Tuesday, September 30, 2014

9.29.2014 Howdy doo. I'm going to Gilmer!!!

Hello my favorite people!
This has been a bit of a crazy week. A sister in the mission, Sister Paongo from Tonga who is serving in Frisco got a call Sunday night that her father passed away. Sister P is really good friends with Sister Aumua, so that was really sad to hear. We ended up singing for the funeral on Saturday over Skype. So we spent quite a lot of time over in Frisco this week spending time with Sister Paongo and just trying to comfort her. It's crazy because she has a sister serving in Chicago right now as well, so they had a double Skype going on for the funeral. It broke my heart, but it was still a powerful thing.
Monday: We went downtown to the JFK museum. That was amazing! I didn't realize that President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, but alas he was. The museum was amazing. It is on the 6th floor of the Texas Book Depository exactly where the shooter shot from. It was actually a really emotional experience. Monday evening we met with a man who was a soldier in WW2. He actually helped liberate Buchenwald. It was crazy to hear of his stories and experiences.
Tuesday: Sister Aumua and I were able to give a training at our district meeting! That was fun. We taught about the importance of following up. In Acts 3:1-8 it tells the story of Peter and John healing the cripple man at the temple. They use their priesthood authority and heal him, then follow up and extend their hand to help pull him up. That's part of our main responsibility here as missionaries. We invite people to be "healed" and to change their lives, then we follow-up and help pull them up to stand. The next part of the story is the best though. Peter, John and the man all walk together into the temple. That's how it can be as a missionary. We invite, follow-up, help them progress, teach them correct doctrines, and then once they choose to be baptized and are on that path, we can walk with them into the temple. Such a special experience. Besides that training and an appointment with Tr* (where she asked for all the lessons again so she can better understand - wahoo!!!), pretty much every single appointment that we had fell through. Including dinner. But we were able to meet with a less active family in the ward and try to help them out a little bit. Kinda crazy.
Wednesday: we got to go to activity days and talk to them about missionary work. That was super fun! We gave Co* a church tour and had a wonderful lesson with him about the gospel of Jesus Christ. He's super excited to get baptized. Then we met with H* again. The poor lady is going through so much in her life! I can't even believe it. So much divorce and sadness and all that. But we had a really wonderful, semi-emotional conversation with her and extended a baptismal invitation. She said that she would think about it which is definitely a step in the right direction! woot woot. :) She's amazing.
Thursday: HAPPY 3 MONTHS TO ME. In the MTC they always said, "make it to Sunday and you will be okay." Then when I got here to the field, they said, "make it to 3 months and you'll be okay." So, I made it to Sunday. Yay! We started the morning off with donuts and service. So fun! I love love love the missionaries here in Allen.

Friday: Paint the Town! A bunch of us missionaries got together and painted fire hydrants all over Allen. So enjoyable. Then we went to a little restaurant called Pie 5. So yum. You get to make your own pizza and then they cook it for you.
Tr* and H* were both able to come to the broadcast on Saturday night! That was seriously so amazing that they both were able to be there. :) We asked how they liked it. Tr* LOVED it. She said she watched the one from last April and loved that as well. She's loving the spirit and church and the gospel so that is super amazing. H* loved it as well. She loved President Utchdorf's story about the umbrella's and stuff and felt like it really applied to her life. She also loved Sister Marriott! Sister Marriott spoke at the MTC while I was there. She's a convert. H* just loved how real and honest she was. The whole time the broadcast was going on I was just praying and pleading that the messages would touch Tr* and H*'s hearts. I was a little worried for a while because they were talking about the temple so much, but I realized that that is what it is all about. Ya know? What better thing to focus on than the temple. It was so wonderful.
So transfer calls were supposed to come Saturday night. But the assistants texted and told us that they were going to be delayed until Sunday night! Holy cow we were dying. So at church, I bore my testimony, said some goodbyes just in case and yeah. So then Sunday came and I got a call.
Okay I have big news. I'M GOING TO GILMER, TX!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay wow I have so many emotions right now. Like I'm so so so so so sad to leave Allen and Sister Aumua and all the amazing ward members. But I get to go out east!!! Holy cow I am so excited. so nervous. But so excited. You'll have to look up Gilmer. So there's that. :) I can't believe it. 

