December 30, 2013

Christmas Week in the Field

Dear Mom,

So I'm going to use your card to buy myself some new gloves today because my red ones are so worn out that my hands go numb pretty much immediately, is that okay?

I like that thought about the light of Christ, and I'm glad you and Dad had a good time talking about me, haha. 

This week was completely ridiculous. Seriously. There were a lot of good things, but mostly it was just like, "...what???"

Monday was good. We tried really hard to meet our goal of talking to people before Val's lesson, and it was a testimony builder of how setting realistic goals can be motivating. Then we went to see Val and Tracy, and they had a questions about the Book of Revelations, since there was a documentary on it the night before on TV. So I got to bust out my Grade 10 Seminary notes in the margins. Brother Cartier seriously prepared me for a mission more than any other teacher at Church. It was really awesome. I think Tracy was impressed by the interpretation, since it was very different from what her church taught, but (obviously) made a lot of sense (because it was true). Then we went to see Charis. She reminds me of Luna Lovegood SO MUCH. Teaching her is always hilarious. We taught the Restoration and it went over really well, we could tell she was feeling the Spirit. But when we invited her to read the Book of Mormon and pray, she didn't want to, because the Elders who had taught her last had confused her on a number of points. Her main concerns being having to wear a skirt, birth control, and the Law of Chastity. So we cleared up some misconceptions. And then I remembered that I had placed a copy of Elder Bednar's talk on chastity from the April conference in my bag earlier that day, thinking it might come in handy some time. (Yay for the Spirit!) So we left that with her and committed to read it. We left the lesson to find a text from the Saint Stephen sisters – the whole town of Saint Stephen had no power due to the freezing rain, so they were coming up to stay with us that night. We decided to get gas on the way home even though it was late, just in case the power went out here and we couldn't get any later. So they got in at about 10:30 and we had a rather late night.

Tuesday was a bit crazy with four sisters in the apartment. We called all of our meal appointments and made sure it was okay to bring twice as many people over. First we went to the McKenneys and had breakfast. They had waffles with Cool Whip and raspberry sauce, so that was pretty awesome. One of their friends is Melissa, who the Elders tried to pass off to us once and it ended up causing drama, and they had her over, so I felt kind of awkward, but none of the other sisters knew her, so that covered for my awkwardness haha. After that, we went street contacting uptown, because they'd carpooled up with the Elders, so we only had one car between the four of us. Sister Jarvis and I ran into this guy who was all like, "The Book of Mormon doesn't testify that Christ died on the cross, so it can't be true!" I ended up taking my quad out right there on the street and leading him through 3 Nephi 27, 1 Nephi 11, etc. He was totally confounded. It was awesome.Then we went to drop off a Christmas gift to a less-active. A sister in our ward wanted us to drop it off because she lives on the other side of town and didn't feel comfortable driving in the snow/freezing rain/ice combo that covers all the roads. She wasn't home, so we left it in her screen door and went to a lunch appointment with the Spraggs, a really awesome young couple. They made tacos, at my request (because Mexican food is practically unknown in Atlantic Canada). During lunch, their power went out, so we lit some candles and got some flashlights out of our purses (we'd been carrying them around just in case) and finished. Sister Echols pre-empted my spiritual thought with her own, which bugged me a bit, but whatever, and then Sister Jarvis in her closing prayer asked for the lights to come back on, at their request. They texted us about half an hour later to say they got their power back, so that was cool. We parked at the church, checked our letters from President, and then started walking to a referral to follow up on. The sidewalk hadn't been plowed, and then the bumpy snow had frozen, and then inch-thick chunks of ice had fallen off the trees and frozen into the snow, so it was basically the most ankle-twisting frozen tundra I've ever walked on in my life. We got lost on the way to the referral and ended up stopping by some potentials and formers, but none of them were home. So we walked back to the church to go to our dinner appointment. Sister Sandberg used to be a professional-level gymnast, so she was really sure-footed on the ice and way ahead of the group. Sister Jarvis said the terrain made her feel like she was walking into Mordor, so we dubbed Sister Sandberg Aragorn, Sister Jarvis Pippin (because she kept tripping, falling, and generally being accidentally hilarious), Sister Echols was Samwise Gamgee, and I got to be Legolas, because I was in charge of directions. (I was pretty pleased they let me be Legolas.) /nerd

So we drove up to Grand Bay and had Christmas Eve dinner in the dark. They cooked curry on a wood-burning stove and spring rolls, chicken balls, and rice on the barbeque. (They boiled the water on the barbeque). It was surprisingly good, although I found all the people there overwhelming. I'm pretty sure my increased ability to be around people is a gift of the Spirit, because I don't have it when I'm not proselyting. Then I played the piano while we sang Christmas carols, and then Brother Cosman kept wanting to do parts, so I found out that I can sight-read some alto lines and play the piano at the same time. Then we took turns sharing what our Christmas traditions are, and that brought a really great spirit. Then we went home, and Sister Echols had to do her laundry because she had NO clean clothes, so we did that in the evening.

Christmas morning we opened our presents. They were pretty great. Sister Coleman's mom had sent me a really funny stocking with all sorts of random things, many of which became more useful than expected later in the week. (Foreshadowing). I think I thanked all of you for the presents already but thank you again. Then we had the Christmas conference call, and the Zone Leaders shared different spiritual thoughts. That was probably the best part of Christmas. I think my favourite was one about how we really looked forward to Christ coming to earth, but what it must have been like for Heavenly Father, to see his firstborn son come to earth, knowing what was ahead of him. Meanwhile, the Saint Stephen sisters managed to find out that most of Saint Stephen had power, so they went back that morning, which was a relief. I really love both of them, but they didn't have a car and didn't know the area, so it was pretty much just babysitting the whole time, and it was really stressful because suddenly I was in charge of 3 missionaries relying on me instead of just one. Then we had breakfast at the Stake President's house, and then we went to the Hofmann's to skype. They had been out of town for long enough that the snow and ice had frozen over their steps in a perfect slope, so we had to do a bit of mountaineering to get in. We also did laundry there, which took longer than the two skype calls, so we basically got to hang out, alone, in a house. It felt really great. Weird pleasures as a missionary. Then we went to the church, where the Cosmans were having Christmas dinner, because their power was out. The appointment was for 5, but due to some craziness on their end, dinner wasn't served until eight forty-five at night. Meanwhile, we played the slowest game of Phase 10 ever. Seriously, 4 hours later, we were only on phase 5. It was one of those experiences where I think to myself, "This will be hilarious 5 years from now, so I might as well just be amused now too." We scarfed down our Christmas dinner, shared a hasty message, and got home a bit late. Then we called the Elders to fill them in on what they missed. (They bailed after a few hours to skype their families and didn't come back.)

