Monday, July 27, 2015

Welcome to Garland!

Hello hello!

The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things...... like a new area, new companion, and new adventures to follow!

This week has been a bit of a blur, but that's why we keep a journal, right? 

So, I am now in the Garland 1st and Lake Highlands wards. Our area is just a little north east of Dallas. We can see the Dallas skyline as we drive down of the main roads. It's a neat area. Lots of diversity and lots of variety in lifestyle and stuff. It's pretty cool to see the contrast. My companion is Sister Durrant from Tuscon, Arizona. Cool story: we actually started our missions at the same time. She was one of the first people I met at the MTC over 13 months ago. I'm so grateful that I get to be her companion. She's very sweet, very hardworking, and loves to have a good time. We have the opportunity to serve as sister training leaders, so that will be a really good learning experience. :)

The people that I've meet so far have been amazing. I'll just do a basic run-down of our week.

We had a lesson with a recent convert, ME, about missionary work. ME's husband is a returning member, and they have 4 adorable kids. We had a great time playing with them and teaching about sharing the gospel. 

I got to meet another recent convert/less active named RA. She was actually taught and baptized over in the Fort Worth mission, but she just moved over here. One of the sisters who taught her actually contacted the missionaries here to reconnect with RA. She's a really sweet girl. 

District meeting was great. Half our district is spanish missionaries and the other half is english. I haven't ever served around Hermanas before, so this is kind of fun to be with them. We actually cover the same area that they do, just doing the english work. 

So Thursday afternoon we got a text from a 19 year old in one of our wards. She said, "Would y'all be available to teach my boyfriend the lessons? Maybe starting tomorrow?" haha. That was awesome. We told her yes, and it actually went really well. The only sad thing is that the kid lives up in Frisco, but we shall see how that turns out. 

Friday we had a good miracle. There is an investigator named KR. She's been meeting with the missionaries for probably 1.5 years and hasn't ever really progressed. She has two adorable kids that are super rambunctious therefore making it difficult to teach lessons. But the miracle was that the kids actually went into the other room with their dad, and we were able to have a really spiritual lesson about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We talked about how we can feel the Spirit and how each of us get inspiration and revelation differently. KR has been reading the Book of Mormon and remembering, so that's a really good improvement. 

Saturday day we had some really good lessons also. We taught KA, an eleven year old who isn't baptized, and his returning less-active father about the gospel of Jesus Christ. The lesson went great. My favorite part, however, was at the end. Because KA hasn't ever really attended Primary, he doesn't know any of the songs. So at the end of the lesson, I sat down at the piano and we all sang "Teach Me to Walk in the Light." I am so grateful for music and the strong Spirit that can come as we listen to uplifting tunes. Later that day we met with another returning less-active - ST. We chatted for a minute, then she said, "I had a dream last night. It was me and Sister Durrant, and then the new missionary. She was tall, blonde, and had glasses." So that was pretty cool. ST had a dream about me serving in her area. 

I've had really cool experiences like that all week where the people that we're teaching just have a 'familiar' ring to them. It's definitely just been a testimony to me that I'm in the right place doing the things that Heavenly Father wants me to be doing. 

Church was wonderful yesterday, also. I got to bear a brief testimony in both wards just for the wards to be able to start to get to know me. The only problem is that I've had a nasty head-cold all week, so needless to say, it was a very stuffy testimony. Ha. It's all good though. 

I am so grateful to be here. I've already learned so much from Sister Durrant about charity and serving. It's just amazing to me how much I get to learn from the people that I am blessed enough to serve around.

Here's a quote and a little insight from President Eyring this week. "When we offer succor to anyone, the Savior feels it as if we reached out to succor Him." The Savior took upon Him the pains, sins, sadness, sickness, etc. of all the individuals of the world. When we help to relieve someone of those burdens, it relieves that load on Him because He understands what it feels like. What a great motivation and opportunity to serve our fellow people, but also our Savior. 

I truly stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers. How grateful I am to get to serve and bear witness of His Atonement every day.

I love you all!

Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Transferred! 7.20.2015

Hey y'all! 

