Word of Wisdom lesson, which went really good and she totally accepted to live it! I was really glad because I've only taught it once and Sister Coleman has never taught it, so it was cool to see how the Spirit really took over and let it flow well. (Since then, Carey cancelled her next appointment because of work and we haven't been able to meet with her, which is stressful.) After Carey, we were going to try to squeeze in lunch, but we didn't have time because it was a pretty full lesson. So we went straight to Michelle's. She's still really sincere, but she has a lot of trouble understanding the Book of Mormon and is still really concerned about how to get an answer. So we went over Alma 32 with her and then assigned her to read some verses about the Holy Ghost and wrote out a specific plan of praying, reading, writing, praying, re-reading, etc., to help her learn how to study it. She's one of those people who's really smart but basically just gives up the second she doesn't understand or things get challenging, so we're trying to help her acquire a spiritual work ethic. After that, we had to rush to our lesson with Phoebe. We nearly dropped her, but then her life got settled down a bit and she started committing to things again. She'd read the Book of Mormon chapter we assigned her, and she said she found it helpful and thought it agreed with the Bible! She kept talking about how she needs to re-build her faith and when we asked how, she said by reading the Bible AND the Book of Mormon, which is huge progress! So we think we need to start being more bold with her and really help her see that she needs to make a choice of whether or not she needs to join the church. 

After that, we were STARVING, but it was nearly time for our dinner appointment, so we drove over to the East side and then we made some calls to set up some member present lessons later in the week. Then we had our DA. I was SO hungry, since we hadn't had lunch, but then she didn't offer seconds like she usually does, so I didn't ask, and then during dessert her husband was like, "Why didn't you offer them seconds?" and she said, "Well, they never say yes!" and I was like, DANGIT. Haha. After that, we went knocking and found a really good potential right around the corner from the institute teacher's house, which was really cool because we told them about it at institute afterwards and how the girl, Sabrina, said she knew her neighbours are Mormon. I think it helped them see that there ARE people in their lives who would be interested if they'd look for them. Then we had institute, which was great. We watched the video about Martin Harris' testimony of the Book of Mormon, and Sister Wetmore provided TONS of movie treats, so I was finally full. This one young mom was there and of course I loved her baby, and she saw me looking at it and was like, "Oh, are you the one who loves babies?" Haha, apparently I'm making a reputation for myself.

Wednesday probably our least successful day. It was supposed to be correlation/breakfast with the ward mission leader, but he cancelled at the last minute, so we just had studies, which I WAY prefer. So we studied and started working on making a DVD of videos from everydaymissionaries.org to use in our member missionary Sunday School class. Then we had lunch with the Relief Society President, and talked about how the ward is doing and which members we could help. She's really discouraged because the ward is totally in a funk about activities. They've been really lame for a while, so nobody comes, so nobody puts on good activities because nobody comes. So we tried to brainstorm ways to help with that and also just to encourage her. Then we went street contacting, which was okay, and went to UNBSJ to see about setting up a booth in the student centre, but the guy in charge of that wasn't there even though it was his office hours. Then we went to Superstore, since we couldn't go grocery shopping on Monday, which turned out to be good planning because it was raining like CRAZY. After that, we stopped by a less-active member for a short visit, and had a dinner appointment. I love this family in the ward, and they do so much for missionary work, so we were really excited. We get there, and Sister Hofmann is like, "I hope you don't mind we're having breakfast food." Then she says, "I hope you like bacon." Then, "We're having waffles." Great... "They're pumpkin flavoured." Hahaha. If you know me well, you'll know I don't like ANY of those things. But I was so hungry at that point that I didn't even care. I just loaded it up with peanut butter and I could barely taste the rest of it. After that, we didn't have the k's to get out of Milledgeville and there is nothing to do in Milledgeville except knock, so we went knocking for about two hours in POURING rain. I felt so bad for Sister Coleman because she didn't have a raincoat; she basically had a really upscale hoodie. And we didn't really find anyone when we were knocking. I didn't really mind – it was basically like going finding in Newfoundland, with bad weather and everyone being unreceptive – but I think Sister Coleman found it to be a pretty horrible day.

Thursday is when things got AWESOME. (Tuesday was awesome too. But Thursday was AWESOME). We were supposed to have correlation (no breakfast, because fasting), so we studied at the church and kept working on making the DVDs. After that, we service at the hospital, wherein I got hit by a bowling ball. Haha. We work in the dementia ward helping the old people bowl. They have this bowling ball and pin set that's covered in foam, but still reasonably heavy. So it's kind of like a padded medicine ball. They have this ramp they can set on the patients' laps, so they can sit down and bowl. Sister Coleman was at one end setting up the pins, and I was at the other end helping them bowl. So after every try, she'd toss me the bowling ball (catching it over and over was a pretty good workout). This one time, the old lady who was bowling said something to me, so I turned aside to talk to her just as Sister Coleman threw it, and I totally didn't see it until it hit my leg. I wasn't really hurt, at least not permanently, so I mostly just thought it was hilarious. The patients were really funny too. This one old lady kept leaving every time a doctor or male nurse went by because "she was going to go catch a man." She kept complaining about the Elders not being there, haha. But she also kept telling us we were beautiful, so don't ever change. They're adorable. I love the old people we work with at nursing homes and hospitals, but honestly it kind of makes me want to die young before other people have to bathe me. Anyways. After service at the hospital, we went for a LA visit. It ended up having to be really short, but that was actually really good because it stayed really focused and spiritual, whereas usually she gets off on tangents. We talked about prayerful goal setting and encouraged her to prayerfully write a plan to use for her scripture study, and also to apply this to her hoarding issue. After that, we tried to get a member present lesson but it fell through, so we went and stopped by a few people, who weren't home. So we went and picked up Courtney, one of our ward missionaries, and went contacting potentials. We stopped in on Jackie, the former from Monday, and she let us in! We taught an AWESOME lesson where you could totally see her receiving personal revelation about prophets and why authority is important. It was so great! We really need to keep working with her on understanding why this should change her life, since when we asked what would change for her if she knew the Book of Mormon was true, she said, "I don't really think it would." But she also totally gets that that's why she hasn't received an answer yet. Then we went to another lesson with Phoebe, but that fell through (it turned out we missed her by like 5 minutes -– she got home late), so we dropped Courtney back off and tried to go mall contacting. I'm still not sold on it. We're trying to make it something we're good at since NOBODY will be on the streets during the winter, but I don't like it. 