On Christmas Eve while talking to Sister Echols I had this epiphany about how the ward needs help, and how maybe I should seek the Lord's direction and do something about it instead of just letting it impair the work (duh). Fasting is awesome. More on that later. We had a Sisters' conference call at 9, which we were told would be via Skype, so we drove all the way to the church, only to find out it was via telephone, so we basically wasted 16 k's. Then we had a lesson with Shauna, and then we drove back home to study and have lunch, and during 12-week, Sister Jarvis decided she wanted to study chapter 13, about working with the ward. Well, we got to the President Hinckley quote on the first page, and then it was like, REVELATION!!! It was pretty sweet. We realized we could incorporate it all into the 3rd hour combined lesson we were teaching, so we worked on that for a bit. After that, we were going to go store contacting, because it's Boxing Day. Boxing Day sales occur on Boxing Day, right? WRONG. Apparently, in New Brunswick aka the Twilight Zone, the entire city is basically shut down on Boxing Day, and Boxing Day sales are the day after Boxing Day. So we went to Shopper's to talk to people, and I bought some nail polish with my gift card. (The shade is called "just married," which almost made me not want to buy it, but it's just a really pretty shade of pale metallic pink). So we went to Tim Horton's, which was the only other place open, and had some good conversations there, and then we went and shovelled people's sidewalks until our dinner appointment. The Elders were also at the same appointment, and Elder Jensen kept trying to convince me of his theory of where the Book of Mormon took place, which I was mainly arguing against for the sake of annoying him. After that, we had another lesson with Val and Tracy, but it turned out just Tracy was there. It was an awesome lesson. When we first met her, she was all like, "I'll never read the Book of Mormon!" And then we came in that day and she said, so I started reading your Bible the other day. It was pretty awesome. After that, we had a couple of great street contacts, and then we went to try to de-ice the Hofmann's steps for them a bit as a thank you.

Friday was skype interviews with President Leavitt. He told me the same story twice during the interview, which was pretty funny. We then continued to do our weekly planning at the church, and then the Elders came and we met together to organize the lesson we were teaching on Sunday. After that, Brother Cosman called and asked us to create a sepia-toned pedigree chart that could be printed poster size for this family history project he's working on. All I had to work with was Microsoft Paint and Open Office Draw, so that was just ridiculous. After that, we were supposed to have a DA, but their power was still out, so instead, her brother took us both out for Chinese food, which was super awkward. And THEN, just as we were getting ready to leave at the end of the awkward restaurant appointment, MY NOSE STARTED BLEEDING. Fortunately, I had a mini pack of Kleenex from Sister Coleman's mom. It was pretty much the most awkward thing ever, but it was also hilarious. Then we went to Staples to print the poster, and none of the files on my flash drive were showing up on their computers! So we went BACK to the church, where my flash drive appeared to be working perfectly, and we basically confronted technical difficulties until it was time to go home. So Friday was pretty much a gong show.

We were supposed to have a lesson with Shauna on Saturday, but she didn't show, so we went to teach Courtney, the member we're re-teaching the lessons to. We had a great experience where we really helped her recognize the Spirit (she'd just been taught the "burning in the bosom" and wasn't getting it, so she was pretty frustrated about that), and then we went back to the church to meet with the Elders again and perfect our presentation. We were all REALLY tired that day for some reason, so it was pretty much the most unproductive meeting ever. After that, we went searching for a rock (to make a "prayer rock" for Kiera), but obviously everything was buried under a couple feet of ice and snow, so that was unproductive. We went to a DA with the Spraggs, and it turned out Sister Spragg collects rocks, so that worked out. Then we had a lesson with Charis. She was being even more talkative and off-topic than usual to avoid the whole "law of chastity" thing. After about half an hour, I honestly didn't know if there was a way to save the lesson. But I prayed about it, and somehow we ended up having a really good lesson. We tied it in to building a strong, eternal marriage and used D&C 130:20-21, and the Spirit was so strong. It was probably the biggest turnaround I've ever seen in a lesson. 

On Sunday, we had a lot more people come to church than we expected, due to the fact that it was supposed to be stormy for the third Sunday in a row. Val came, and Sandra, and it was awesome. We taught our third-hour lesson, which was basically about how we all need to personally convert ourselves every day in order to be prepared to do missionary work, and it went REALLY well. Then we did 12-week after church, which ended up taking a REALLY long time because we ended up studying the doctrine of the Plan of Salvation really in-depth. Then we went contacted a few potentials and shoveled someone's driveway before our DA with Sandra. She actually told us that the lesson made her want to become an active member again, which was AWESOME. I started feeling pretty sick at Sandra's though, so we stayed there for a bit and then we went knocking for a bit before we turned in. 

I found it really interesting when Dad asked if I'd like him to call President about coming home the early transfer, because I remember being home for that semester was really important to me before I left on my mission, and I had to really make the conscious decision to be okay with not coming home the early transfer. But when he asked that, I realized that I really didn't want to miss out on a whole month of my mission, and the depth of that feeling really surprised me. It was such a 180 from how it had been previously. So that was really cool.

Sister Olson

Ice Storm

"Stay classy, Saint John."

"Stay classy, Saint John."

Ice Storm

Christmas Eve

Our Christmas presents

Sister Echols

December 23, 2013

Christmas Zone Conference

Dear Mom,

So I'll probably Skype you at 1:00 our time, which should be 10:00 your time. I figured that would be early enough to not conflict with whatever else was going on that day.

It is so hard to remember what happened this week.

On Monday I think we stopped in to see Shawna and she was actually home and available! So we got in contact with her again and got to begin teaching her some more. We basically did a how to begin teaching and started again because it's been so long and Sister Jarvis has never met her. So that was really exciting. After that, we went to teach Muzammil with Sarah, a YSA member, and I think that went well too. I don't remember anything from that long ago. When I tell you about the rest of the week you'll see why.