My new address is 6381 Bois D'arc Rd. Gilmer, TX 75644. My companion is Sister Christopherson. I'll meet her later today or tomorrow. So crazy news is going on! Transfers are normally on Tuesday morning, but since I'm going out east, I have to leave today at 2! So the transfer calls came last night at 9 and then I called a bunch of people and said goodbye then stayed up til 11:30 packing and trying to wrap my mind around it all. Then I just packed all morning and stuff. Packing is hard. I feel like a chicken with my head cut off just running around and stuff. 
So I don't have any time to have real good goodbyes, but that's okay.
Alli shared a scripture with me last week. D&C 3:1-3. I really loved it. It spoke about how God is unchanging, has one eternal round, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When I think of this, It makes me think that His love, His plan, His purpose for US is also unchanging and forever. I loved how President Uchtdorf said that God's perfect love for us doesn't change depending on how we look, act, or anything. It's perfect and forever. God so loved the world, he so loved me, he so loved each and every one of us that He gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that whosoever believeth‍ in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. That sounds like perfect, all consuming love to me. How grateful I am for the Atonement of Jesus Christ and also for our Heavenly Father's love for us.
I am so blessed. I love you all so much. Keep being amazing.
Sister Gilbert

Monday, September 22, 2014

9.22.2014 - hello my dearest family

Hello my dearest family!

This week started off great. I got my nails done for the first time! :) Hahaha. After emailing y'all last week, we went down to Classy Nails and Spa and I got a pedicure! Woot woot. Also, they had my favorite color, Cajun Shrimp! So I got a cute little pedi. How fun. And awkward to have people touching my feet. But that's okay.
Tuesday was a wonderful day! We did some service at the community center here in Allen. We got to put address labels on a mailer and then I got to help a lady organize her office for the food pantry. Can I just say that I LOVE organizing people's stuff and doing office-y type work? I think it's fun. Probably not for the rest of my life or whatevs, but I enjoyed it.

Then we got to see Tr* again. She's doing great. She's really just trying to figure out how to get her family more involved and interested in the gospel. Sister Christiansen was with us and was just talking about having family prayer and blessing the food. Tr* lit up and just said, "Bless the food? My family can totally do that." We figured out with her that that would be a good way to start introducing and inviting the spirit into their home and making spirituality a part of their lives. It was AMAZING to see Tr* get so excited about it and have a direction to help take her family to help them see the benefits of being spiritual and religious.

Tues. night was a relief society activity. "Rolling in the Dough." It was cute. They talked about making bread and budgeting. So fun. De*, one of the ladies we've been working with but haven't seen in a while was able to be there. 

Wednesday: the YW here get to do something AWESOME called mini missions. Every other month YW do a personal progress night. The girls who are done with pp get to go on a mini mission. They go in groups of 3 with a leader and a missionary to either an investigator, less-active, or active member and teach a little lesson. The youth are amazing! It was so great to see them teach. I went with a group to see H*, one of our investigators. Ra*, the girl who prepared the lesson portion, was truly inspired. She taught H* the EXACT lesson that she needed to hear, so I was grateful for that.

Thursday we had a specialized training in McKinney with half the mission! It was so great to be uplifted and inspired. We got some super cool rings that say PRO on them. It stands for Pray, Read, Obey. On the inside of the ring it says "I will pray, read, obey everyday." It is just a great commitment and reminder to do those essential things everyday. After the training, Sister Aumua and I split up and went on exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders. I got to stay in Allen this time and be with Sister Erickson. We had SO much fun! We got to visit a couple less actives, a couple struggling members, and some investigators. We also found one new investigator! We also found a girl who was moving into Sis. Erickson's area so she was able to get her contact information to be able to teach her. Super awesome! Then Sis. Erickson and I were chatting about life and stuff. Then we were swapping stories about our eye and teeth problems. FINALLY someone understands the struggle that I have with my eyeballs and my teeth. :) Haha.

The other night, Sister Aumua took her hair out of a braid and it was just full of volume and awesome. She wasn't too fond of it though so she said, "I look like Mahana right now!" It was so funny and we were dying about the Legend of Johnny Lingo reference.