Then we did 12-week in the car for a bit, since we keep not having time for it and Sister Coleman deserves to actually get trained, and we went to an appointment with a lady named Val. I forgot to tell you about finding Val! I don't remember when, but a couple of days before, we tried to stop by a potential from street contacting. They were busy, but on the way out, we met Val and gave her a pass-along card. She asked for a Book of Mormon, so we gave her one, and then I set up this appointment with her. I could tell Sister Coleman was just thinking Sister Olson what are you doing, since she had a HUGE lesbian pride pin on the front of her shirt. Hahaha. Anyways, Val had unexpected company and rescheduled for tomorrow, so we stopped by Veronica. Veronica is this lady we met on the street while knocking uptown about a week ago. She was taught by missionaries before when she lived in the Hampton elders' area, and she talked to us for like an hour that night and almost invited us to Thanksgiving dinner. So we stopped in on her, had a short lesson, and picked her back up as an investigator! She has a lot of concerns about the early church, and I think she needs help understanding authority, but she definitely understands Apostasy. She was very involved in the Anglican church, and then some stuff going on there with child abuse and whatnot basically turned her off organized religion. She knows her Bible SUPER well, which I always enjoy in an investigator. Then we went to the scripture study night (which nobody came to, again), and tried to schedule some appointments. Then we went to a lesson with Mohammed and Amina, who are still awesome. They still have a ton of questions, but they've both been reading and Mohammed's been praying. (I had a really cool experience with that, but I don't think it's appropriate to put on the blog so I'll send it separately). The reason they put off meeting for so long is because Amina's super busy, and Mohammed was like, well why can't I meet with them when you're not there? And she was like, No, that's not fair! Haha. That made me happy. The Hofmanns were there, and they offered to have them over for family home evening, so that's going to be awesome. During the lesson, they kept trying to offer us tea (since it's part of hospitality in their culture), and eventually we were just like, okay, we'll just teach the Word of Wisdom. So we taught ANOTHER impromptu WoW lesson, and they LOVED it. Totally unexpected. 

On Friday we did weekly planning, and even that went smoother and more effectively than it usually does. After that, we tried to call some people and set up a member present lesson that afternoon, but nobody was really available. So we ended up calling basically ALL the members, because once we gave up on that, we had to call people and invite them to Board games night, and then we had to find a ride for the Dallings' church tour the next day. (Dalling is the last name of Heather, Philip, Cody, etc.) We had the hardest time finding them a ride. It was so stressful. We ended up getting Sister Cosman to do it, but she had to drive all the way out from Grand Bay and back and we felt so bad because she ALWAYS gives us rides. (We tried to give her a thank-you gift on Sunday, but she wouldn't accept it because she said she does it for her son, who's on a mission. In the New York mission, apparently members just drive the missionaries to and from EVERY appointment). So then we went to our lesson with Val, which was super awesome, except she's a chain smoker and I'm pretty sure I'm going to get lung cancer by the time I'm done serving in Atlantic Canada, haha. But she was really focused and the lesson went really well. She's been living celibately for 15 years because she's not sure what God's stance is on homosexuality and she doesn't want to offend him. I think if we told her our church said it was okay, she would have joined immediately, but as it is, she's still willing to read and pray and you can tell she's seriously considering joining. She has doubts about Joseph Smith, but I think that might be more of an excuse. After Val, we went and got fast food before the board games night, which was a total flop. Only one family showed up. I think in some ways that was more awkward than if nobody came at all, hahaha. But we were able to use that time to come up with more activities to really get people to come out, and in the course of calling people we identified some key breakdowns in the chain of communication that were probably preventing a lot of people from knowing about activities, so that was good.

Saturday was another crazy day. We had a lesson with Sister Orford, one of the less-actives we're working with, which continued to go as well as it always does. She's seriously so great and we're really happy about her. We talked a lot about recognizing the Spirit and how we can bring it more into our lives. She kind of wants a big "aha!" moment, so we talked about why that doesn't always come. Then we went to the church and did 12-week and had lunch and prepared for the Dallings' church tour! Cody, their son with spinal bifida, wasn't feeling well enough to come, and their daughter Moriah was working, but Heather, Philip, and Olivia came. They loved it, obviously. And then we taught the Plan of Salvation and they accepted it really well. They really like how the church teaches things way more in-depth than other churches and encourages you to ask questions and seek things out for yourself. Heather's major hangup is that Moriah lives with her biological dad, who is a pretty hardline Pentecostal, and so Moriah's getting all this anti and she doesn't want it to divide her family, so she's just tying herself up in knots and is afraid to move forward and find out it's true. Philip is more okay with moving forward at this point, but he's just not really spiritually hungry, so he's not driving it either. And then Cody and Olivia are both just being kind of passive about it at this point – we need to focus more on them, but it's hard to teach to so many people's needs in one lesson! So we focused a lot on how following God right away will ALWAYS bring more blessings than putting it off, and how it will bless her family in the long run, etc. They also have some concerns about the temple, mostly because it's so new – we've managed to resolve all of their concerns, it's really just the family thing and an unwillingness to change getting them to not read and pray so that they can have an ANSWER and these problems will STOP BOTHERING THEM. It's the saddest thing to see people struggling with something and have the solution right in front of them, but they've convinced themselves that doing something about it will make it worse, not better. They committed to come to church, and then called a couple hours later to cancel for totally weak reasons. But we have a lesson scheduled for Tuesday where Moriah will be there, so hopefully we can resolve her concerns and get the family on the same page so that that concern won't be an obstacle.

