Monday, December 29, 2014

Week 7 – December 29, 2014

Ok, I have no time to waste so I am going to jump right in and tell you all about my Christmas week! Last Tuesday, the 23rd, Sister Bone and I got to go out to lunch with Brother Longstreet. He takes us out to lunch every week to a place called “SNUFFY’S”. I just have to say Snuffy’s is something I look forward to every single week. It’s a burger and malt shop and boy is it GOOD! Anyways, the point is it really is the small things in life that can bring us so much joy. Let us not forget to notice the small and simple things in our lives that truly bless us with happiness.

Later that afternoon, we did some tracking and then went to visit one of my favorite investigator’s Bob. Bob invited us over to meet his wife. We were so excited to meet her because we had heard so many wonderful things about her. When he opened the front door to greet us he informed us that he hadn’t told his wife we were coming by. Instantly, I thought to myself, "Oh no this isn’t going to be good!" He took us upstairs where he told his wife Carol that they had some guests over to visit. But to my surprise Carol welcomed us with open arms and big hugs! She had been baking away in the kitchen and before you knew it they had us sitting down at the kitchen table with about six different plates of different kinds of Christmas cookies in front of us and big giant mugs of cold milk to help wash them down. Carol had outdone herself! I think these were some of the BEST Christmas cookies I have ever had. While we were eating our cookies were able to share a Christmas message with them.

Pretty soon it was time for us to go head back to the house to grab some dinner. When Bob found out we were going home for dinner he simply insisted we stay for dinner! Oh Bob! Any-who, Carol whipped up the most Minnesotan dish I have had yet, “left over hot-dish”. But once again, Carol’s cooking was absolutely amazing! Somehow in the little time she had she was able to create this gourmet meal for us. While she was getting dinner ready Bob took us on a tour of their house and showed us all their amazing pottery collection. They have well over 400 different pieces. Their home is incredible! It reminds me a lot of Kandis’ cabin. It is very rustic. They have a loft that Carol uses for her own art studio (she is an art teacher). And they use their pottery for all of their dishes. Having dinner there was so fun because of how eclectic their taste was. Bob and Carol remind me of these free spirited grown adults who seem to have their lives put together (minus the gospel of course) ;) Maybe one day if I’m cool enough I can grow up and be like them! ;)

Christmas Eve we spent most of the day going around doing ward visits and tracking, sharing Christmas messages with people. We went to visit the Rigby family and we ended up meeting their mother who was in town visiting out in the driveway. She explained to us that she needed to round up the chickens that had wondered out of their yard so… what did we do… we did just that—we went out and gathered chickens. First we tried to lure them back by feeding them bread and then we gave up on that and I simple ran around them through the trees and tried chasing them back towards the house. Sister Bone and Sister Rigby were getting a good laugh watching me that’s for sure. You will be happy to know that, eventually all of the chickens made it back home.

That night we went over to the Kucera’s (my favorite family here) for Christmas dinner. Brother Kucera looks just like my Dad! Seriously, they could be brothers. And what is even funnier is that as soon as I got here he started growing a beard. I’m always telling him he looks just like Papa Larson ;) The Kuceras also invited Carmon over for dinner. Carmon is an older, little lady, from Peru, who doesn’t speak any English. She is super sweet. She welcomed us with big hugs and kisses on the cheek and seemed happy all night. None of us spoke Spanish so that make it very hard to communicate to say the least, but even with the language barrier we were able to have a pretty incredible experience with Carmon. After dinner we gathered in the living room where Sister Bone and I were able to share a message as well as our testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ. You could feel the power of the Spirit in that moment. Even though Carmon didn’t know what we said she could “feel” the Holy Ghost. The next thing we knew she started speaking in Spanish. You could tell she had been touched. She got emotional and choked up as she tried to speak. She probably talked for at least a good five minutes, but as she spoke the Spirit only grew stronger in that room. It was such an amazing testimony builder to me of how the Spirit truly works. The Spirit is the teacher. As missionaries, we are here to share the truth of Christ’s church on the earth today, but it is ONLY through the Spirit that people are able to learn for themselves that what we are sharing with them is true. What you say or how you say it, isn’t necessarily importantly as long as the Spirit is present. It is the Spirit that touches hearts and converts people to come unto Christ.