Cool story: Wednesday we were out tracting before we went to the mini-missions. I walked up to a man and was chatting with him. Turns out he is from Bombay, India. I gave him a card and said goodbye. A member from our ward happened to be driving up in her car right as he was walking away. She later told me that he looked at the card, smiled, put it in the pocket in his shirt and just patted it. I thought that was the sweetest thing.

We ran into a man the other night who we've seen a couple times already. He told us that we were his miracles. We were a little confused at that, but he went on to explain. The 2 times that we saw him, he said he wasn't even sure if he wanted to be alive. But he said that we talked to him and smiled at him and it made him realize that life is good. That story just gives me the chills every time I think about it.

I don't remember if I've written about this hymn before, but I seriously just love it. It's one of those hymns that nobody knows, but I like it. I particularly like the 1st and 3rd verses so I will share them.

1. Come, let us anew our journey pursue,
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still till the Master appear.
His adorable will let us gladly fulfill,
And our talents improve
By the patience of hope and the labor of love,
By the patience of hope and the labor of love.

3. Oh, that each in the day of His coming may say,
"I have fought my way thru;
I have finished the work thou didst give me to do."
Oh, that each from his Lord may receive the glad word:
"Well and faithfully done;
Enter into my joy and sit down on my throne;
Enter into my joy and sit down on my throne."

In Doctrine and Covenants 4, it says, "If ye have desires to serve God, ye are called to the work." Then it goes on to say, "And faith, hope, charity, and love with an eye single to the glory of God qualify him for the work."

If we desire to serve, to teach, to share then we are called to do so. BUT, in order to do so effectively and in a way that will touch hearts we MUST have faith, hope, charity, and LOVE. We must love those we serve and teach. That is how the work will happen.

Our mission president said, "We are in the business of hearts changing and hearts turning." I love that. He was talking about conversion and family history work. I loved that. He also taught us that our MIGHTS are all different. When I serve with all my might, it will be different that when anyone else serves with all their might.

The last thing I want to share is something that is very obvious. I even said, DUH after I heard it the first time. But it's stuck with me.

God is more powerful than Satan. Obviously. But in Moses 4:21 God promises that through the Atonement, we can all overcome Satan. "And I will put enmity between thee [Satan] and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; and he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Remember that because that is powerful.

I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! Have an amazing week.

I love the new baby, Baby Z. :) Hahah.

Much love,
Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Sunday, September 21, 2014