Anyways. After that, we had a lesson with Phoebe since we missed her on Thursday, which was quite good again and really just reconfirmed what we'd concluded about her last time. We taught Sabbath Day and started trying to really commit her to coming to church. She's an LPN/phlebotomist at a nursing home, so it's hard with her schedule. After that, we went to the mall to get Sister Cosman a thank-you gift and try mall contacting (unsuccessfully again), and then we had dinner before trying to contact a referral. She wasn't home, so we went knocking. The first street we knocked didn't have anyone interested on it, but one guy just HANDED us a referral without us even asking, which was cool. Then on the next street we knocked, we met a guy named Justin who was just heading out the door but was interested, and we got another new investigator, Samantha. She's had a pretty hard life, and lost her faith in God at one point, but she gained it back and now she has that experience and is really open to learning more. We taught a pretty smooth Restoration and I had this moment where I realized, I'm totally comfortable with this now! I remembered getting into my first lesson with Sister Judd and just being like, "I have no idea what I'm doing, I'd totally fail at this if she wasn't here," and now I'm the one training a new missionary! I don't know, it was cool. We got home that day to find that we'd accomplished ALL of our goals, with the exception that member present lessons were other lessons because we didn't plan ahead as we should have. That's never happened before, so it was cool.

On Sunday we checked transfer letters, and we're both staying in Saint John. Elder Dubyk got randomly transferred on Saturday instead of next Thursday like everyone else, so we have a new elder in our ward, Elder Davidsen from Edmonton. Church was the Primary Presentation, which was COMPLETELY ADORABLE. This one little boy was totally tone-deaf and just yelling the words instead, it was so cute! During Relief Society, the sisters were discussing how many people would be at the trunk-or-treat, since they were all concerned about having too many treats. So I said, "You can just donate any leftovers to me," which everyone thought was hilarious. I was serious, but whatever. Haha. After church, we went to a lesson with Michelle, but she didn't realize it was already 1:30, so we postponed to 4 and stopped in on Justin instead. He let us in and was basically like, "Yeah I've just been curious about it for a long time but haven't had time to let you guys in before." He's newly married and is a semi-practicing Catholic. He doesn't really understand why he needs to change – he's one of those "All religions are good" people and is comfortable as a Catholic – but he's clearly been prepared by the Spirit and hopefully we'll be able to work with him. Then we went home and made a quick peanut butter sandwhich during the only 15 unscheduled minutes we had all day. Then we had a lesson with Val, which was basically homosexuality/Bible prophecies of the Restoration/what baptism will do for her. It was a really good lesson. I'm just concerned that she's more focused on "finding proof" than "having faith," so hopefully we'll be able to work with her on that next time. Then Michelle cancelled on us (we can tell she's genuinely interested, just flaky), so we did 12-week at the church before ward council. I love our ward council – it's probably the most effective one I've seen so far in all 3 areas I've been in. The Bishop is really excited about our member missionary class, which is awesome. When that was over, we went to check a referral again. It turns out she doesn't live there anymore, but her neighbour was SUPER interested and we have an appointment set up with him next week. (So we can have 17 investigators?!) Then we were supposed to have a visit with Sandra, a recent convert who is going through some health problems, but she got the times mixed up and that fell through, so we ran through all our backup plans and none of them worked out, so we went home to have a very late dinner and work on the member book. I wish we'd gone knocking or something and stayed out even though we were hungry, since Sandra called us when she THOUGHT our appointment was, and it would have been nice to go and see her. Oh well. 

To summarize, our investigators are: Mohammed, Amina, Jackie, Veronica, Phoebe, Barbara, Val, Samantha, Justin, Heather, Philip, Moriah, Cody, Olivia, Carey, and Michelle. (Part of me just wanted to make sure I could do it, but I also want you all to pray for them.)

Sister Olson

A really cool rainbow we saw yesterday at the church

October 14, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Mom,
I liked your thoughts from the endowment session. I also thought it was totally cool how much new stuff I learned from when they changed the video. It sounds like the rest of your week was great too. It says something about RDL school spirit that I can still be really glad that the volleyball teams swept OJ even though I never played volleyball.
This week was a little interesting in retrospect, in that at the end of it we felt like we accomplished a lot of important things and didn't really have any regrets about how we worked, but we had low numbers anyways. It really illustrated the principle to me that there's an unlimited amount of good we can do in the world as long as we're not concerned about who gets the credit, as President Leavitt always says. I've been trying to incorporate this philosophy more because I REALLY like getting the credit, haha.
On Monday we basically went shopping all day. Sister Coleman needed winter boots and a winter coat. We didn't find the coat, but we did get new boots. We also went to Value Village and I bought several sweaters. The thrift stores out here always have genuinely nice stuff, which is weird because the poverty level is so high that I'd assume it would be all picked over. After that, we went out to Grand Bay, aka the moon, to go contact a referral. It seemed like a bit of waste to just go out there for 3 hours, but she was moving soon and we wanted to see if we could contact her. Well, she wasn't home, and nobody else really let us in, but we got an appointment set up and we spent a really long time talking to a less-active member on her doorstep. We feel like we built some trust there and will hopefully get in next time.
On Tuesday we went street contacting. Sister Coleman managed to get us talking to this guy about UFOs for a LONG time...one of those awkward situations where they won't let you end the conversation...which was pretty frustrating since we were late to an appointment. We brought a member with us, since we were trying to get more members to lessons, and then the appointment fell through anyways. Fortunately, Sister Raeburn is super happy to do missionary work and wasn't annoyed about it. After that, we had a long meeting with the Bishop about the less-actives and also about member missionary work, which was probably one of the most productive things we did all week. He agreed to let us teach a member missionary class during Sunday School, which we are super excited for! He also said that we're the kind of missionaries that he would feel good about introducing his friends to, which made us really happy. After that, we went finding for a bit and then stopped in on a less-active member. She gets really bad migraines because of her scent allergies. SO many people out here are severely allergic to scented products; it's really bizarre. We had a good visit with her, and then we had a lesson with Mohammed and Amina again, which was great. We spent most of the lesson trying to explain why we need Christ according to the laws of justice and mercy, and how He and Heavenly Father work together, and why God needs Christ in order to accomplish everything. Mohammed seemed like he was getting it, but Amina really isn't on the same page as him as far as spiritual progression goes, so it was hard to teach to both their needs at once. Especially since Mohammed speaks French and Amina speaks English, haha. We basically spent the first 40 minutes teaching Mohammed in French, and then ANOTHER 40 minutes teaching Amina in English. Their lessons always go super long because they're so enthusiastic and have so many questions.
On Wednesday we went uptown and browsed used bookstores to try to look for an Arabic phrasebook so we could teach more out of the Arabic Book of Mormon. We didn't find one, but I noticed this one girl who was kind of out of the way, and I wasn't going to talk to her, but I felt impressed to and also her baby was adorable, so I did. It turned out she was really interested in family history and also in church in general, so that was awesome. The Lord uses ALL of our attributes to help us find people, haha. Seriously though, not holding babies is pretty much the hardest part of being a missionary. Then we went to the East side and tried to visit some members, but nobody was home, so we walked to Loch Lomond Mall to do mall contacting. Turns out it was SUPER far away, and Loch Lomond Mall is pretty much the least busy mall I've ever seen, but we had a few good conversations on the way and got a return appointment, which was fun. Then we tried to buzz into some apartment buildings, which mostly resulted in awkward situations like one person letting us in, and then their spouse being super not happy about it and us having to leave before teaching anything. Haha. Then we went back up to Grand Bay for the return appointment we made on Monday, wherein they totally ignored us even though we could see them through the kitchen window. It was pretty funny, but also a bit frustrating since we had to drive all the way out there.