Tuesday was Zone Conference. The Saint Stephen sisters drove to our apartment and we drove the rest of the way, which was really fun because Sister Sandberg came out with me and Sister Echols was my companion in Cole Harbour, so we got to hang out with them. Zone Conference was really great. We had a training in the morning, and President Leavitt decided to show us clips of Apollo 13 and then use it to illustrate gospel principles of how we react to adversity, make plans, problem solve, etc. It was pretty much the coolest Zone Training ever. After that, we had a Christmas dinner, and then in the afternoon, we had a white elephant gift exchange. There were some pretty funny gifts – someone bought a goldfish, someone else gave a Barbie (which an Elder unwrapped. Hilarious.) and Elder Jensen took a bunch of glamour shots of Elder Davidson, put them into a picture frame, and Elder Hunt got that one. It was hysterical. Then Elder Clark dressed up as Santa and Elder Nzojibwami (the APs) dressed up as an Elf, and the Elders had a great time sitting on Santa's lap in a variety of hilarious ways. (The Sisters posed awkwardly beside him.) We all got a small gift basket. I got a slinky and some sugar cereal in my white elephant gift, so that was pretty awesome. Then Zone Conference totally went longer than it was supposed to, so we got back pretty late. The Saint Stephen sisters were going on exchanges with us, except President Leavitt has changed it so that both companionships stay in the same area to reduce k's. So that evening, Sister Sandberg and Sister Jarvis went to teach Val and Tracy, which was apparently a really good lesson, and Sister Echols and I went to visit Nancy, a LA.

We got a ridiculous amount of snow Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, so after studies, we split off and decided to go shovel contacting. We parked on the road, but as we were getting out of the car, I realized that (1) you could only park on the other side of the road and (2) there was a snowplow coming down the street. So I told Sister Echols to get back in the car, but instead she just shut the door, probably expecting me to pull around somewhere near. Well, there was nowhere near to pull around, as I knew full well, because the street was too narrow for U-turns, the snow was too deep to pull into someone's driveway without getting stuck, and the next side street was probably about 50 houses down. But there was nothing I could do, because I was being CHASED BY A SNOWPLOW!!! So I drove waaaaaaaay down the street, pulled over on the first street I could, got out of the car, grabbed my shovel, and started RUNNING through a foot of snow back to Sister Echols. (I got winded about halfway through and walked the rest of the way, but hey, I tried.) Fortunately, Sister Echols is a pretty common-sense sort of person, so she just started shoveling while she waited for me instead of freaking out or anything. Her and I shoveled the driveway of a member family that's been sick, and then as we were walking back to our car, we stopped and helped another guy on their street who was shoveling. It turned out he was a former, and we taught him the Restoration while we shoveled. Afterwards, he insisted on giving us a gift basket of oranges, minced meat, powerade, and sparkling juice. 

After that, we exchanged back and Sister Sandberg and I went to visit a recent convert, Gabby. She's actually Sister Sandberg's convert, but then she moved away, Sister Sandberg got transferred, and she only recently came back, so they had a really good time reconnecting. Then we went knocking, and then the Cosmans wanted to take us out for pizza because Sister Sandberg was here. But things got a little crazy, and we ended up tracking down a church key before finally eating the pizza at the church, so it took a while. Then we exchanged back, and we went to teach Shawna again. She's been going through a really hard time with her addictions but she seems to be improving, so that's good.

We had correlation on Thursday morning instead, but then it turns out it was Thursday for lunch, and the Elders forgot to tell us, so we ended up stuck at the church on Thursday morning with nothing much to do. So we studied at the church until the Elders came. THEN the elders were like, "You know you have to drive yourself up right?" The Cosmans live pretty far away, so usually they pick us up, but apparently they weren't this time, and the Elders had something they wanted to do in Grand Bay afterwards. Well, we weren't very impressed with the complete disregard for our k's, so finally Elder Jensen called the Zone Leaders to see if they could get special permission to drive us up, and then the Cosmans would drive us back. They got permission, but with the stipulation that we weren't allowed to talk to each other in the car. So we got in the truck, and Elder Jensen turns to Elder Davidson and says, "So Elder Davidson, I was studying [gospel topic] this morning and was wondering about [doctrinal question.] I wonder what Sister Olson would say to that if she were here?" I turned to Sister Jarvis and said, "You know, Sister Jarvis, if I were allowed to talk to Elder Jensen right now, I would probably say something along the lines of..." etc. It was pretty funny, and made it hard to stay mad at them. So we get to the Cosmans, and Brother Cosman wanted us to test out a family history presentation we're thinking of doing to ward members on their family. Which took a while, because they were trying to fill in the WHOLE FAN CHART while we were there. We finally made it back to Saint John, and decided to buy shovels and go store contacting to talk to people. Then we went knocking before our DA with the Crilleys, which was great. Sister Crilley is a total sweetheart, and I don't use that word easily. After that, we had a lesson with Michelle. She had a bunch of questions, one of which was "What's adultery?" So we taught a single mom living with her boyfriend an impromptu Law of Chastity lesson, which actually went really well because since "Thou shalt not commit adultery" is one of the 10 Commandments, she accepted it pretty easily on that basis and committed to work towards living it! Then we had to RUSH back to our car because the lesson was pretty long. When it snows a lot in Saint John, they call a snow ban, where you can't park on the streets anywhere in uptown after 7 pm. All the parking lots that are paid parking during the day become snow ban lots, and people park there instead. So we had to park pretty far away.

Friday was weekly planning, and during weekly planning Muzammil started texting us about the Atonement again. We basically ended up teaching him a lesson over text, and at one point he said "Hopefully I'll be able to understand and accept the concept," so that was really exciting. Then we went knocking a bit, had dinner, and taught Val and Tracy. We put Val back on date for January 25, which is exciting, and then we went knocking some more. Friday was a pretty chill day.