CHRISTMAS seemed to come so fast this year! And it didn’t really feel a whole lot like Christmas since there wasn’t any snow out here. That has to be a first for Minnesota! But hey you don’t hear me complaining! This morning we woke up at our usual time- 6:30 am… but today we stayed in our PJ’s and opened our gifts under our little Christmas tree. THANK YOU EVERYONE who sent me cards and packages (you all know who you are)!!! You all were so thoughtful and it was because of you I had some fun things to open this year!!! I have to say my very favorite was just being able to hear from people. Hearing from you has to be one of the greatest gifts ever!

Christmas Tree.
Stockings from Aunt Shelley.

Nativities from Peru from Steve and Keri.

More presents.

Mittens from Stacey.

Hats from CJ.

We went to the Hosteter’s for Christmas breakfast and that was a lot of fun. The elders also joined us there. After breakfast, it was that time… I GOT TO CALL HOME!!! I was able to talk to my parents and all of my siblings aside from my oldest brother CJ (I tried CJ… I promise! Just know I love you!). I actually was able to facetime my parents so that was pretty fun. Oh and Mom, I forgot to tell you, but you looked so pretty! I really did notice that. Papa Bear is one lucky man! ;)

Sister Larson's Christmas breakfast gathering with the Hostetler family. 
They do this every year for the missionaries.
This afternoon, we had the chance to take the afternoon for ourselves and what did I do you might ask??? I took a NAP of course!!! And oh my goodness, can I just say that was the best Christmas present I could have given myself! Those two hours were absolutely HEAVENLY! Then we finished the night off with going to dinner with the elders over to the Nelson’s. (The husband and father, Mike, isn’t a member, but has been coming to church for years- so it was great to be able to get the missionaries over there). We are hoping that maybe that can turn into our very own little Christmas miracle. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Overall, it was a FANTASTIC CHRISTMAS!

Friday morning, December 26th, we woke up to about 4 inches of SNOW! Ha—how about that—the day AFTER Christmas of course—go figures ;) But it was fun to finally get some very Minnesota snow that everyone has been talking about. Sister Bone and I had a zone service project this morning at Feed my Starving Children. It was so awesome! There were a little over 100 volunteers who help package up food that gets shipped to over 70 countries around the world. It’s pretty sweet and it was fun to be able to get together with some other missionaries.

First snow!

Saturday, the 27th, we were able to go and visit this sweet dear sister in our ward, Sister Erlindgsson. She got baptized a few years back, but hasn't been to church in a long time. She is older and has gone back to smoking and has felt so bad about that. She is so embarrassed and is constantly beating herself up for that. It is heartbreaking that she can’t see God’s perfect love for her. She hasn’t really been open to letting the missionaries come over to much, but her heart has been softening. We had a wonderful talk with her. We talked with her and tried to help her see how much her Heavenly Father loves her and how proud He is of her desires! She seemed to get excited at that idea. We have decided to go visit her each week so we can read the Book of Mormon together since it is hard for her to read. And the best part was before we left we asked her if she would like to pray and she said she wasn’t sure if she knew how anymore. We explained how simple our prayers to Heavenly Father are laid out and then she gave such a sweet and sincere prayer. It was so beautiful to see her turning to her Heavenly Father again.

Well, those were the main highlights of the week.

Love and pray for you all!

Sister Larson

Philippians 1:3

Sister Larson with her Mission President and his wife.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Merry (1st) Christmas From Sister Larson

Our Sister Larson had a chance to call her parents and speak with them on Christmas morning!