As you can see, I am getting transferred from my beloved McKinney. It has been such a blessing to serve here. I have met some of the most wonderful people and have made about a million of the best memories! The Lord has truly blessed me by allowing me to stay here for 6 months. It's been a happy, hard, and holy time here. I love these wards and members and investigators oh so very much. It will be a good adventure to see where I'll be headed to next. Whew. It's always a little nerve-wracking to get a new companion, a new area, and a whole new set of experiences, but I'm up for the challenge and the excitement that's sure to follow.

This week has been a truly beautiful and miraculous week! 

Some of the most miraculous things include:

A scripture stop-by to a sister that the ward council had mentioned. She hadn't been to church for quite some time, so we headed over there. We pulled up to the house right as one of her boys walked out and he sat on the porch. I felt really awkward and totally didn't want to go up, but I prayed for us before we went in. When I opened my eyes, the boy was gone! Whew. Answer to my prayer. Awkward situation avoided. Anyways, she welcomed us in and we chatted for a minute, then shared Daily Bread: Change (a mormon message by Elder Christofferson). We had a good discussion about it. After we closed with a prayer, she got us a drink of water. Here's where it gets cool. She told us that earlier that day she had just been talking on the phone to her husband who is on an extended business trip. She said she really was feeling down and like she didn't fit the typical "mormon mold" and she didn't know where she really fit into the church. So we came over and talked about the Atonement and our individual journeys and stuff. She said, "it's like y'all where a hug from God to me telling me that I'm doing okay. I really needed this today." I was so humbled for so many reasons. 1st, that I had been prideful enough to not want to have an awkward situation and that I was going to let it get in the way and 2nd that God allowed me to be an answer to her prayer and plea for help. It was a good learning experience for me. 

Miracle investigator! So last week sometime, we synced our iPads to make sure our Area Books were all up-to-date. A new referral - BL - just popped up from somewhere in the mission. We called her and scheduled an appointment for Thursday. So we invited a girl from the ward, who just graduated from high school to come with us. BL invited us in. She told us that she has some member friends down in Allen and they had the first lesson at their house. So then the missionaries sent her information over to us. We taught the Message of the Restoration, asking lots of questions, testifying, and allowing BL to do a lot of the talking. It was amazing. That girl is so prepared. She told us that she fully believes in Joseph Smith because she doesn't think he would have restored the church if it hadn't been true. She was so receptive and open to reading and coming to church. It was cool to hear her testify of truths that she holds dear such as God loves us and wants us to be happy, that God will never leave us directionless, and that as we serve we are greatly blessed. At the end of the lesson, she accepted a baptismal date! Wooo!! She also told us that she wouldn't be investigating if she didn't have a sincere desire to learn and grow. 

Friday we had interviews with President Taylor. I love that man! He is so wonderful, and it is always a privilege to be with him and Sister Taylor. President invited me to be the best Sister Gilbert I can be. A "10 out of 10" he told me. I am ready and willing to do this. I hope that as I let my light shine, that I can be the rock and support that I have been called to be. President told me, "it's a good time for Sister Gilbert right now" and I completely agree! I'm loving this mission. Whew. :)

Friday we had a lesson with JO. We taught the word of wisdom. Going into it, I was a little nervous, just not sure how he'd accept it. But he just grabbed onto it, and loved it. He told us later that he feels like God had been trying to tell him that he needed to put down his addictions, but he was ignoring it. Then we came along and taught the word of wisdom. He agreed to live it and wants to do it so he can be the kind of dad his children need him to be. I am so grateful to see how Heavenly Father prepares his children to keep the commandments. It's beautiful.

Saturday we had BE's baptism! Oh it was such a special day. Elder Smith (who served in McKinney nearly 2 years ago) was able to baptize Ben. It was really special to see that despite the fact that it took 2+ years, BE was able to enter the waters of baptism, and one of his first missionaries was able to help in that ordinance. Elder Smith goes home on Wednesday, so I'd say that it was a pretty good grande finale. It was just a special service and we actually had 2 other investigators there as well! JO and JE! They both loved it, and I'm so glad they were able to feel the Spirit that was there. Sister Whittier and I had the opportunity to share the Restoration while BE and Elder Smith were changing. As I shared the First Vision and testified of that, I couldn't help but weep. I felt a confirmation from the Spirit once again that this event, this miracle, this Restoration truly happened and that it happened because Heavenly Father loves us. How grateful I am for it. It was a beautiful day.