9.15.2014 A Week of Adventures. Ish.

After emailing y'all last week, we had a wonderful preparation day. We got to play sand volleyball here at our complex with the missionaries from the zone and then we went and got half priced drinks at sonic. It was so great. Then we had dinner and FHE with the Bailey and Lewis families. Brother Bailey gave the lesson and he talked about how the Atonement can help us stay away from our "favorite" sins. Jesus Christ is truly the only one who knows what it means to withstand temptation because he is the only one who completely withstood temptation. We can rely on his Atonement to have the strength to endure temptation.
As missionaries, we are asked to work until 9 pm. After several FHE lessons and a little bit of street contacting, we got home and it was 8:45. We really didn't want to go back out, but we decided to just go knock a couple doors in our complex. So we did. We knocked like 11 doors and didn't get to talk to anyone. There was one last door left. The lady opened it up and it was a lady named Ma* that we had met our first week but hadn't been able to get back in contact with. She and her husband, Na*, were very kind and graciously invited us into their home. We spoke a little bit about missions and our time serving. It was a miracle and we definitely were grateful we were obedient and worked until 9. We had a return appointment with them last night, and we actually won't meet with them any more due to the fact they aren't truly interested in learning they just wanted discussion. But they were very kind people and I'm so glad we were diligent.
Tuesday: Sister Aumua had to go to an oculoplastics surgeon to get her stye removed. Always an adventure on the medical front over here. I just got to hang out with a member in the waiting room for like 2 hours while this all went down. Life is crazy. We also got to meet with Sa* again! Such a good boy. We were reading the story of how Nephi and his brothers are trying to get the plates. They make two unsuccessful attempts. So we talked it up and made Sam really excited to read the next chapter to figure out how they were going to get the plates. He was SO pumped to read the scriptures, so that was really fun to see.
We also tracted into a very nice couple named Fa* and Ja*. Now Fa* and Ja* are Southern Baptists (who usually give us the most opposition). They weren't interested in hearing a message, but they were very gracious, invited us into their home, gave us some cookies and then we sang hymns with her. We told her, "you are so kind to us, Fa*." and she said, "I'm just being a good Christian. Christian's take care of other Christians." It was so nice to hear because we seriously have been beaten down this week. We also tracted into the Mayor of Allen. That was randomly hilarious. :) Hahaha.
Thursday: the weather finally cooled down! Holler! I'm so pleased about that. We also went to dinner with a member to the Cheesecake Factory! Yummo! I got White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake. It was seriously so delicious. Then out tracting we met this very nice man named Ma* who was walking his dogs. He was an off-duty police man. We walked with him for a while, talked about Utah and Hawaii and the church. It was very pleasant.
Friday: While we were getting ready to go to our service project, it was drizzling a little bit, but we decided we were still going to go because it usually doesn't ever rain too hard. So we get to the garden and we are all digging for a while, and all of the sudden, it starts DUMPING buckets and buckets and buckets of rain! We were seriously soaked to the bone and COVERED in mud. It was definitely a highlight of my week though! It felt so nice to just relax and have a little bit of fun in the mud! 
Then we had an appointment with a less active named Cl* and his non-member wife and son. We shared a Mormon message and just had a really great discussion about faith. The son was really smart. He goes to a Jesuit private school and all that jazz. (I actually don't really know the significance of that, but it sounds prestigious.)
Saturday morning/early afternoon was probably the hardest time I've had thus far on my mission. Without going into too much negative detail, we were just slammed house after house after house with anti-Mormon stuff and just people being rude. I really don't mind if they tell me that they believe differently than I do. That's fine. But when they're telling me that I'm wrong and they don't see how my beliefs could ever be valuable, that is really hard to hear. I finally broke down and just cried for a while. So we went home for lunch and I just sat on my bed and read scriptures. I found this one in Proverbs 13:12 "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when‍ the desire cometh, it is‍ a tree of life." I know that seems a little strange. But because I had been hit with so much, I was having a hard time holding onto my faith and hope. And I literally felt sick to my stomach. But I read this verse and realized that I know the truth of my beliefs and that through them, I can make it. I can have that "tree of life," the Atonement of Jesus Christ on a daily, personal basis. After another lesson filled with hate and confusion, we went over to our Ward Mission Leader's house and just had a good discussion with him how people can get so confused and deceitful. We then shared experiences of general conference and the guidance we receive from that. (Speaking of general conference, I AM SO EXCITED FOR THE WOMEN'S MEETING AND THE GENERAL SESSIONS. It's like, Christmas, basically!)
Our Sunday was good as well. It was Sister Aumua's birthday, so we really did have a great time. :)
Onward and upward, I guess is the only place to go.
This morning I was studying about baptism. I found some really great scriptures on how essential baptism is and how following the Savior is such an important thing.
1 John 2:
3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep‍ his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
 5 But whoso keepeth‍ his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
 6 He that saith he abideth‍ in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

Acts 2: 38 Then Peter said‍ unto them, Repent, and be baptized‍ every one of you in the name‍ of Jesus Christ for the remission‍ of sins, and ye shall receive the gift‍ of the Holy Ghost.
2 Nephi 31: 5  And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized‍ by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!

Moses 6: 59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust‍ a living soul, even so ye must be born again‍ into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy‍ the words‍ of eternal life‍ in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
 60 For by the water‍ ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood‍ ye are sanctified;

I hope y'all have a great week and remember the covenants you made at baptism. I know that the Savior lives and loves us and that His Grace is sufficient for us as we yoke ourselves to Him. As we come unto the Savior, our burdens will be lifted and we will be able to endure all the hardships of life BECAUSE we are yoked to Christ. I know the Gospel has been restored and I know that the priesthood power is on the earth today. I'm so grateful for all that I have. Being a missionary is hard. But being a missionary is good.

I love you so much!
Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Monday, September 8, 2014

9.8.2014 - Hello again from Allen, TX

Sorry for the following NOVEL.

Life has been really busy and I am EXHAUSTED every night when it is time for bed. Thus, my journal writing has been less than diligent and I'm having a hard time remembering what went down this week. But I will do my best.