Sister Larson's Christmas breakfast gathering with the Hostetler family.
They do this every year for the missionaries.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Week 6 – December 22, 2014

Another week has come and gone. It is amazing how fast each week passes. The days can seem so long but the weeks seem to just fly by. Once again, I just want to thank all of you who have been so sweet and have been sending me Christmas cards and packages. Our Christmas tree is looking real good and it is all because of YOU! And Mom I LOVE MY PILLOWCASES!!! You’re the BEST!!!

This week we were given the challenge with the Elders in our ward to visit ALL the members in our ward, active, less active, or even people we just have on our records. So we have been spending quite a lot of time making visits. Most of ours are to people we haven’t ever seen at church. It’s always fun to see how people react to having missionaries knock on their door. You all better be nice to whoever knocks on your door even if you’re not interested! You hear me?! Any who, let me back up and go over a few key things that happened this last week.

Monday night, December 15th, Sister Bone and I had a teaching appointment with one of our investigators Jennifer. Before we ever get out of our car we pray to be able to have the Spirit with us so those we teach are able to feel that same Spirit. So Monday night, while we were praying in our car, in the total dark, we heard a knock on our car window. It startled us, but when we opened our door we saw that it was a little old lady. She explained to us that she was lost and she couldn’t find her way home. She told us how she had been praying for God to lead her to someone safe that could help her. This poor sweet lady—she had gotten turned around in the woods and had been lost in the dark, freezing weather for the last couple of hours. And to make things even scarier she was on oxygen and her supply had seemed to run out. Luckily, we were able to help her. We were teaching our lesson at a member’s home and they were able to take Candice (that was her name) back to her home. Thankfully, she could remember her address still. It was such a tender mercy of the Lord! This poor woman was lost, lonely and scared. She found herself turning to God for help. God heard her prayers and was able to answer her prayer by leading her to our parked car. How often do we find ourselves lost, lonely and scared in our lives? We must remember to have the faith Candice did and turn to the Lord for help and support. He WILL help us! He loves us so much and is always reaching out—it is up to us to turn to Him.

Wednesday, the 17th, I had a new missionary training. It was great because all of the missionaries I came out with were able to get together for this. That meant I was able to see the missionaries I had in my MTC district. I can’t begin to tell you how much love I have for those missionaries. It makes me so happy to see them growing and succeeding in their missions.

That afternoon Sister Bone and I went on exchanges (this is when mission companions switch with another set of missionaries so you have the chance to spend the day with a different missionary and learn how someone else teaches and runs their area. I was able to go to Bloomington. I worked with Sister Smaely and Sister Wooley out there. It was so great to be in a new area and to be with some other missionaries and see how they do things. I learned a lot!

On exchanges with Sister Wooley and Sister Smaely.
That night we went and taught someone they use to teach in the past named Dominic. He was home and he invited us in. We were able to teach him the restoration lesson. The spirit was there and Dominic had a lot of good questions. We were able to answer his questions and put him to ease. At the beginning of the lesson he was very skeptical but by the end of the lesson you could see him grasping it! It was so exciting to watch! He talked to us about how it made sense that Joseph Smith was a prophet. Once we told him that Joseph Smith was 14 years old when he had his first vision and that he never once in his life went back on his word about that, Dominic said he believed. He told us that he knew that no 14 year old would go through so many trials and persecutions if he hadn’t seen God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Dominic then expressed his desires to come to church and learn more from the missionaries. When we were leaving I was bummed that I wasn’t working in Bloomington because I wouldn’t have a chance to continue to teach Dominic. At least I know he has great missionaries there who are going to be teaching him.

Thursday, December 18th, I spent most of the day in Bloomington on exchanges still. While I was there I had the chance to go out to lunch with the missionaries in that zone at good ol’ Taco Bell in the ghetto part of town. When we were there we bumped into a large, black, loud and most likely under the influence woman, but boy did she LOOOOVE us! She was so excited to see us. Apparently, missionaries had taught her back in the day too. Before we left, she grabbed all 12 of us right there in the middle of Taco Bell and asked if she could pray with us. So there we were holdin’ hands in a big-o circle in the middle of Taco Bell as this lady was praising the Lord. I have to say I have never done anything quite like that in a Taco Bell before but I guess there is a first for everything.