On Saturday we taught Shawna, and Sister Jarvis totally followed the Spirit and started teaching her the Vision/Goals/Plans/Monitor cycle President Leavitt always uses with us, and I think that's really going to help her. We committed her to memorize Ether 12:27 so she can call on it when she's tempted. Then we went street contacting and then we taught Michelle again, where she basically tried to avoid the topic of the Law of Chastity by asking if we could talk about Christmas. So we taught the Christmas story and tried to apply it to her life as much as possible, with the individual responsibility to seek Christ and whatnot, and we recommitted her to read the Chastity pamphlet. Then we went over to the East side and saw Jackie, which was a pretty great lesson. She still believed authority didn't matter for baptism, so I showed her some clear examples in the Bible of where authority comes from and how much it matters, and then I bore a testimony along the lines of "I know that the Bible is true and teaches us how Christ wants us to follow Him." She totally couldn't argue with that in any way, it was awesome. Then we went to Wok Box for dinner, and for once I branched out and got Jungle Lemongrass instead of the Butter Chicken Naanwich. It was really good too, but the Naanwich continues to be my favourite. Then we tried to stop by a less-active, but she wasn't home, and then we went knocking. It was SUPER icy because we were having freezing rain, and everyone's driveway was REALLY steep, so we had a lot of fun with that. We also had fun walking on top of snowdrifts and then suddenly breaking through the ice layer and plunging into them. It was great.

We woke up to a THICK layer of ice on Sunday, which I found completely bizarre since we don't really get a lot of freezing rain in Calgary. Sister Jarvis apparently was used to it from St. Louis, and I think she enjoyed being more adjusted to the weather for once. So after much chipping, we managed to get our windows un-frozen and went to church early to practice for the Christmas program. Then it turned out a lot of people in the Christmas program weren't going to make it due to the rain, so I ended up playing the organ for all the hymns and also improvising a piano solo of "Angels We Have Heard On High" to flesh it out a bit. Val came to church and that was super awesome. And then in Relief Society, Sister Clark (the 1st counselor, who was the only one there that day) called both us and the Elders up and gave us HUGE gift bags. They literally came up to our waists and were filled with presents from the ward members. She gave this really touching speech of how missionaries represent "everything good about the world." I love the ward. Then we went to see Sandra, a less-active, and while we were there, some guy with a snowplow totally sideswiped our car in the parking lot and wouldn't confess to it, so we have to take our car in today to get an estimate. I was so annoyed. Then we drove all the way out of our area to go to a dinner appointment. (We got special permission because it was a family dinner and a lot of the family were in our ward, including Kiera's family). It was a fun icy drive. Then we came back and contacted a referral, and while we were doing that, Michelle texted us and said she was reading 1 Thess. and was "shocked and confused." So we went over and cleared up some misunderstandings about the Resurrection, and also taught more clearly about why authority is necessary and about repentance, so we're getting pretty close with her I think!

I love you all!
Sister Olson
Elder Clark and Elder Nzojibwami

I forgot to tell you -- someone in the apartment complex keeps smoking in the building and the fire alarm went off Tuesday night with the other sisters, and again on Thursday morning at 6:30 am. We just sit in our car and chill.

An example of what we wake up to on an almost daily basis out here.

Some pictures of the ice from Sunday

Our bounteous load of presents. We are really blessed here.

December 16, 2013

Last week to the best of her memory

Dear Mom,

So I just told Dad I didn't know about Skype, we'll keep thinking it through and get back to you. We're going to Christmas at the Cosman's, the WML, and they said we could skype there, but I don't know how structured anything we do there is going to be. Alternatively, we could skype at the Church and set up a time, but the Church internet is SUPER laggy, so that's not really appealing.

Monday was pretty chill. We taught Val, and her friend Tracy is staying with her, so we picked her up as a new investigator. She's leaving for Newfoundland at the beginning of January, but we'll see what we can do in the meantime. After that, we went knocking, which Sister Jarvis actually enjoyed, so that was a really good start to the week.

We had district meeting on Tuesday, and afterwards we had lunch at the church. Elder Davidson kept asking questions like, "Who would win in a fight, a moose or a grizzly bear? Ironman or batman? Jedi or the X-men?" He, Elder Willoughby and I got really into it. Then we went street contacting and got majorly creeped on, which was really funny and really annoying at the same time. I've been trying to make more of an effort to have Sister Jarvis talk, so we agreed that I'd stop people and she'd then be the one to talk to them. Of course, the first person she street contacts ends up hitting on us. Fortunately, she seemed to think it was funny too, so it didn't turn her off street contacting too badly :) After that, we tried to stop by some potentials, and ended up having a conversation with a less-active member who was basically like, nope, I've been offended, so I'm never coming back, and if you tell me why that's a bad idea, I'm just going to get more offended, so don't try to tell me. It was really sad. I wish people would actually think about "How is this going to affect my happiness in the eternities?" and then act according to that, instead of having things like coffee or being offended be more important to them. Then we had a DA with the Claytons, which was great, and then we went to institute, but it turns out it was cancelled and nobody told us, so that was a bit of a bummer. So instead we went to go visit Sister Atwin, which was a really great visit. She IS looking at it with an eternal perspective, she's just having a hard time anyways, so we really tried to just give her some spiritual strength.

Wednesday was correlation, and then we had a lesson set up with a potential, but we got to the door and she was "sick," so that was frustrating. We tried to go store contacting and stop by some people, and then we had a lesson with Kiera. We taught the 10 commandments with her grandma, and we used little pictures and stuff, which really helped with her retention. But we forgot to figure out how to explain "Thou shalt not commit adultery" to a 9-year-old, so that was a bit of an awkward moment. I finally managed to come up with "When you're married to someone, you don't let yourself go be in love with someone else instead." Haha. Then we tried to go find out about service opportunities, but weren't really successful, and then we had a DA with the Hofmanns. After that, we basically went finding all evening, and other than contacting a referral who wasn't interested, nothing much happened. It was a pretty slow day.