So we went knocking, and at one of the last houses we knocked into this Catholic guy. I could tell from the very beginning of the door approach that he just wanted to bash, but Sister Coleman doesn't really have that experience yet, so she innocently asked if we could come in. Haha. Most frustrating thing ever. I think we did a really good job of only teaching in the spirit of love and not getting argumentative while still being bold, but he had such strong barriers up of both pride and fear that it just wasn't touching him. He basically said Joseph Smith was the antichrist because we teach that God and Jesus are separate people. At the end he was like, I know we disagree, but I hope that tonight I put just a chink in your armour, so that one day you can stop being deceived. I followed up by saying that we had to go, but would he pray to end our discussion. He was pretty surprised that we were confident enough to let him pray, haha. He gave a prayer that was full of dramatic irony, in that he prayed for all of us to be brought to a knowledge of the truth, and we left. So we went home that night and I kept thinking about how convinced he was that we were deceived and that if he read the Book of Mormon he would be "deceived" too. And obviously I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that nobody has been "deceived" by reading it, but I was also really annoyed by the chink in the armour comment and strengthening my testimony of the Book of Mormon just kind of seemed like the thing to do. "You want to weaken my testimony? Well, I'm going to strengthen it instead! So there!" Haha. So I stayed up a bit and just randomly opened the Book of Mormon and started reading. I don't really remember what I was reading - somewhere in Ether - but what really stuck out to me was just how happy I felt as soon as I started reading. It was a really cool experience, especially since most of my testimony-building experiences haven't come so directly to when I prayed and asked for an answer.
On Thursday we had breakfast/correlation, which as usual threw off our whole day. After that, we went to study at the church and then had a visit with a less-active member who suffers from depression and hoarding issues. It went pretty well, but we're pretty sure that the whole issue goes well beyond what we're capable of really helping with as missionaries.Then we went to stop in on some people, but nobody was really available, so we had dinner at the church and then we went uptown to an appointment, which fell though, and so we went contacting and knocking, and nobody was home. Then we got a phone call saying that President Webster wanted to pick our car up that night instead of the next morning. Our car had reached the 80,000 km limit and was being sold, so President Webster, who is in the temple presidency but lives all the way out here, was going to drive it to Halifax that weekend and bring our new car back. So we went home and cleaned out the car, and then we started walking to Mohammed and Amina's lesson. It turned out just Amina was there, which was awesome because she really needed some time where we could just teach to her needs. So we ended up teaching the entire Restoration (they lack such a basic knowledge of Christ that we hadn't even gotten to Joseph Smith yet) and after we taught the First Vision she asked, "So if Joseph Smith is a prophet, where's the book of scripture that he would bring forth as evidence?" and we were like, "THE BOOK OF MORMON!!!!" hahaha. Not sure how she missed that one when we introduced the Book of Mormon a week ago, oops. So that really strengthened her desire to read. Mohammed came home at the very end and he said he had a lot of questions for us, but since it was so late, he decided to wait until next time. We're pretty sure he's in 3 Nephi already though, which is AWESOME.
Friday was weekly planning, which was really good. We realized that ALL of our investigators had come through knocking, but all week we'd been doing street contacting for like 80% of our finding, so that explained a lot of the problems we were having with finding. We also set the goal to have 5 baptisms by the end of the year, since we want to baptize at least one of the families we're teaching by then. So weekly planning finished, and thennnn the gong show started. Not having a car wouldn't have been a problem if they'd given us enough notice that we hadn't planned appointments all over the city, but we had. So we got a member to give us a ride to the east end of the city, but then our lesson fell through after they drove away, so we we basically stuck on the east end. We'd planned to walk to McAllister Mall and contact there, but it was way further than we thought by foot, so it was pretty unproductive. Then the same member came back and dropped us off uptown, where we did have a pretty good time knocking and street contacting. We almost got invited for Thanksgiving dinner by a random street contact, but then the conversation went on a tangent and we felt awkward re-inviting ourselves, which we totally should have. Haha. Then we had a DA with Sister Raeburn, which was great because she owns a hostel, and the Elders are trying to teach one of the students living there. It was his birthday, so we had a bit of a celebration, and the Elders stopped by for cake. They drove us to the church for the volleyball activity we put on. It was poorly attended, but 3/4 of the people there were either less active or non-members, so that was great.
On Saturday we realized too late that the bus schedule runs differently on weekends and that we had no way to get to our 10 am appointment. We started calling members, and one of the couldn't give us a ride herself, but promised to find us one. It ended up being the same sister who drove us on Friday, which we felt super bad about, haha. But our lesson with Heather went really well! She used a study journal, read with a question, and did all the things we committed her to do, and she totally got answers! It was so awesome. I love those moments when people keep their commitments and then they get blessed. It made us really happy. After that, we walked uptown and got lunch, and then walked for over an hour to get to our appointment with Heather and Philip. When we got there, Heather was like, oh, we were just about to go grocery shopping, sorry. Sister Coleman totally gave her puppy-dog eyes and said, can't we just come in for 5 minutes? It was so funny, and I was also really glad she did it because Heather totally let us in. It was our first lesson with her husband, Philip, and it was really important that we had that lesson. Heather's ex-husband had been giving her kids anti material, so we resolved some of that. Fortunately, Heather thinks he's an overzealous nutbar, so hopefully if we keep following up it shouldn't be too much of a problem. Philip had reservations about us, and didn't really think it was possible to choose one true church, but we taught the Restoration and he said, "I guess it's kind of like Moses - when Moses came down from the mount, people just had to have faith that the commandments he gave were actually from God and that he wasn't making it all up." So he agreed to read and pray, and when we offered to give them a church tour the next Saturday he said, "Sure, and then we can go to church the next day!" It was great.
After that, we basically took the bus ALL afternoon, since we managed to get on a bus that would take us near the church EVENTUALLY (after going to the other side of the city first), and we didn't want to risk getting off and not being able to catch another bus in time, haha. We had some good conversations with people though, so it wasn't too bad. Then we went to the church and looked up transit routes and taxi numbers just in case we couldn't get home any other way that evening, and got some family history stuff for Michelle's lesson that night. After that, we walked to a DA with a less-active family and helped their kids write their talks for the primary presentation. We managed to find a member to take us to Michelle's lesson, which was a big deal since she lived in a different part of the city than our DA and we wouldn't have been able to get there any other way. It was a really good lesson. Michelle is a young single mom, and even though her baby was acting up the whole time, she was really focused and you could tell that she really wanted to learn about it. She was really concerned about how she'd know it was true, and I promised her that since Heavenly Father knows her, if she prayed He would send her an answer in a way He'd know she'd recognize. She promised to read and pray that night and said "I'll probably take some notes too." We also talked about baptism and she said she'd probably be baptized. I love getting new investigators :) Then we got driven home and our car was there! It's a 2013 Subaru and it's awesome.
That night, we got a text at 10 pm saying "Heyyyy what's up?" Haha. Obviously a wrong number. But I decided I was going to try to turn it into an opportunity to share the gospel. Well, it turned out to belong to some guy named Kyle, who is in the military and is worried about having broken commandments because of it. So I explained what our church believes about military service, and also testified of the Atonement and repentance for any other sins. (This was all over text, by the way.) He started asking a bunch of questions about the church's standards, so I asked if he'd be interested in meeting with us, and ended up committing him to come to church the next day! Sister Coleman and I were both freaking out, haha.
So Sunday was church. Kyle didn't come, which was disappointing, because he honestly sounded super solid and that would have been awesome. I think he probably second-guessed the witness he had in the morning. After church, we went contacting for a bit, but nobody had time to let us in since it was Thanksgiving. We went park contacting and knocking a bit, and then we came back to the church for a Thanksgiving dinner that a lot of the members were holding together. After that, we tried to contact a referral. The member who gave it to us gave us really bad directions, so we just ended up asking random people in the area if they knew where these people lived until we found their house. We knocked on the door and the son was really nice and let us right in, but then the mom came up and was super mad at us and kicked us out. So we knocked the rest of their street because Mohammed and Amina cancelled our lesson until Thursday, which is a bit worrying. I'm hoping it's because it's apparently a sacred Muslim feast on Tuesday and they're busy, and not because they're falling off.
Today for Thanksgiving we have a DA with a less-active family, which is really exciting, and we're also going to see if anything is open to run our usual P-day errands. I love you all and hope you have a great week!