Sunday was equally as beautiful! JO was there as well as another new investigator, LI. So many miracles! After 7th ward, we ran over to the Johns for a quick dinner of waffles. Yum. :) Then we ran down to Richardson for the first ever Mission President's Fireside. Basically, it was Mormon Messages, testimonies of recent converts, and musical numbers. Sister Whittier and I were blessed to be able to be a part of that as well. JO came with his daughter. It was really neat because after our lesson with JO on Friday, I had a distinct prompting that we needed to show him a Mormon Message called "Reclaimed." Well, what do you know, during the fireside, one of the mormon messages was...... Reclaimed. Oh I just had the chills because Heavenly Father had the same thought that JO needed that very message. JO told us that he loved the whole evening. Sister Whittier even over heard him saying to someone, "This church feels like home." That made me so glad. It was such a lovely evening. 

I am truly grateful for this time that I've spent here in McKinney. I have learned a billion valuable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I know that God lives and that He loves us so much. 

I love each of you. I love this gospel. But I especially love our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Have a beautiful week, y'all!

Love ya!

Sister Gilbert

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I am a happy soul! 7.13.2015

Hello hello!

It was another wonderful week in McKinney. (It always seems to be that way, doesn't it?) I was able to go on exchanges in Dallas with the lovely Sister Head. Sister Head and I started our mission together, so it was really fun to be with her and catch-up on old times! The day that we were together marked our one year anniversary of flying to Texas. So great! We had so many miracles on exchanges. I love just being able to see the gospel in action all over this beautiful mission where I get to serve! 

Wonderful news! BE passed his baptismal interview, so we will be having a baptism on Saturday! I am so excited for him and especially for FL, his wife. What a beautiful experience for the two of them. Just the next step in their journey together.

 Thursday we visited a less active, Sister RO. She works for a very old (we're talking 97 years old) lady, AL, who is a member and one of her care providers. AL is in a nursing home right now, and the home happens to be in our area. Sister Whittier and I were able to go over and visit her and sing I Stand All Amazed and read a scripture. She is such a sweet old lady. 

Friday we met with JO and had a great lesson. We talked briefly about baptism and confirmation, reading Alma 7:14-15 with him. However, we started into a wonderful conversation about forgiveness after that. The line "The Savior wants to forgive" kept playing through my head. I am so grateful that we have a loving Redeemer and  Friend who wants to forgive us and is waiting with open arms to embrace us and forgive us. Once again, Jesus Christ has set the perfect example for us through forgiveness. Also, in Sunday school yesterday, we talked briefly about the 7 final statements that Christ made. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" has always poignantly stuck out to me. At His most excruciating moment, the Savior forgave. Oh, my heart is full just thinking about it. 

Saturday we stopped in on a former, CA, because she had been on my mind a lot. We had a beautiful visit, talked about the Atonement and honestly just brought a little peace into her home. CA's daughter was alone that weekend, and she was a little down and lonely. She said she was praying for something to change, so she was so glad that we stopped by. I feel truly humbled every time I have the privilege to be the answer to someone's prayer. It always reminds me of the talk by President Uchtdorf, "You Are My Hands." Here is just a brief excerpt from the talk:

"A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.

Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: 'You are my hands.' "

The rest of the week was filled with finding formers and less-actives, "heart-attacking" doors, and doing service. It was a simple week, but I truly loved it.

In 7th ward yesterday, our sacrament meeting was a musical program. You know the kind where several people talk about their favorite hymn and then you sing it. My heart was just full during the whole meeting. During the sacrament, I teared up as I thought about our loving Savior and his Atonement and as I pondered on my eternal family. Then as we sang hymns such as "Love At Home," "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," "All Creatures of Our God and King," "Joseph Smith's First Prayer," I just thought again and again about the Savior and about this beautiful restored gospel that we've been given. Also, Sister Whittier and I were able to participate in the program, doing a musical number, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." I love the line where it says, "He to rescue me from danger interposed his precious blood." How grateful I am for the Atonement. 

Oh, I just am a happy soul. I love this gospel. Don't worry, everyday isn't peachy and perfect. I have my hard days and moments, but I am happy. I was washing my hands the other day and just looked up at myself in the mirror and grinned. How blessed I am to be a missionary! I love this gospel. I love each of you. I hope you have a beautiful week!

Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Enjoy the pictures of me, our disgusting spider friend named Archibald (Archie for short) that the elders killed for us...., and a cute heart that I made as part of one of our heart-attacks.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Happy 4th, y'all! 7.6.2015

Hello to my favorites!

This week was wonderful! I'll just share some highlights from it.

Monday: We had another great lesson with JO at the Mollat's home. JO has been experiencing so much adversity and hardship since he started investigating the church. He does recognize though that it's the adversary trying to discourage him. JO said, "I've been to a lot of churches, but this is the first one where I feel like my soul is being fed as I come to church." We talked about the Plan of Salvation and a little about temples and family history. JO's son CH was there as well. Last time CH was at a lesson, he didn't say anything. But this time he asked us a bunch of questions about being missionaries and he was engaged in the lesson. That was good.

Tuesday: The Acevedos in the ward have a friend - WA - who moved from Iraq who is interested in the gospel who was moving down to Dallas. Before district meeting, all of us (4 elders + Sister Whittier and I) went with Bro. Acevedo to help load a storage unit into a moving truck. We had a great time. Here's where the story gets cool though: So Bro Acevedo drove the truck to Dallas, where he was met by missionaries at the girl's new house. One of the missionaries has a Palestinian last name because his grandfather was from the Middle East. So that was a really cool connection for WA. She was so grateful and impressed that she wants the missionaries to come over for food and for a lesson.I'm so glad I was able to be a part of that. We also had some really good visits with BR and BE. 

Wednesday: We finally got to help at GED service again. I love getting my math and english on! It's the best. We were able to help at the family history camp once again. Wednesday night we had a bit of an "anti scare" with JO. He texted us some questions about plural marriage and stuff. We replied and were just really honest with him, praying that it would all work out. We were pretty worried, but there wasn't much we could do at that point in the evening. 

Friday: We had a great lesson with AB about modesty. She is a wonderful girl with a strong testimony. She and her father came to church this week! Woot. We also had a really good lesson with SU and Sister YO. We talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. SU basically taught us the lesson. When she was going through the principles and ordinances, SU said "love" instead of "repentance." I thought that was a really cool way to think about it. Repentance is the way we can change our life so we can feel of God's love for us more fully. We want to repent because we love God. I will definitely remember that the reason for repentance is love, and the reason we are able to repent is because of the love Jesus Christ has for each of us. Brother, Sister and SU YO are all listening to the Book of Mormon. That book is CHANGING their lives. I am so proud of them. 

Saturday: THE 4TH OF JULY IN TEXAS. It was such a wonderful day! We had a pancake breakfast party with 7th ward, study time, then a hot-dog lunch party with 2nd ward. [Quick interjection: I love these McKinney wards so much! The people here are just out of this world. I love it here.] Oh! And JO came to the ward party! Afterwards, we went to the Gutierrez's home for another lesson. Going into it, I was pretty worried, what with the plural marriage stuff and all. But we got in there, and just asked JO, "What questions do you have?" He replied that yes, he was a little shocked by the plural marriage, but he had come to understand that through revelation a prophet had instated in, and that through revelation, a prophet had declared that it was no longer in harmony with God's will. He was able to fully accept that, and he told us that he knew God sent us to him for a reason and until he knew that reason, there was no going back. We had a wonderful lesson about modern day prophets and the importance of following the prophet. The Gutierrez family came through once again and bore powerful testimonies. Then Joseph said, "Okay, so now that I've found this truth, what can I do? I want to change the world with this truth!" Um, okay, that was super awesome. So we told him he can be a good example and share the gospel with his friends. So awesome. 

After some semi-successful contacting, we wrapped up our evening with a barbecue with a couple families from the ward, a part-member family, and a non-member friend. We had delicious grilled chicken, more importantly, I was able to play badminton with a bunch of the little kids. We also had a good conversation about Harry Potter, and what it's like to be a missionary. It was a lovely evening, and miraculously enough, it wasn't too hot. 

Sunday was nice. None of our investigators made it to church, but we had some good appointments that evening. BR has a baptismal date again - July 18. We are exctied for her. I am so thankful that everything is working out with her.

Funny quote from this week: "It's only 92 degrees. Not bad." 

Good quotes from testimony meeting: "The family is the plan of happiness." and "There is great turmoil in the world, but we choose not to be part of it by choosing the right and keeping our covenants."