On Thursday we had service at St. Joseph's, which was good. Except it was SOOOO cold on Thursday, so I wore my thermals and my sweaterdress, and then since we were working with old people they had the heat turned up super high, so I was totally baking. After that, Sister Jarvis had a skype interview with President Leavitt at the church, and we ran into a less-active member who was all like, "Hey, I've seen you by my place a couple of times!" because he lives on the same street as Shawna. One of the other members overheard, and called the Bishop, and the Bishop called us like, "You're not supposed to visit him!!!!!" so that was kind of funny. At some point on Wednesday I lost my planner, so I'm having trouble remembering what happened for the rest of the week. I know we taught a lesson to Muzammil on Thursday night. Just before that, we were knocking, and literally the last house we get to, the guy is interested. But we have this lesson in about 2 minutes, so we ask if we can come back later. He was all like, "No, if my wife is home later, she'll put a stop to this, it has to be right now. Just let me put some pants on!" So he runs up stairs, and Sister Jarvis and I had a good laugh because he'd been sitting on a chair painting the door, so she had thought he was a midget, and she was really excited to teach a midget. Hahaha. But he came back and we had a really good conversation with him at the door. He apparently had read a Book of Mormon when he was like 12, and later on he got a cassette from the Church about finding happiness. He asked if he could buy a Book of Mormon, so we gave him one, and explained where it came from and briefly summarized the Restoration. We gave him the address of the church, but he wants the elders to wait a bit before they follow up with him. Then we went to Muzammil's lesson. He started out with, "What is the meaning of baptism?", which was unexpected, and then we started talking about a conversation he had with a friend of his. This friend is Muslim and is getting his PhD in religious studies, and he had a long conversation with Muzammil over the weekend about how Jesus couldn't be our Saviour, etc. It was crazy to see how much the Spirit of God outmatches the learning of the world. He was clearly geared up for some big long discussion, and the Spirit guided me to ask one rhetorical question and his friend's whole argument fell to pieces. It reminded me of the scene in Captain America where all the soldiers are fighting to get to the flag on top of the pole, and then Steve just pulls the pin and the flag falls right at his feet. I think we're getting a lot closer with him.

Friday was weekly planning, which we interrupted to try the hot chocolate stand again with the Elders and sing Christmas carols. I think we got a lot of "soft results" from the Christmas caroling, but nobody wanted the hot chocolate, despite the fact that it was FREEZING, so that was frustrating. Then we probably did some sort of finding activity, I honestly don't remember because my planner is pretty blank, and then we were going to teach Val, but her knee was giving her a lot of pain so she went to the hospital. After the hospital, she ended up calling us and we taught a lesson later in the evening, where we answered some of Tracy's questions and tried to build a rapport that way. We figure that the best thing we can do for Tracy right now is work up to her having an appreciation for the Book of Mormon by the time she leaves, so she'll always have that and hopefully want to seek out the church in Newfoundland. There are some lifestyle things going on that make it the best plan of action for her right now.

Saturday is similarly hazy in my memory. We visited with a less-active member, and then we went over to the east side to try to get in touch with Jackie, who we hadn't seen all week, and do some mall contacting. It was probably -15 or so for the high that day, and the holiday season, so EVERYONE was at the mall. So at first we were like, it's a contacting mecca! But then it was like, just kidding, everyone's stressed out and busy and doesn't want to talk to us. This is the first time I've really realized how stressful Christmas is for a lot of adults, and it kind of feels like it's destroying my childhood. I keep thinking, "This isn't a magical season at all! Everyone's freaking out!" Haha. Then we went to the ward Christmas party. Val and Tracy came, which was great, and then afterwards we went knocking in the cold. 

We got hit with a GIANT snowstorm Sunday morning, so we had about 20 people at church. They decided to only have sacrament meeting, and the snowstorm basically messed up a lot of our plans, so we were like, what are we going to do? So we did 12-week and then had lunch at the church, leaving us the last ones there. We decided to go see a less-active member, so we tried to pull out of the parking lot. Turns out Heavenly Father was like, "If you have nothing to do, I'll give you something to do!" Haha. Our car was totally snowed into the parking lot! The drifts around it were over a foot deep, and we had to get the church shovels and dig ourselves out. It was super windy, so parts of the parking lot were super deep and parts were shallow, so we drove through the shallow parts until the exit to the parking lot. Turned out a snowplow had come along and blocked the exit, so we ended up in snow up to our thighs digging ourselves out. Someone in a truck stopped and helped us, which was really nice. Then we had an adventure driving through the snow all over town! We actually had so much fun. I actually love driving in crazy amounts of snow; it's so much more of a mental challenge. You have to pay attention to where to go really slow so you don't spin out, vs. where to hit the gas so you have enough momentum to punch through snow drifts. And you get to use drifting around corners to actually make the turns, and I really just love it. So we went to visit Sandra, and we helped her detangle her Christmas lights, which apparently was really stressing her out. Then we went pity knocking in the snow and the cold, and people were really nice to us, but nobody let us in. So then we went back to the car and made some calls, trying to find someone to brave the snow to come with us to Muzammil. He ended up cancelling anyways, but in the course of it, we found out that one of the really awesome members, Courtney, who's been a member for maybe two years or so, has been struggling with her testimony, so we made plans to see her after our DA. We showed up to our DA with the Simeons to find out that it was her 50th birthday party. It was a legit Polynesian party, with awesome food and hilarious Asian karaoke. So we stayed for that until it was time to go, and then we went to see Courtney. She feels like the church is true, but she's never really had an experience with the Spirit and for that and other reasons, she doesn't feel like there's a place in it for her. She also feels like she doesn't know any of the doctrine. So we decided that Sister Jarvis and I would re-teach her the missionary lessons, which will be good practice for Sister Jarvis and also helpful for her. We ended up getting out of there pretty late, plus the roads were bad, so we got home late (oops). 

And that's pretty much all for the week.

Sister Olson

We were knocking and I thought this blow-up dog/snowman was super creepy.

Sister Jarvis during the first time we dug the car out of the snow. We thought THIS would be the "look how deep the snow is!" picture. Turns out that was NOTHING.

The second time we had to dig the car out.

It looks like the snow was only up to our knees, but that's just how far down we sunk into it. Once we started digging, it became clear that it was really to our thighs.

December 9, 2013

Transfers Means Lots of Pictures

Dear Mom,

So I'm not sure, but I think from your email it might have been cold this week ;) We haven't had any cold like that here yet. Apparently it's generally highs between -5 and 5 in December, with more rain than snow, and then they get dumped on from January through whenever the snow stops.