Sister Olson

Us at Jusdeep's birthday dinner

Letter to Parents from President Leavitt

                                                                                                                   6 October 2013

Dear Parents,

It continues to be a very busy and exciting time in the mission field. Since I updated you last time we have had two increases to our mission complement to accommodate the flood of missionaries entering the mission field. Our sisters complement now stands at 52 (last year it was at 10)  with our elders at 66 and just this week our allowed seniors complement has been increased to 25 couples.

This is allowing us to implement an approach where most units will have a set of elders, a set of sisters and and a senior couple. Senior missionaries are in short supply but the brethren have indicated that they will allow the mission presidents to "recruit" people they know as senior missionaries to their mission. These individuals go through the standard application process and their call is made by a member of the Twelve but in almost all cases their desire to serve where they are recruited to will be honored.

This will be a great blessing to Canadian couples who often are concerned about medical coverage. Missionaries coming from other parts of Canada are covered by the Nova Scotia medical system at no cost. All units where seniors serve have excellent medical facilities.

None of our US senior couples have had any issues with the medical system.

If you know of anyone that you feel could serve I would appreciate you letting me know their name and phone number and I will contact them personally to discuss the opportunity.

Our concert series continues to pick up momentum and is doing good things for raising the profile of the Church in our area. We have just held benefit concerts in Fredericton New Brunswick, Montague PEI and Carboneer Newfoundland. In these concerts we partnered with the local Food Banks and and we have had over 450 people attend of which over 250 were non members. They love the missionaries. We will be holding one in a week in the Halifax area in which we have partnered with the IWK Children's Hospital. The missionaries are also going to do a short performance at the Children's Hospital itself. Information and clips from these performances are available on our Youtube channel Canada Halifax Mission and by liking our facebook page "Mormons of Atlantic Canada".

We have been successful in arranging for the BYU-I symphonetta to tour the mission in the spring of 2014 and they will be performing in about eight different cities. We have arranged for them to perform in two concert halls as well as in various ward buildings. Arrangements are being made for them to potentially have a joint concert with the PEI Children's Choir in an historic Catholic basilica in Charlottetown, PEI. We see this as a significant opportunity to promote the good name of the Church in our area.

We continue to make a strong effort to train and teach the ever-increasing number of new missionaries and they are becoming skilled teachers and finders. I travel to each of their apartments once every three months, look in their closets, under their beds, in their fridges, lie on their beds and have time to talk to them about the work and how they are doing. They are generally doing very well. Our current emphasis is on going back to basics- daily exercise, mastering the four fundamental lessons, talking to everyone, being warm, genuine and friendly, setting realistic goals and planning.