That afternoon, we went tracking for a bit. Most of the apartment buildings here are locked where you have to be buzzed in. First I tried a random number and no luck and then we decided to pray and ask God to help us know what number to press to be buzzed in if it was His will. Sister Smaely then tried and sure enough we were buzzed right in! Gosh, I love the power of prayer! While we were there, we knocked on two doors. The first door we were able to shard a quick message at their doorstep and the second door invited us in before we even had a chance to introduce ourselves. That NEVER happens but we were super excited to be welcomed right in. Both times Indian women answered the door. The second door that we were welcomed into had several Indian women with their children. They were just getting together for a potluck lunch since it is so cold out now and they can’t enjoy being outside with their children. We were able to share the “HE is the GIFT” video with all of them. It was really neat because they were all Hindu, but even still they were able to recognize the Spirit they felt watching that short video. The Holy Ghost is such an amazing thing and how grateful I am that we are all born with the light of Christ and have the ability to feel the Spirit in our own lives.

Tonight it was time to go back to Minnetonka and switch back to having Sister Bone as my companion. We had an appointment with the Cedar Lake Sisters (missionaries from another area) and two of their investigators that just moved into the Minnetonka area. We met Tanneh (she is from Liberia) and her boyfriend Joshua (who is from Haiti) and their three beautiful children. Tanneh just cracks me up! She is this large, loud woman with a lot of personality. And then there is Joshua who is also awesome but in a different way. He is much smaller, more quiet, and reserved. For being so different from each other somehow they just seem to work. They both expressed their desire to get married, be baptized and get back on the right path. I’m excited to start working with them!

Saturday, the 20th, we had a voicemail on our phone from one of our investigators when we checked it they expressed that they would like us to come over and visit. They didn’t sound well and so we decided to stop what we were doing and go start over to their place. Once we got there it was very clear that things were NOT good. Our investigator opened the door with two black eyes and as soon as we were sitting down they informed us that they had tried to take their life the night before. It just broke my heart. I hurt so badly for them! We prayed together, talked for a long time, and were able to get the Elders to come over to give this person a Priesthood Blessing.

This experience reminded me how grateful I am for the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. He has felt our pains. He knows each one of us perfectly. He will ALWAYS forgive us and take us back no matter how many times we may have messed up in the past. Christ truly is the best gift given to each one of us. I hope we all can take a minute to reflect on His Atonement and what He has done for YOU personally. This is what Christmas is really about. This is a time to not only reflect on our Savior’s birth, but His life, His perfect example, and His Sacrifice that has made it possible for each of us to one day return home to our Father in Heaven. Let us all have the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Christ in our hearts this season!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

With Love- Sister Larson

Lunch at one of my favorite places SNUFFY'S.

I found a human size gingerbread house.

Oh Christmas tree.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weeks 5 – December 15, 2014

Hey everyone!

I hope you all are doing well and that life is treating each of you good! Christmas is right around the corner and I pray we are all striving to find ways to bring the true spirit of Christmas into our lives. If you haven't watched "He is the Gift" yet at christmas.mormon.org I encourage you to go and watch it right after you finish reading this! Also my dear friend Nicole Sheahan just put out a beautiful song called "He Has Come for Us"- youtube it! It is amazing!

This week has gone by fast, but it has been good! We had two baptisms that we were a part of, so that was very neat! The first one was for Jon, a 19 year old and the second was Sonia’s baptism. I have been lucky enough to be able to teach Sonia these last few weeks and I have loved seeing her testimony grow. I love seeing how much enthusiasm these two new members have for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was very special to be able to be a see each of them take that next step in trying to get on the right path so they can better prepare themselves to return home to our Father in Heaven.

Sonia's baptism.