This week has been another good one. Sister Coleman and I went on a shopping spree on Monday and it was awesome. I found a Banana Republic pencil skirt at Value Village for $8, and also a kilt for $8, so I got both of them. I wore the kilt to church on Sunday and it got Sister Findlay's approval. She's a 74-year-old Scottish woman who wears kilts to church all the time, so I know it's legit :) After P-day, we tried to get in touch with all of our investigators, and I have down that we had one other lesson, which I think was just a brief 10-minute stop by with Val. We did meet a really great potential though, who we have an appointment with tonight, because I OYM'd in a totally dark parking lot in the ghetto, and she turned out to be a nurse and is a totally awesome, non-sketchy person, so that was cool. In the evening, we had a skype meeting for all the trainers, which was really great.

On Tuesday, we had an early morning appointment with Heather Orford to say goodbye and she gave us Christmas stockings, so that was sweet. Then we went street contacting for a bit and had a lesson with Jackie. It was totally awesome. She randomly brought up a concern about polygamy, so we resolved that, and then she kept sticking to her concern of "you talk about Joseph Smith too much," which is kind of related to her not understanding the significance of authority. And I was just so done with her not understanding this, and I went super bold (I can't remember what I said at all, so that's how you know it's the Spirit talking and not you) and you could tell the Spirit just struck her, so she decided to start the Book of Mormon from the beginning and come to church on Sunday. After that, we had a DA with the Simeon family, who are from Polynesia, so they made awesome Asian food and it was pretty much the greatest thing ever. Then we had a lesson with Val, wherein we taught the Stop Smoking Program and tried to take away her cigarettes, but she put them in the freezer instead. Baby steps.

Wednesday was correlation again, and then we came back to the church to study. While we were having lunch, Val called to ask us to come take away her smokes (of course we will!) and then we went street contacting for a while until it was time to go teach Kiera, the 9-year-old we picked up way out in Rowley. Teaching 9-year-olds is interesting because there is SO much variance between their maturity, understanding, and participation. In Cole Harbour we taught New Member Lessons to a 9-year-old RC, but I guess he had a lot more maturity than Kiera, because the Restoration was a bit boring. Oops haha. After that we had a DA at the Walkers', and then we went knocking until the end of the evening, so that was Sister Coleman's last day in Saint John!

We went to visit a less-active, Holly, before transfers on Thursday, and then we drove up to Moncton. We got there and of course the transfer van was behind schedule, so we got to see a lot of missionaries and reconnect for a bit, which was fun. Sister Judd was there because she's going home, so I got to see her before she left, and it was generally a good time. The only bad part was that it was 5 degrees and sunny in Saint John, so I figured, it's not cold and we'll be in the car the whole time, I'll wear my shoes! But I forgot that Moncton is ALWAYS colder, AND my shoes have holes in the bottom, so we were standing in the snowy parking lot for hours and my feet were freezing, haha. Finally the transfer van came, and I said goodbye to Sister Coleman and met Sister Jarvis. It turns out she's been reading my blog since July when she got her call, so that was super funny. She did 1 year at BYU majoring in microbiology, so we're obviously getting along great. She reminds me SO much of me as a new missionary, it's crazy. It's this bizarre experience where it's like the Lord is holding up a mirror and saying, "See how much you've grown in 9 months? So stop worrying." We got home and unpacked, and then we went knocking right away just to break the ice and get it over with. We ended up running into a lot of French people, since we were knocking near the French community centre, so I got to do some door approaches in French and it was super fun. After that, we came home and had dinner/unpacked, before going to a lesson with Muzammil. It was a really bold and deep lesson, but I get the sense that he's not really putting in the spiritual effort when he's praying and coming to church, and kind of blocking the Spirit that way. I think he's afraid to put forth that spiritual effort because he's worried that if Islam is true and the church isn't, God will condemn him for it. So yeah, Sister Jarvis' first lesson in the field was pretty intense.

On Friday we did weekly planning, and then we went to the University to talk to people and also introduce Sister Jarvis to the Bishop. Then we tried to get in touch with Shawna, but she's been ignoring us all week (sad panda!) so we had a less-active visit with Sister Kennedy, and she's been reading her scriptures more since we committed her to it, so that was nice to see. Then we went street contacting uptown a bit before a DA with Sister Raeburn, and while we were there we found out that Jeremy, who lives right next door, was free that evening. So we went with Sister Raeburn to teach him, but then he basically had major concerns over homosexuality and although we taught alright, he ended up dropping us. 

Saturday morning the elders called us asking how to make a DVD, so we met them at the university to provide some tech support. Then we tried to go to a craft fair that a less-active member was participating in to talk to people there, but we ended up getting lost and then not getting there until it closed. But we had a lot of great conversations on the street, including this woman who was both Gnostic and super feminist, so that was a fun one. Haha. After that, we went and got Sister Jarvis a real winter coat, and then we had a short lesson with Jackie. We brought Sister Findlay and she told an awesome story about church attendance and how attending church regularly helped her convert, so that really got Jackie solid for coming to church. Then we went store contacting for a bit, and I bought 3 pairs of over-the-knee socks, which are my new favourite thing. Then we had a lesson with Michelle. She basically doesn't want to come to church until her boyfriend comes with her, which was the first time she mentioned him, so obviously that's a hidden concern there. But apparently he's open to meeting with us, so that sounds like it could potentially be really great. I think the deeper concern is that she's worried about being judged for being a single mom, so she wants him with her for that reason. After that, we had a lesson with Val, and she cancelled for church tomorrow because she sings in this Christian rock band that was performing at the Anglican church for the holiday season. I kind of got the sense that she was testing us, kind of "acting out" as a spiritual "teenager" to see if we'd tell her she couldn't go, so I was just like, okay, fine, sing in your band and then come to church every week after that. She's really getting comfortable about the church though, which is good - she keeps saying, "You know, everyone else has got you all wrong. You guys are great." Haha. 

Funny story - at one point Sister Jarvis was telling me about some experience she had at home, and then suddenly she went on a tangent like, "Well this guy...he is my boyfriend but he isn't, because we're both on missions, so I don't really know what to call it, etc. etc." and I was just like, well, how about you tell me his name and we'll just call him that? Haha. Remind you of anyone?