In addition to personal visits to their apartments, I have been using Skpye and conduct regular interviews with each of the missionaries that way. The interviews are just about as good as being there and it allows me to stay in touch without as much travel. (my regular in-person visits are over 4,000 km and take 7,  16 hour days to accomplish). The current schedule is that I have one in-person interview and one Skype  interview each quarter.

The missionaries also now have webcams and we have made arrangements for them to have access to the various clerks office and family history center computers.Missionaries are using Skype to cut down the long distances and allow more time for active missionary work. For example we had our first baptism where the investigator who was living on a small island,  was taught many of the lessons over Skype.

Our missionaries are embracing the instruction in the recent missionary broadcast and are doing as the Prophet asked- Members, Leaders and Missionaries working as one in the great Work of Salvation. We have made a small video presentation about "the new vision of the Work of Salvation" and the missionaries are visiting all the homes of the members to show and discuss this with them.

We love our missionaries. I hear from them every week and personally respond to every letter. They are working hard, exercising, in some cases losing weight and generally doing all that is asked of them. Of course there are ups and downs. It would not be life if it wasn't that way.

I love hearing from you from time to time and I don't want you to think you are a bother. It takes very little time to respond to your emails and I firmly believe the best result is achieved as we work together to lead and teach these wonderful young people.

Regarding Christmas this year we have decided to take the following approach.

Last year parents and friends have sent parcels to the mission office and we then took them to the Christmas Zone Conference for distribution. In addition, at the same Zone Conference, Sister Leavitt and I provided a small Christmas loot bag, a personal letter for each missionary and a picture album of all the missionaries serving at year end. The missionaries themselves had a white elephant gift auction at the same time. Of course we have a turkey dinner and a fun talent show.

We will take the same approach this year with the exception that we would ask that you send any parcels directly to your missionaries. The mail service in Canada is very good and I feel that sending the packages to the mission office and then having us forward them on adds an unnecessary step and causes delays. If parcels are sent to the mission office we will of course do our best to deliver them in a timely manner. Christmas packages would need to be mailed by mid November to ensure that they get here on time.

Missionaries will be allowed to phone or Skype home on Christmas Day. The calls should be simple and kept under 1 hour and should be for immediate family members only. Including boyfriends, girlfriends, other friends and extended relatives is strongly discouraged. We usually get requests for calls at different times and days but would prefer that you stick to Christmas Day. You can make these arrangements directly with your missionary through your weekly e-mail letters.

Again thank you for your significant sacrifices to allow your missionaries to serve. It is a great time to be involved in the Work of Salvation.

Warmest personal regards

President Leavitt

October 7, 2013

Just do all that you can

Dear Mom,

This week was seriously cool.

Monday was a bit of a gong show. Laundry here is really expensive, but the Elders have a washer and dryer in their apartment! So the Elders offered to leave their apartment on P-day so that we would be allowed to be in there and do our laundry for free. Of course, they wanted to come back before it was done and there was a really funny moment where we were just chilling in their apartment and weren't allowed to come in. We made them cupcakes while we were there though, so I think it was worth it for them. After that, we went to a dinner appointment. It was pretty funny because the sister who fed us kept saying "The missionaries do this", referring to the Elders, and asking us questions like, "Are you going to share a thought with us like the missionaries do when they're here?" I was just like, WE ARE MISSIONARIES. Haha. I wasn't really annoyed because she was being so genuine and sweet about it, so I was mostly just amused. After that, we dropped off some cupcakes for Melissa in order to try to soften her heart. (It didn't really work.) Then we went contacting, but nothing really came of it, so that was kind of an inauspicious start to our week. But it got better!

On Tuesday, we actually had basically all of our lessons cancel. But it was okay, because we went street contacting and walked around all day and talked to 78 people! President Leavitt thinks we need to talk to more people, so he's set a companionship standard of 45 contacts per day. We were pretty blown away when we counted out our pass-along cards at the end of the day. At one point, we realized we were right beside Heather's family's house, so we dropped in on them and had an impromptu lesson. It was really good, in that we taught her 21-year-old daughter for the first time and they all seem to believe in the Restoration, but her husband stayed in his office and we got the definite sense that they were more shaky. We think that they don't want to move forward unless they're all united together, and the more people you add to a group, the harder it is to get them moving. I'm pretty sure they'll be baptized someday, but probably not by the end of October like we planned. After that, we did more street contacting, and we managed to get 5 return appointments in a couple of hours, which was huge progress! This is the first area I've done street contacting, and it's definitely a skill. It was nice to see we were improving. After that, we went to institute, and Brother Cartier was there! It was awesome to see him again.

Wednesday was another unproductive day. We have breakfast/correlation on Wednesday mornings, and then we have to study during the day and it really throws off the whole day. So we went to some appointments that cancelled, and we studied, and had a DA, and did more contacting, and had more appointments cancel. We went knocking in the evening though, and at the end of the evening, seriously at the last house we knocked, a sweet old lady let us in and we did some how to begin teaching. We couldn't really get into the Restoration because it was late and she talked a LOT, but we left her with a pamphlet and we're going back to see her tomorrow, so that's exciting.

Thursday is when the week started to really get awesome. We had district meeting, and Elder Jensen gave a training about doing all we can to achieve our goals. And the Spirit was just like, Sister Olson, stop worrying about if you're doing enough or if you're measuring up to this standard in your mind of "a good missionary" – just do all that you can and then don't worry about it! So I tried to apply that philosophy to the rest of the week, and it was really awesome and also really motivating. It's like, I have less than a year left to do this, why wouldn't I do all that I can in that year? And at the same time, it's not like it should be difficult or expecting too much to do all that I can – that's the definition of all you can, that it's not more than you can do. I don't know. It probably seems pretty obvious, but something clicked in my brain that wasn't connecting and I really benefited from it. After that, we had planned to take lunch with us, but we forgot to pack it, so we decided to use Dad's out-to-dinner birthday present to go to Cora's, a breakfast and lunch place that all the missionaries have raved to me about. Meh. It was okay, but it wasn't exactly fantastic. I got Montreal bagel with lox and capers, which was fun, but I don't know. It was a bit lame compared to all the hype. But it was a really good experience, because it was uptown and so we ended up parking really far away. We were in a hurry, but we street contacted all the way there and back and it just felt AWESOME. There are times where I just LOVE talking to every single person in my path, and there's a part of me in the back of my mind like, "I'm enjoying this? What?" haha. On our way back to the car, we kept contacting and literally the last guy we talked to immediately recognized us as missionaries and was like, "Do you have a Book of Mormon????" really urgently. So we gave him one, obviously, and then he got on a city bus before we could get his contact info!