Last Tuesday, the 9th, I had my first Zone Conference. It was actually a gathering of three zones—so lots of missionaries! They asked me the night before if I would be willing to lead the music at the conference. I told them I would be more than happy to (however you have to understand I really don’t know how to lead music, but I was willing). The next day no one knew what we were singing so I had no way to practice conducting. They announced the song and then next thing I knew I was up there in front of a whole chapel of missionaries. I have to say I felt a bit silly and those missionaries that knew me were getting a big kick out of me up there, but in all honestly I actually wasn’t too bad. Mom you would be so proud!

Best part of zone conference was seeing my old companions Sis. Steadman and Sis. Zimmerman. 
I sure miss my girls!

Wednesday, Sister Bone and I were able to go and teach a man by the name of Bob. Bob had bumped into the missionaries in the past and had told them that we would love it if they came over, but with busy schedules and different conflicts it never happened. As we were going through our area book this past week we came upon Bob’s name. We called him up right then and the next thing we knew we were driving over to his place to teach him with another member of the ward. It was neat to see how God puts things right in front of us. Bob was very open to our message and we look forward to teaching him more.

On Thursday, we had our weekly lunch at “Snuffy’s” with Brother Longstreet and you all will be very happy to know I finally was able to have a yummy grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup. I had been craving that since the MTC so it was good to finally get some ;) We talked with Brother Longstreet about courage and how it is the ability to conquer one’s fear or in other words to exercise one’s faith. It was a pretty neat chat. I encourage you to think about how you exercise courage in your own lives.

Tonight we had the chance to go over to a recent convert’s home for dinner. Isaac just got baptized end of October. Oh my goodness, let me just say this man can cook! My goodness, I felt like I was at some fancy shmacy restaurant. The food was amazing and the presentation was even better. Isaac definitely set the bar high for the rest of the members who feed us.

Really though, we are so blessed with meals from the members. We eat in a member’s home almost every night for dinner. In fact, we usually are given food multiple times at night. It is starting to become a problem. My stomach will be completely stuffed, but then when you are over at someone’s house and they dish you up something- you have no other choice than to pound it down. I am always so excited when I see a simple, light, healthy meal on the table. Someone made stuffed peppers for us this week and they were perfect! And the whole time I ate them I thought of my bestie Bree back home because she would always make these when I was over! ;) Despite being stuffed with tons of food, the Minnetonka Ward is amazing! The missionary work in this ward is booming! There is so much love for one another and they really do a fantastic job taking good care of their missionaries.

Later this week, we met with one of our investigators, Melony, and sadly we had to drop her (or in other words stop teaching her). It was hard to let her go because we know how much Christ’s Gospel could bless her and her family, but we understand that not all of God’s children are ready at this moment for the truth. I have to remind myself everything works on God’s time. However, it was neat how she explained to us that she felt like she had grown closer to God from our visits and from hearing our lessons. I can only hope and pray she continues to strive to strengthen that relationship with her Heavenly Father and grow closer to Him and maybe one day she will be ready to open her heart and listen to our message again.

Friday, the 12th, we went to drop off a little bag of goodies to one of our part member families, the Floes. Mom and Dad weren’t home, but Grandma was babysitting their son. Our visit was quite funny—in fact every time we bump into Sister Floe’s mother it is pretty funny. You see, Sister Floe’s mother doesn’t speak any English, but she just talks and talks to you in Spanish as if you know exactly what she is saying. Too bad Sister Bone and I both don’t know any Spanish. We smile and nod and try our very best to communicate, but let’s be honest it’s a total disaster. But she is always so kind and loving towards us. She welcomed us in with hugs and kisses and before we left she gave us something she made. I think she gave us some scones (not really sure) ;) Bless her heart! She is such a sweetheart I just wish I had some idea of what she is saying. Oh well, what can you do?!

Saturday, 12-13-14, (kind of a cool date) was packed! That was the day for both Jon and Sonia’s baptisms. And it was also our ward Christmas party. The primary did such a wonderful job putting this on. The kids all dressed up in the different parts of the nativity and they had lots of different music numbers. I loved it! I always saw little things like this on TV that people did in the movies, but this was the real deal.