We met the elders at the church early on Sunday to work on the ward mission plan and have choir practice before church. Jackie and Kiera came to church, which was great, and then we taught Kiera the Plan of Salvation after church with a little map/puzzle thing. Sister Jarvis taught primary right before coming out, so that was great. Then we had lunch, and then we went to visit Sandra. I could tell something was up with her, but she didn't feel comfortable with Sister Jarvis yet, so we didn't really get to the root of it before our dinner appointment. After our DA, we basically went finding for the rest of the evening, which was pretty average, so that was the week! I think it's going to be an interesting couple of weeks helping Sister Jarvis adjust - I really think that missionaries who were really outgoing before they came on their mission occasionally have more trouble adjusting to talking to people as a missionary, because they feel so awkward and they don't know how to deal with it. Whereas for me it was like, hey, I'm awkward, what else is new? Haha. But it should be good.

Sister Olson

Sister Coleman, Muzammil and I

Sister Coleman and Heather

Sister Coleman and Val

Sister Coleman and I doing our "turtle face."

Sister Judd and I

My missionary "mom" and "daughter"

Me, Sister Coleman, Sister Nelson, and Sister Dougherty

My missionary mom and my other daughter

Sister Echols and I

December 2, 2013

Christmas Tree Science Project

Dear Mom,

So I opened Steven's advent calendar message today and it says, "Happy Birthday. Kill it. Steve." Hahaha. It made me laugh. Our apartment has also gotten decorated for Christmas. The Cosmans offered to chop us down a Christmas tree, and Sister Coleman was like, "A Christmas tree?! What the heck are we going to do with that?" Haha. So after we made fun of her for being the Grinch, we got it, and she's been saying "I told you so" all over the place for how inconvenient it is. I think it would be fine if we had a tree stand and didn't come into the front room every morning to find it had fallen over again. We were trying to feed it through capillary action for a while, but I established a control to see if the water was actually getting through and it wasn't, so now watering it is another challenge. It was a fun science experiment though.

I got the sweaterdress and it's awesome. I kind of want to ask you to buy another one so I'll still have a non-worn-out one when I get home :)

So transfers came and I'm staying in Saint John, which makes me REALLY happy. Sister Coleman is going to Halifax to finish Sister Jungheim's training. Sister Jungheim is from Columbia, and Sister Coleman speaks Spanish from being an exchange student, and apparently they have a bunch of Spanish investigators. I'm training again, a new missionary named Sister Jarvis from St. Louis, Missouri. Transfers happen on Thursday, so that should be fun.

I am having a major case of writers' block.

Monday we had a DA with some members who live way out in Grand Bay. We had to rush to get back for a lesson with Val. She had pneumonia and was really sick, so not a lot of teaching got through, so resolving concerns didn't really work out too well. She kept falling asleep in the lesson, but she really wanted to talk to us, so it was a bit of a gong show. She really wants to do the right thing and figure it out though, and we just felt this love for her even when we were trying not to laugh. Then we went knocking and met this adorable Asian lady, Lily, who didn't speak any English. She goes to one of those evangelical churches that teaches we're all going to hell, and we couldn't get past the language barrier enough to explain why not, but she was just SO genuinely concerned for us and you could tell she really just wanted to help us and just didn't know any better. She offered us homemade slipper and promised to pray for us. I have NEVER wanted the gift of tongues more in my life. But we had to content ourselves with getting some Mandarin pamphlets from the Elders and leaving them in her mailbox a few days later. She kept saying, "It is important to check," and we were like, yep, that's why we pray and ask God if these things are true!

Tuesday was district meeting, which was awesome. Elder Jensen (not Connor) is a great district leader, and I always leave feeling really pumped up. He focused a lot on asking questions and creating an environment where the Spirit can testify. He said, we can't force spiritual experiences; all we can do is create an environment where they're likely to occur. He said he felt really impressed to teach that, and it totally changed and saved our day. We went street contacting for a bit, and then we went to teach Jackie. We really applied that and asked her questions and she admitted she hasn't been as open to change as she should have been, and she prayed with us about baptism! Except it seems kinda like she just did it because she knows she was supposed to, and not because she has real desire. I think she's really afraid of commitment because of her depression. After that we went to see some potentials, and then we had a lesson with Leslie and Sam, where we were basically like, look, we know you were on date to be baptized last time you were taught, what happened? It was pretty bold and they committed to working with us to develop that testimony and relationship with God, which was great. After that, we had dinner, and Val called and tried to drop us! She sounded a little more awake this time, and I was feeling the Spirit strongly enough that day to talk her out of it. I really felt like it was pushing me to try harder to keep her and say the things she needed to hear, so that was a little miracle. Then we went to stop by Shawna and drop off some shirts that Sister Findlay gave us that were really more age-appropriate for her. And she tried to drop us too! And again, the Lord blessed us to have the perfect day to be in tune with the Spirit and resolve her concerns. Basically, she's just afraid of failing and not being able to overcome her addictions. I think it's really sad how Satan is so good at convincing people that they're not good enough to succeed anyways, and so they might as well not try so they don't fail. And that's the only reason why they fail. Some people don't trust God enough, and some people trust Him, but they don't trust themselves, or they think they have to be perfect, instead of realizing Heavenly Father's plan accounts for our weakness. It's so easy to confuse "giving your best effort" with "doing everything you should be doing in theory, even those things which are actually beyond your capacity."

Wednesday was correlation at the Cosman's. After that, we had an appointment with a potential, but that fell through, so then we went to eat lunch, and then we saw Shawna. We taught her the Plan of Salvation. She's so great; everything we teach, she's like, "Wow. That's AWESOME." Yes, yes it is. Then we had a visit with Sandra. We try to limit how much we visit her, since she likes seeing missionaries more for the social aspect than she should, but I just felt impressed to plan to see her when we were planning on Tuesday night. It turns out she had the worst weekend ever - her best friend died and some other stuff happened - so that was cool to see how the Lord really does use us. Then we were supposed to go street contacting, but the entire day was a ridiculous rainstorm -- 50 mm of rain and 50 km/h winds -- so nobody was outside, obviously. So we went store contacting instead, and then we had a DA at the Clayton's. After that, we were supposed to have a lesson with Jeremy, but he cancelled at the last minute, but then it turned out Val thought we had an appointment with her, and she lives right by him, so we went to her place. She was a lot more alert this time and we managed to resolve the concerns for good. It helps that pretty much everyone has been giving us this food that we can't eat fast enough before it goes bad, so we know the Lord really intends it for her as she's working towards tithing, and it's really building her faith that she'll be able to do this. So that was cool. Then we went to Sabrina's, but she wasn't home, so we tried more store contacting, because the wind was literally blowing us off our feet.