After that, we went to an appointment with a less-active member. She has depression and hoarding issues, and I just thought, man, I wish we had more time as missionaries so that we could really give her the support she needs. If I were a member of this ward, I'd have time to help her, but we just can't do everything! And then it occurred to me that there are probably members in EVERY ward, including the ones I've been in, that could have benefited from the kind of support I wished I could give now, and I just didn't know they existed because I didn't do my visiting teaching. Repentance moment! Then we had a few appointments cancel again, but it was okay because we still got to talk to people and find new appointments! Then we went to stop in on Carey, another one of our investigators, and she'd read 5 or 6 chapters of the Book of Mormon before leaving it at a client's house! (She's a home care worker). So we gave her another one, and then we decided to knock all the way up to our DA. The whole street was old houses that have been chopped up into duplexes, and this one house was divided by stories. The entrance to #3 was THREE STORIES UP, and you accessed it via these super rickety-looking stairs. Sister Coleman and I had the following conversation: "This is my least favourite thing I've done on my mission so far." "How dangerous do you think this is?" "Let's talk about that AFTER we're on the ground." Haha. Then nobody was home! I left a pass-along card in the door so it wouldn't be for nothing, although I'm honestly not sure I want to pick up an investigator who lives there, haha. Later on in the street, we knocked into an old Jewish lady from France who said we could come back, so that sounds fun. Then we went to our DA. It came out in the conversation that my birthday was the next day, so they put candles in the apple crisp and sang happy birthday, which was sweet. Except the apple crisp didn't really hold candles well, so they kept tipping over, and then at the end the bottom of the candles had melted into it because it was still hot! It was hilarious.

On the way back, I got attacked by a dog, but it was on a leash and the owner got it away before I got hurt, so it's all good. Weirdly, I wasn't even shaken up – I think my first thought was, "Well, I can check that off the list of mission experiences." Hahaha. Then we went to another appointment that cancelled, but I was okay with that because the neighbourhood turned out to be pretty sketchy. After that, we decided to try to buzz into apartment buildings near the university at night, based on the idea that nobody likes us knocking on their doors late at night, but students stay up later. Well, the second apartment let us in without talking to us through the intercom - they just opened the door and let us come to them - and the lady who answered was wearing this huge burqa and my mind was kind of automatically like, "Not interested, next door." But I did the door approach and asked if we could share our message, and she let us in! Her name is Amina and his name is Mohammed. So I'm sitting there trying to start a lesson to a lady in a burqa and a guy named Mohammed, and my brain is totally in panic mode because my comfort zone is WAAAAAAAY on the other side of the planet at this point, haha. Just like, are we allowed to teach Muslims? How do we teach Muslims??? What the heck do I say????? So I said, "I don't know anything about Islam. Tell me about Islam!" Amina's eyes just lit up and she enthusiastically launched into an explanation of her beliefs. Holy similarities, batman! So much of it was true doctrine, and the longer she talked, the more I could see her love for God and her desire to follow him and I was just like, we can't NOT try to teach her. Seriously, how much of a jerk would that make me, she'd come up to me in the Spirit world and be like, "I've tried to follow God all my life, and you KNEW what you had was true, and I invited you into my house and you didn't try your best to tell me!" Yeah, that wouldn't be cool.

So we started trying to teach, and quickly realized that you have to build up a LOT of basic context when you teach non-Christians. So we were teaching and checking understanding and establishing common ground, and at one point she was showing us a verse in the Qur'an, and the version she had was Arabic with the French translation. (They're from French-speaking Africa and their first language is Arabic, turns out their second language is French, and their third language is English.) So she was like, oh wait, sorry, this is French! and Sister Coleman and I said, don't worry, we speak French. Well, up until that point, we thought Mohammed was skeptical and uninterested, but suddenly he started speaking French and it turned out he's VERY interested, he just can't express himself well in English! So we continued teaching, in French this time. At the end of the lesson he basically said, we're open. What's important is finding truth, and if you think you have more truth than what we have, don't leave us in the dark! And I'm just sitting there thinking, "Oh my gosh I'm glad we tried to teach them."

So yeah, those last four paragraphs were Thursday. Haha. On Friday morning, we got a call at the beginning of personal study from the Book of Mormon guy! He wanted us to come over RIGHT THEN, and we were like, can we come at 10? Haha. So we drove all the way uptown and were obviously really excited. Well, we get there, and it quickly becomes apparent that there's something not quite right with him. We sit down with him and his mom, and it turns out he's schizophrenic and clearly not accountable. So there was kind of this awkward moment when we realized that and were just thinking, "What do we do with this?" I was definitely just praying, "Pleeeeeease tell me what you want me to do here, because I have no idea what I'm doing here." He's a really sweet spirit and really just wants to follow God and be healed so he can have a family and raise his children in the gospel. He has a ton of copies of the Book of Mormon and knows it REALLY well – just so clearly not accountable, though! We tried to teach to his mom, but she's a pretty firm Catholic. So we just taught to his needs and tried to give him some comfort and hope for good things to come. I think it really softened his mom to see us just show Christlike love for him and be patient with him while he rambled. After that surreal experience, we went home and did weekly planning, and went contacting for a bit before the ward barbecque/baseball activity. That was pretty fun. Some people brought some non-members, one of whom later came to conference, so that was pretty awesome. The ward sang happy birthday to me, which was really nice, and the Elders gave me a GIANT bag of candy from Bulk Barn, haha. After the activity, we went to stop in on a less-active member. It was a good visit, but it was also sad because it's becoming clear that she's not working on her addictions as much as she says she is, and it's sad to see that happen. Then we went to a lesson with the Elders, because their on-date investigator's wife isn't super receptive and they thought sisters would help. It turned out his wife wasn't there, but it was a really good lesson and it's really inspiring to see the way the Spirit is teaching him and making changes in his life.