That afternoon, we went to visit Sister Whitlock. She is in a very hard situation with her daughter and it just breaks my heart that I can’t just fix everything for them. But we know God’s plan for this life wasn’t to make it easy but to make it where we will be pushed so we can humble ourselves, turn to God and grow. Any who, before we went to visit her I was struggling with some thoughts in my head. Satan was doing what he does best and he was trying to make me think I wasn’t a strong enough missionary and that my testimony wasn’t good enough. While we were sitting there talking with Sister Whitlock she told me that last week when we came over to visit I had shared my testimony with her. She told me how powerful it was to her. She explained that many people come over to visit and share thoughts, but nothing had hit her as hard as my testimony did that day. She went on and told me how she hadn’t stopped thinking about my testimony all week. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! What a tender mercy of the Lord! Sister Whitlock told me exactly what I needed to hear in that very moment! I know that my testimony can always be strengthened, but I also know that it will be strengthened each time I share it with someone and that we only Satan wants me to think I am not enough. I AM ENOUGH! You better back off Satan, this missionary is unstoppable!

Love you all! Pray for you often!

Sister Larson

PS- THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR ALL OF THE SWEET LETTERS, CARDS, AND PACKAGES!!! I feel so loved and I am so grateful for each one of you! My heart is so full of gratitude for the love and kindness you show me. I am trying to get back to each of you, but I only have a limited amount of time on Mondays when I can write letters. PLEASE be patient with me! I want so badly to write you all back the moment I get something from you, but sadly that just isn't how it works out here in the mission. Letters will come they just make take some time. I have a file system set up for sending back replies... they will come, but in the mean time know I LOVE YOU SO SO MUCH!!! xo

Me, my trainer (Sis. Bone), her trainer Sis. Jenkins, and her trainer Sister Smith (4 generations I guess).

Mercy's little girl Blessing.  Blessing is trying to be a mini Sister Larson.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 4 – December 8, 2014

Hello my dear family and friends! 

You will be happy to hear that this week has been really good. I am starting to get into the swing of things which is always super nice. Sister Bone sadly, however, has been under the weather all week which hasn't been fun for her, but she is a trooper! I luckily haven't caught anything from her. I guess all those vitamins I'm taking are paying off ;) The work is good! I am happy! And I know this Church is true and that it blesses lives! 

Let's see what cool things I can tell you about this last week...

We have a darling investigator named Lesly. She is 15 years old and wants so badly to get baptized. You can see how strong her desire is and how her testimony is growing day by day. However, her parents aren't open to the idea of her getting baptized at this time in her life, but she is still choosing to do as much as she can to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She isn't able to go to seminary, but she has chosen on her own to study the seminary manual. Way to go! Lesly has such a strong desire to learn. Last time we met with her she bore her testimony to us how she knows God is her Father in Heaven. Tears came to her eyes as she tried to express the love she felt from her Father in Heaven and how much comfort she finds in knowing she is not alone. This sweet girl is also noticing blessing in her family's lives as she has started to change the way she is living her life. She told us that her parents have seemed to fight less and they seem to be more patient. I have such a testimony of the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ truly does bless families. Lesly is a wonderful example to me. I hope I can strive to have her same drive and desire.

So you all know how much I LOVE organizing, cleaning, and decorating... well I was able to put that to good work this week. First off, Sister Bone and I spent a whole afternoon at the library organizing our area book! For those of you who have gone on a mission you know how big of a task that is! However, once we were done with that thing it was looking good and now we will actually be able to use it. It will definitely help us be more effective and efficient with our time! One of the many blessings that come from being organized! 