We were able to visit with Tr* again. She's just so sweet. We talked briefly about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She just wants to get baptized so bad, but she's worried about her marriage. We brought Sister Christiansen in the ward with us. That was really nice. Since Sister C is married, she was able to counsel with Tr* a little bit better than Sister Aumua and I were able to regarding baptism. Tr* watched a conference talk by Elder Oaks, The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood. She said it helped her understand better how a marriage should work. We are definitely praying for a miracle with her that her husband's heart may be softened.

We saw S* again (who was at Church along with his parents!). We began reading the Book of Mormon with him. It was awesome! It was so into it and loved reading. He seriously had amazing reading comprehension. We challenged him to read every day and to seek guidance. This kid is bright. He will be a great example to his parents.

At our zone meeting (yes we had another one. not sure why. but nonetheless) we set a goal of 4 baptisms for the Allen 1st ward by the end of the year! I'm feeling really good about this, and we are praying that these good people will follow through and be able to come to know for themselves that the gospel can bring much peace and joy into their lives.

Tracting experiences this week:
  • a man told us about margarita's for about 15 minutes until we were finally able to get going. he sure loved his margaritas.
  • LOTS of anti. That's been really hard on me. Like this man started yelling at us telling us we have no idea what we are out talking about. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know everything about the gospel and the early history of the church. But when he is yelling at me telling me my testimony is false - - whew I got really upset. But it's okay. I'm still learning and growing and just doing my best. That's all that God expects of me.
  • We met a girl named Lyric. Cool name!
Cool story: We have a neighbor we met on our first day here and we tried to talk to her and give her a Mormon.org card, but she didn't want anything to do with it. So a couple weeks ago, we walked past her and her car as she was unloading groceries to bring into her apartment. So we offered to help her and she accepted our help! Then just on Wednesday, we were walking out to go catch our ride to our dinner appointment. She was out there with her dog, and called out to us as we were walking past. She asked us if we could do her a favor. We gladly said yes. She asked us if we could pray for her mother who had been in the hospital. So we were able to pray with her there and have been praying for her this week. It meant so much to me that she was able to trust us enough to ask us to pray for her mother. It was just such a sweet experience.

We were finally able to teach CE* this week. The lesson was interesting. A house FULL of little boys running around screaming and the grandma trying to calm them down. Whew. That was an exhausting lesson. But we invited him to come to mutual to play broom hockey and he accepted! So that was awesome. It was nice to spend time with the youth in the ward!

Miracles and blessings: Wednesday night we biked into our apartment complex, I hopped off my bike, flipped it up onto it's back tire and started to bring it up the stairs. I didn't make it farther than one step before the tire deflated COMPLETELY! Seriously if it had happened like 30 seconds earlier, I probably could have been very hurt. So I was able to bring it upstairs. The only problem, we had a full night schedule and a full schedule the next day as well. So we asked the elders to come over to try to help me fix it on Thursday. They came, and it turns out the tube had a big old hole right next to the valve and there was no way to fix it. So then on Friday we asked a ward member, Sister Bailey to come help me. She bought me a new tube and we put it on and everything and then the same thing happened! The tube had a big old hole right next to the valve. So Take 3. Sis. Bailey bought me another tube (it was so very kind of her) but didn't have time to help me with it. So just call me Sister Bike-Fixer-Upper! I replaced the tube in my tire. Oh yeah. But the whole experience was just a big miracle and blessing. I know that God was definitely looking out for me.

We got to go to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra On The Go here in Allen with our investigator B*. We hadn't seen her in about a month and she invited us to attend with her. That was fun. Our Bishop was also able to meet her so that was awesome. 

I had pizza AND sushi at a dinner appointment. That was seriously like a dream come true. The two best foods.

We volunteered at a thrift shop called Treasure Chest. Think of the DI, times the grossness of it by like 1000 and then you will have TC. It was gross. But kind of fun. Haha. We just hung up clothes and arranged racks and put stuff out on displays. Whew. I am definitely blessed.

Mom: the oils are great. Lavendar oil is LITERALLY the ONLY thing that makes my chigger bites feel better. Seriously. Chigarid doesn't work. Benedryl cream doesn't work. Fngernail polish doesn't work. Only Lavendar. Seriously chiggars are the worst thing of my life. My legs always feel like FIRE. I'm serious. Very painful. Count your blessings that y'all are in the Utah where there are no chiggers. Because nothing is worse than a chigger bite.