On Thursday we had service at the hospital, and then we went street contacting. It was our best street contacting in a long time, and we met some pretty great potentials, but we're going to give them to the Elders since they're all single guys. Then we were supposed to have a lesson with Jackie, but it fell through, so we tried to see some potentials and then we decided to make a field trip out to Rowley, since we had a ridiculous amount of k's left and it was the end of the month. We get 1700 per month, so my strategy is to try to keep it to 50/day, so we have 200 left over for unexpected fiascos. But we didn't have any unexpected fiascos, so we decided to go to Pluto and visit all the LA's that we can never get to go see. We discovered that this one LA family, who are LA due to work and distance more so than testimony, have a 9-year-old daughter who isn't baptized! We asked her mom, "Is there anything we can do to help your family?" and she was all like, "No...well, Kiera's 9 now so I guess she needs the discussions before she's baptized, but there's not really anything." And we were just like, "WE CAN DO THAT!!!" So we have an appointment with her on Wednesday. The only problem is, now we have to deal with having an investigator on Pluto. After that, we stopped by another LA family, and the teenage daughter said she has a bunch of questions she's never been able to get answers to, so we promised her that if she read the Book of Mormon every day this week with those questions, she'd find answers, and that we'd come back next week to answer anything she couldn't find on her own. After that, we went to the Relief Society Christmas Dinner. Val came, and she got to know some members and she really loved it. I'm constantly being reminded of how crucial fellowship is for converts. It's probably the thing I expected the least about missionary work -- yes, they need to be taught the doctrine, but so much more important are the commitments and the fellowship. When that happens, teaching the doctrine is EASY. But if you just teach the doctrine, they won't progress. After that, we had a really late-night lesson with Michelle, and she had a bunch of further questions from the Book of Mormon. She's done Mosiah now! Which is blowing my mind, considering that when we first tried to get her to read, she didn't understand a word of Alma 32 and was quite discouraged by it. She says she's really been thinking about baptism, but she wants to wait a little while longer before she decides. Again, it's mostly social issues for her -- I think she has trouble envisioning how it would change her identity. There is SO much potentially great fellowship for her, but she just won't commit to coming to things to meet people so she won't be nervous about coming to things. 

Friday was weekly planning. After that, we were supposed to have a lesson with Leslie and Sam, but they skipped out on it, which was a bummer. We might have to drop them soon. After that, we went to the church to try to look up the addresses of some LA's online, and I think we found a few of them. I couldn't remember if we'd checked President's reply to our last weekly letter, so I checked mine while I was at it, and he'd sent transfers out early (which he NEVER does), so I accidentally found out about it early. Oops. We had dinner, and then we had another lesson with Shawna. It went well again, but we can tell she's going through a pretty hard time right now. She has been seeing a lot of blessings in her life though -- she had a great experience with the Spirit where it really gave her discernment and kept her away from some bad choices. She was super excited about getting baptized and confirmed after we taught the gospel of Christ. Then we stopped by Val's briefly to keep up the support, and then we went knocking for a bit before going home.

On Saturday we had an appointment with Heather, as usual, and she's still doing great. Then we went store contacting, and all our effort to develop that skill finally started paying off! We managed to have a few really good conversations, give out some pass-along cards, and we definitely met a few people who were placed in our path. None of them wanted to give us their contact information, but it was still a really cool experience. After that, we were supposed to meet the Elders at the church to work on the ward mission plan, but they cancelled on us, so we went to teach Val. Sister Raeburn was supposed to come with us, but something came up, so we ended up teaching her by ourselves. It was a really good lesson -- we decided to just go over the 10 commandments and obey the law, so she'd have something she was familiar with and give her that sense of comfort that way. She seemed really on track again and says she likes the church more every time she sees more of it, so that was a huge relief. We got home from planning and I told Sister Coleman about transfers, since the fact that we were training affected out plans on Sunday since there was a skype call for trainers. Also, at some point on Saturday Michelle cancelled on us for church again, which was a bummer.

It snowed overnight, and on Sunday morning we got a last-minute phone call from the members who were supposed to drive Val and Shawna. Val was still interested in coming, but the member who was supposed to drive her didn't have snow tires and wasn't coming to church. We called everyone we could, but we couldn't find her a ride! I was SO upset. It snows every winter, people! It's an oddity of Atlantic Canada that things grind to a halt every time it snows, despite the fact that they get a LOT of snow. Fortunately, Val understood. Also, Shawna apparently didn't want to come to church. So we went to church, and Muzammil showed up late, which made me feel a lot better. I had remembered during companionship study that I was supposed to do a musical number, so I played "Away in a Manger" medleyed with "Le Cyne" from my Christmas Carols book, which went over fairly well. It was fast Sunday, and all the testimonies were pretty good, so that was a relief. Fast Sundays make me nervous. (Testimonies are supposed to be testifying of truth, not listing all the recent trials in your life while sobbing on the pulpit.) We had a really good gospel principles lesson, and we found out that one of the members used to be Muslim for a year and half and knew Muzammil from the mosque, so that was cool. After church, we basically went knocking a lot, interspersed with a DA in Grand Bay, and a bit of ineffective time used when we thought the Skype meeting for trainers was Sunday night, when it was actually this morning.

So then on Sunday night Sister Coleman started packing, while I continued to work on the Christmas Tree science project. We went to the church early this morning for the Skype call, and now I'm emailing you!

Sister Olson

 One of the many small lakes in the parking lots on Wednesday
 Our Christmas tree, before half the lights burnt out and it started falling over on a regular basis.
 I decided to curl my hair on Sunday morning because there was no working out OR breakfast, so I needed something to distract me. Then I realized the weather would destroy it, so I took a before/after picture to illustrate that.

Sister Coleman's watch strap got destroyed by Phoebe's dog a couple months ago, so I got really crafty one P-day and made her a bracelet watch.