We also got to get to work and go to town at Sister Merecedes' apartment! Sister Merecedes is from South America and doesn't have a strong knowledge of the gospel so we have decided we want to help her understand the principles of the gospel more. So... we came up with a plan! We decided we needed to LOVE and SERVE her!!! Sneaky plan huh?! Any who, Sister Bone and I went over and met with her and her daughter Roshan and have decided that we are going to spend the month of December helping them redo their apartment. Their apartment is old and could use a little face lift ;) This week we went over three times and started the painting process. Oh my goodness! Can I just say it is already looking like a new place! The place is seriously getting a total makeover! It's crazy cool! I will have to send pictures once we are done! 

So remember how I said their apartment was old, well, not only is it older, but it definitely needed a good cleaning! While we were over moving things around Sister Merecedes started SCREAMING at the top of her lungs! Next we heard her scream RAT! RAT! RAT! It totally reminded me of Mom when she see a mouse. It was kinda hilarious not gonna lie. Anyways, I had to step it up since both Sister Merecedes and Sister Bone were scared! So what did I do?! I CAUGHT IT! I trapped it under a bucket and then I slid something under the bucket so I could carry it outside. Ok so we were on the second floor so the little mouse may have gone for a little skydive experience, but I'm sure it was the time of this life ;) 

Sister Merecedes is a wonderful cook. She loves making us treats while we are over there! Something kinda interesting she made us was homemade hot chocolate with fresh cheese IN it with toast on the side. She said it was a family favorite. And I have to say, it was actually very good! Who would have thought?! Fresh cheese is a very soft creamy white cheese that squeaks when you chew it. It's different, but fun!

Later this week Sister Bone and I had a wonderful experience! The elders had a referral for us and on Thursday night we went over to visit Sira. When we got to Sira's house she instantly let us in. She is from Mexico, probably in her 40's and is a single mom with a young daughter who is also a single mother. We weren't in her home for more than five minutes before she broke down to us and started sobbing. 

She explained to us that her daughter and grandson had been living with her, but that her relationship with her daughter was rough and that about a month ago she told her daughter to move out. In that moment of anger, her daughter told Sira she would never see her or her grandson again. Sira cried as she told us she hasn't seen them or been able to get a hold of them since then. She explained how her heart hurt and that she knew she needed to turn to God, but instead she has found herself turning away from Him. She stopped going to her bible study group and even church became something that she didn't want to face. She explained how she knew the missionaries where an answer to her prayers. She said we were angels sent to her from God to help her feel His love for her. It was incredible! What a miracle! 

It never stops amazing me how the Lord works through His children. Sister Bone and I felt so grateful that we were able to be there for Sira. She needed someone to listen to her, someone to love her, and someone to comfort her. I know God truly had Sira in mind when the elders knocked on her door. God was very aware of Sira and her needs at this time!

Since then we have met with Sira again. She has continued to open up her heart about some of the things she has had to go through in her life and she has been faced with some really hard things. But even with her trials there came a point in her life when she realized she NEEDED God! 

This week we were able to share with her our message and are planning on meeting with her some more. I am so grateful to God and for the knowledge I have that He truly leads and guides His work through the Holy Ghost. I know we are truly led to the people God wants us to meet.

We also had a chance to do FHE with Sister Petersen and her three grandchildren. We go there every week and share a scripture story with them that they can act out. The more props and actions for the kids the better it is- so we always try and make a BIG production! Sister Petersen also cooked us up some amazing chili and corn bread. YUM!

Sis. Petersen's grandkids.
We also had a lot of fun teaching the Artegas three kids. We taught them how to it was important to have Jesus in their lives through a fun little paper object lesson we did with them. They ate that right up. We are hoping that if we can get through to the children maybe their parents hearts will be softened and that they will see how the gospel can bless their family. 

We had dinner this week with Sister Odonely. And she is just a doll. She is probably in her 60's and is single and looking for love. While we were over at her house. She gave Sister Bone and myself this BING of a necklace to borrow because she thought we would just love wearing it! Oh my is it BIG, BOLD, AND SPARKLY! You would never see me wear that, however, I totally rocked it on Sunday at church so Sister Odonely could see me wearing it. As long as I am making someone feel good, I can put my pride aside and wear a big-o-necklace ;)

My bing necklace.