I am so grateful for my wonderful companion, Sister Whittier. She keeps me laughing all day long, and she helps me when the stresses of being a missionary build up. I know that the Lord put us together for a reason.

I know that this church is true! I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. I am so thankful that we have a prophet on the earth today to lead us, guide us, and help us return safely home. 

I love each of you! Have a blessed and beautiful week!

Sister Gretchen Gilbert

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Hello to all you lovely people! 6.29.2015

It's been another beautiful week in Texas. I celebrated my one year mark this week. I can't believe how the time as flown by. It's been long, hard, hot, disappointing, but it's also been beautiful, rewarding, spiritual, inspiring, and lovely. I love it here. I love being a missionary. :)

We had some great experiences this week. We got to help with a youth family history camp again. It's so great to see the excitement of these kids to learn about the ancestors but also how to record stories about their family now.

We had a great lesson with AB. We were talking about the temple and eternal marriages. After talking about the sealing power found within the temple, AB said, "I used to want to get married on the beach. But now I want to get married in the temple and just have an after party or something at the beach." I thought that was the sweetest thing.

We also saw BE and FL. BE's granddaughter has been here for the past month, and it has been a pleasure to have gotten to know her. She's just a sweet girl. BE is doing well! We pushed his baptismal date back a week because he'll be out of town, but things are looking good for them! Whew!

We had a good visit with ST. We read the vision of the tree of life in 1 Nephi 8. The part where it talks about Lehi being a tender really stuck out to her. I'm grateful that she loves the Book of Mormon and is willing to learn from it.

GOOD NEWS!! Sister Whittier and I were able to finish entering all of the area book information into our ipads! Holy tolito!! That was so much work. But it's done, and it feels good.

I got to have cheese-less pizza on my "birthday." That was lovely. Yum.

Friday we had a darling girl from 7th ward come out with us. We tried by a couple of formers, knocked doors for a while, and ended up visiting a family in the ward. It is always so good to be with the youth. They are amazing. I loved hearing her testimony of the gospel. Simple but powerful - the way it should.

Also on Friday we had dinner with a family at the famous Hutchins BBQ. Seriously, everybody, get yourself out here to McKinney to partake of the goodness of Hutchins. Their brisket is beyond delicious. After stuffing ourselves silly, we went back to their home and were able to share a message with them. Usually BR will leave while we do the spiritual thought, but he stayed and it was lovely.

Okay, people. Here's the update on JO. So after having a very trying week with his mother and housing situation, all was able to be worked out. Then on Saturday, we had him and his son over to the Gutierrez's for a lesson. We started by watching, "We Can Find Happiness" a mormon message that shows 3 individuals' experiences with discovering the joys of the gospel. He loved it. He also asked, "Wait, I chose to come to earth?" That just amazed him. We continued in the conversation. He brought up a point and said, "I have the hardest time forgiving myself of the things that I've done wrong and just letting God take care of it." So we switched the lesson over on the spot and taught the gospel of jesus christ focusing on how baptism and the reception of the holy ghost makes it possible for us to be relieved of guilt. We talked about the priesthood, and Bro Gutierrez showed him his priesthood line of authority. He said, "Yes I understand and remember this."THEN WE SET A BAPTISMAL DATE WITH HIM!! Woohooooo. August 1! Sister Whittier invited him, and he kind of just sat there for a minute staring at us, but then he said yes. Oh the Spirit was strong. He also said, "Something deep inside of me remembers all these things that you're teaching me. I finally have answers to so many questions." It's been amazing to work with JO. I've never experienced seeing the gospel truly change someone this quickly like it has with JO. In Sunday School yesterday, he said, "I used to not understand the purpose of life or where I came from or anything. But now I understand. And we just have to stay on the path to return to God. Also, we have to tell people about this [the gospel] because it's amazing!" I teared up, and just realized that he gets it. He understands the gospel. And we've only known him for 2 weeks. The gospel is beautiful, people. It changes lives. I've seen it. And it's glorious. JO was also able to go in with Sis Gutierrez as she got set apart for her calling and see the power of the priesthood in action.

I am so grateful for the gospel. I am so grateful for my wonderful companion, Sister Whittier. I love this mission. It's so good. My heart is very full today as I type this. Thanks for your love and your support. It makes a big difference.

I love y'all!
Sister Gretchen Julie Gilbert