Saturday morning, we had a Sisters' conference call, which was really awesome. President Leavitt has set the goal of 50 baptisms by Christmas, and we're all really excited. He also said, "There's an unlimited amount of good we can accomplish in the world if we don't care who gets the credit," and I really liked that because I realized I need to have that attitude more. After that, we had a lesson with a less-active member who basically believes the church is true, but struggles with getting personal revelation from the scriptures and has just gone through a divorce. We've been trying to build her scripture study skills and help her get personal revelation. So our lesson focused on that, and towards the end we were reading Nephi's dream, and we got to the part where the people cast their eyes around as if they were ashamed. She said, "Ha, that's like at a ward activity where everyone swarms the food and then after they eat they realize they were being totally immature about getting the food first." We thought that was pretty funny, but I didn't think anything more of it. Sister Coleman said, "How you do you think that thought relates to your question about whether getting a divorce was the right thing to do?" which was obviously an inspired question because my natural mind was just like, "...whaaaaat?" But it totally led to personal revelation for her and she was so excited! It was a REALLY cool experience. After that, we studied before conference (because the Sister's conference call and lesson were during our usual study time), and then we had to drive the Elders to Value Village to get a VCR as a makeshift cable-to-composite converter. After that, Conference! I love conference. It was awesome. I think I'll just summarize all my conference thoughts later though instead of trying to go by session. In between sessions, we tried to visit all our investigators and follow up on watching conference, but none of them had and none of them did, which was frustrating.

That evening, we taught Mohammed and Amina again, and we brought Sister Hofman, who served a French-speaking mission in Africa and is one of TWO active member families in the area of town they live in. There are no coincidences! It was an AWESOME lesson and it went pretty long, oops. They have so many good questions! We mostly talked about the Plan of Salvation in order to help them understand the importance of Jesus Christ, which is looking like it's going to be an ongoing project throughout our lessons. They were really excited to get an Arabic Book of Mormon. We realized we're going to have to learn to at least recognize some Arabic phrases in order to teach out of it though. Amina is a little more devoted to Islam, whereas Mohammed was like, "I'm Muslim because my parents and my grandparents were Muslim. But I can't trust that - I have to do research." He really wants to find "le bon chemin," as he calls it. They're so wonderful. At the end of the lesson, we explained General Conference and committed them to watch the Sunday sessions, and they didn't even bat an eyelash when I said President Monson is a prophet, which I was super nervous for!

On Sunday we basically just had Conference and not much else got accomplished - we tried to have a member come to a lesson with us between sessions, but she wasn't there. That evening, we went knocking, and it was cold enough that I wore my peacoat and leather boots. And so it begins...

Conference was so great! I loved President Monson's opening remarks about how the commandment to do missionary work is so direct and urgent. The message of Saturday's sessions really emphasized that THIS is the time that the Lord is hastening His work, and we should all be excited by it and involved in it! I also noticed that a LOT of the talks quoted Preach My Gospel word-for-word without explicitly referencing it - clearly they are all studying it regularly! I really liked Sister Stephen's talk about being endowed with priesthood power and magnifying our abilities so that everyone can be blessed. Elder Dubee's talk was probably one of my favourites. I really liked his point about how it's not what we have done or where we have been, but where we are willing to go. I feel like I probably could have worked harder the first six months than I did, and I really feel like the solution isn't to say "Well I'll do my best with the year I have left," but to say, "I'm going to do my best to be a missionary all my life." Elder Bednar's talk was also really great. I liked both his and Elder Hales' almost more for the implicit message than the explicit message - you have all these resources. We have these wonderful commandments. Use everything you have available to you and live the commandments to the fullest! I also liked how bold Elder Bednar was. "I invite you to consider your ways and repent." So great. Elder Uchtdorf's talk was awesome for fairly obvious reasons. I loved his quote "First doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." Elder Christofferson's talk was great too. I liked the phrase "equal opportunity promiscuity." That made me laugh. And then Elder Nielsen's talk was great, and hilarious! Exclamation point! The prophet really HAS called all of us! Elder Holland's talk was really inspiring and sensitive, which was awesome. And then Elder Ballard's talk! That got me so fired up! First of all, his whole talk was basically the same as President Leavitt's "Pray/look/speak/invite" method of member missionary work, which was cool. And then he told us to talk to everyone, which President Leavitt told us a month ago. And then he said something about "by Christmas" and we have that baptismal goal of by Christmas. SO AWESOME.

Sunday's session seemed to focus more on marriage and less on missionary work, but it was still great, obviously. I really liked "The new morality is actually just the old immorality", and I also really liked Elder Mynes' talk. If I haven't died of a heart attack, my mission obviously isn't that hard. Haha. President Monson's talk was really good too, but mostly I just felt sad that he misses his wife so much. Elder McConkie's talk was awesome. I know he was changing "missionary" to "teachers" and "investigators" to "students," but I just changed it all back to missionaries, hahaha. Elder Hamilton's talk was a really great one about coming to church. I also really liked Elder Vinson's talk when he was talking about the little boy trying to move the rock - "You need to use all your strength to move a rock like that" "I have used all my strength!" "No you haven't. You haven't had my help yet." I think it really illustrates the principle of doing all we can and relying on the Lord at the same time. I also really liked Elder Nelson's talk. When he was talking about revering life in all forms, it made me remember when Ted Germaine died in Cole Harbour and how much good I could see coming out of his death taking so long, and it just really made me think that the Lord is in control of everything, and we don't always see his wise purposes, but they're always there.

I love you all!

Sister Olson

The ridiculously high house

The birthday apple crisp

My attempts to understand learn the names of the books in the Book of Mormon in Arabic