Church was wonderful yesterday. HS*, our investigator, came! Woot woot. We were texting her trying to reschedule an appointment and she just said, "how about I come to church on sunday?" We were SO pumped! So she came! Testimony meeting was wonderful. Dad, I too was worried about what people would say up on the stand! Like, just bear testimony! No weird stories or thankfulmonies, just testimony! Then in RS, the Lesson was on an article from July 2014 Ensign. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/07/young-adults/becoming-perfect-in-christ?lang=eng. It was wonderful. The teacher asked Sister Aumua and I to sing "I Feel My Savior's Love." Everyone was crying. I just had to look at the ceiling because we all know that I can NOT sing and cry at the same time. I encourage y'all to read that talk because it's amazing. The tag line from the article is, "Understanding the Savior’s freely given atoning love can free us from self-imposed, incorrect, and unrealistic expectations of what perfection is." It was great. HS* needed to hear EXACTLY that. So did I. We don't need to measure up to the world. Just rely on the Atonement.

Sunday school was awesome too. Think of this: Before going on a long journey or departing from loved ones, what do you do? You gather together with them, usually eating a meal, talk of things important to you, and express love for each other. Then you often give them a token, a gift, something to help them remember you. This was the case when I left for my mission.

This too was the case before the Savior was crucified. He gathered his apostles together, partook of the Last Supper, discussed His gospel. Then He instituted the sacrament as a way to help his apostles, his disciples, us to remember Him and the teachings he had been trying to help us all understand. The Sacrament is so sacred and special because it reminds us of our relationship with our Savior and helps us renew ALL the sacred covenants we have made. Jesus Christ knew that His apostles, disciples would miss Him and his presence. But similarly He would miss being in their companionship. The sacrament and the covenants we have are a way to gap the distance between us and Savior.

In John 15, Christ says,
13 Greater love‍ hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life‍ for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command‍ you.
15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I haveheard‍ of my Father I have made known‍ unto you.

As we partake of the sacrament, keep the commandments and strive to do all that He has asked us, we too can truly become the friends of Jesus Christ. That is very special.

I love y'all. Thanks for all you do!
Much Love,
Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Monday, September 1, 2014

9.1.2014 Hello Loves!

Aloha to all my favorite people! I miss y'all a lot, but that's okay! :)

Mom and Dad and Alli and Tyler and Andrew:
Y'all are doing AWESOME missionary work! THAT IS SO COOL! I love love love that I have a chance to be doing missionary work right now and so do y'all! :) It makes me so happy. I'm so glad that you have had the opportunity to be the members present at the lessons. Mmmm, I just love y'all.

It's been a week. As in a doozy of a  week. But it's all good.

Miracle: On Tuesday we had a lunch appointment and afterward we were just tracting around. We had the feeling that we needed to stop at a lady named Tr*. I honestly can't remember if I've told you about her before, but that's okay. So we stopped by her house. We had seen her in the beginning of August and hadn't set up a specific return appointment with her, and we had been trying several times to get back in contact with her. So we just went to her house and she was home and graciously invited us in! So here's her back story. She was raised believing in God but was not a part of any specific religion. Her husband is an "inactive" muslim. They have two daughters, K* - 22 and J* - 11. About 4 years ago, K* joined the church. She was dating an LDS boy and he introduced her. So while K* was investigating, Tr* met with the missionaries as well and LOVED the Book of Mormon, the Church, the missionaries, EVERYTHING. Like she would have joined. Tr*'s sister even joined the church because she too was interested in what her niece was studying.  The only thing in Tr*'s way was her husband and younger daughter. She knew that joining the church would bring a heavy burden on her marriage and she didn't want to make J* choose what parent she would side with. So she just stopped. Well, we were talking to her on Tuesday and she says that she knows that the church is true and she just wishes she could be a part of it. {Pause: now I need to tell another back story. So our ward LOVES Tr*. There are many members who just love and admire her so much. They are friends with her and just enjoy being with her. So in our ward, we are doing something called set a date where the families choose a date to have people invited to listen to the missionaries in their homes. Well, interestingly enough 2 separate families both want to invite Tr* into their homes and several other members have referred us to her as well. Un Pause.} So we were talking to Tr* and we told her this. We told her that many ward members have been thinking and praying about her. We were able to testify that the Lord will provide a way for her and show her the path she should take. We testified and promised the blessings of joining the church. I'd love it if y'all would keep Tr* in your prayers because she needs strength and guidance right now. We love her.

I can testify that INVITATIONS is how this work starts and continues.

Here's the funniest story ever. We were out tracting (of course) and I was pretty tired and exhausted. So we knock on a door. And the guy answers it and LO AND BEHOLD IT IS MARK HEINER STANDING AT THE DOOR. Not really. But seriously it was Mark's twin. I even said, "Mark? What?" Like what in the world was Mark doing in Allen, TX? I stood there with my jaw just hanging because it honestly was such a shock. So Sister Aumua started the contact and I was eventually able to pipe in. Mark's twin and his friend weren't super interested, but they were kind. After we left, Sister Aumua asked what happened and I just told her that the dude at the door was basically identical twins to my cousin. So there's that.

Thursday we had a zone meeting and President Taylor and the Stake President, President Jones was also there. I was having a pretty rough time though. Like, being a missionary is hard business, you know. And I was forgetting to be grateful and thankful and life was just hard. So after the meeting President asked how I was doing and I just started crying. He offered to give me a blessing and it was just wonderful. I didn't tell him what exactly was going on, but in the prayer, I had EXACTLY the promises, promptings, and blessings that I need. That was definitely a testimony builder of the power of the priesthood and also the truthfulness of gospel. God lives and He loves us! It also seems like Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 is my scripture. There have been numerous occasions prompting me to rely on the Savior and those angels round about me bearing me up.

Thursday night we went less-active hunting. We invited one of the Laurel's in the ward to come with us. So we compiled a huge list and started driving around searching for people. It was SO SUCCESSFUL! We were able to have lessons with 4 people so I consider that a huge success! One of the families was even at church yesterday! After that, we had a sleep-over with Sister Parkinson and her new companion Sister Carlson. Don't worry, we had special permission to do this one time deal. It was so fun. We still followed all the rules and stuff, but oh boy we had fun. Popcorn and sour patch kids and chatting.

Poor Sister Aumua. Her bug bites and stuff are gone now, but now she has a STYE in her eye! So we've spent a couple hours at the eye doctor trying to get that figured out. Luckily there is an eye doctor that is a member, so he's been really great at helping us out! Turns out she gets to be on another anti-biotic to try to clear up this stuff in her eyeball. The poor thing. She also fell off her bike. Again.

I also tried kimchi at dinner last night. It was . . . interesting.

I have about 15 chigger bites. Let's just say I don't know how I got them and also that they hurt SO bad. But it's all good.

We met with S* and V* twice since I last wrote. They are wonderful people. They really just want to find the truth. They believe that their church is the true church, but they are more than willing to investigate and see the things that we have to offer. They are reading the Book of Mormon and accepted a baptismal date! Wow. It's so exciting!

We also had T* come to church again! I don't know if I talked about him before. But his parents are both less-active. He's 11 years old and hasn't been baptized. So we are meeting with him and working with him. His mom opened up and actually said that she was ready to start making a come back. I really hope and pray that she means that! T* also told us that he has been reading the Book of Mormon. This kid seriously just makes me so happy. And both of his parents came to church! That was wonderful! :)

Life is so good. It's hard, but it's good.

Riding my bike this morning, I was thinking about my "why." The "why" I'm on my mission and doing this crazy stuff. But I finally figured it out. It's because I KNOW that this is true. I KNOW the Book of Mormon is true and that it is God's word. I know that God loves us so much and that he never wants us to be confused or lost or lonely or wandering. He has provided us a marvelous way to know Him and of His truths. I'm on my mission because I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church, and I am here to share the message of the Restoration of Jesus Christ's gospel with as many people as I can. I am so blessed that I have this opportunity.

I love y'all so much! I'm also sold on y'all. It's basically the best word. Y'all.

I love you so much. Continue to choose the right and be wonderful!

Much love,
Sister Gretchen Julie Gilbert