Sis. Larson and Sis. Bone

Well, I think I touched on a lot of good key points that happened this week! I hope all is well back home and that you are all getting ready for Christmas! I can't believe that is right around the corner. Speaking of Christmas I would recommend to ALL OF YOU to get on lds.org and watch the HE IS THE GIFT video clip. It is a short, but great remember what Christmas is all about. 

Love and pray for you all!

Sister Larson


My bed. Notice Puffy and my tag?

Hot chocolate.

Hanging with the dogs reading a letter from mom.

Package from Mom.

For the Hopkins.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week 3 – December 1st 2014

It's official folks, I am here in Minnesota! Right now I am staying in a place called Minnetonka. It is absolutely beautiful out here! Cold, but beautiful! My trainer and companion's name is Sister Bone. She is 22 and from Utah. She is doing a great job at teaching me the ropes. We are staying with some members out here on Lake Minnetonka in their... mansion. No big deal ;) That first night I was here, when we drove up I honestly couldn't believe that this was going to be my home for the next 3 months! We have the entire basement to ourselves. Oh and I was worried about having to workout outside in the freezing cold, but don't you worry, we have our own private gym down stairs just for us. I have to say I think I may have the best missionary set up EVER! But most importantly, the members we are staying with are so kind and loving. They are always checking in with us at night and wanting to hear how are day went. God has truly blessed me with coming out to the Minnetonka area! 


My new companion, Sister Bone.
Outside in the snow.

My new companion, Sister Bone.

Where I am living.

Getting out here was quite the trip though! It all started last Wednesday, the 26th of November, when my alarm went off at 2am. There were 19 of us missionaries who came out to Minnesota together. We first got on a bus, which we rode to the front runner train. The train then took us down to SLC. Once we were in SLC we hopped on trax and took that us out to the airport. Now you have to remember that each of us missionaries were carrying around two huge suitcases plus our two carry-ons. It was absoluetly crazy with all of the stops and having to get on and off with a matter of so many seconds. Talk about stressful. Thankful we finally got to the airport in one piece. I can't tell you how happy I was once I was able to check in my two giant suitcases! Man, I thought my arms were about to fall off! Our flight was delayed twice because the weather out in Minnesota was too bad for us to be able to fly out there so Sister Steadman and I busted out my sheets right there in the airport and took a nice nap—considering we work up at 2am!

Once we finally landed in Minneapolis, Minnesota all 19 of us missionaries just hung out there in the airport for awhile just waiting for someone to come and pick us up. Finally, the mission president and his wife and his assistant came and got us. The rest of the day was one big giant mess! Nothing was organized and no one knew what was happening. I definitely didn't think this was how I was going to be welcomed into my mission here, but I guess you just roll with the punches. That night I met my trainer Sister Bone and had to say goodbye to my district from the MTC. I hated saying goodbye to them! They had become my family. It was especially hard to say goodby to Sister Steadman. We had grown very close, and when it came time to give each other our last goodbye hug, I didn't want to let go. I'm sure going to miss her!


MTC companions. Sister Zimmerman and Sister Steadman.

At the MTC.

Some of my district got matching superman CTR shirts. 
Elders Heaps and Koster – love those boys.


My district boys MTC at temple.

Being silly and doing laundry.

Being silly in bathroom.


My district going to MN.

Favorite Sis. Steadman!

That night I had my first real appointment. We met with a new convert that just got baptized the Saturday before. Her name is Mercy and she is from Kenya. Her cousin Obed ended up just getting there from Kenya and we were able to teach him the Restoration lesson. The lesson went great and the spirit was definitely there! At the end I asked Obed if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the proper priesthood authority of God and guess what?!?!? He said YES!!! I was totally freaking out inside, but I played it cool. We are going to be passing Obed along to the Elders to teach because it will be nice for him to have some guys he can connect with. But Obed was at church on Sunday and after when I talked to him, he told me how happy he felt being at church! I'm so happy he can already notice the difference the gospel brings into his life!

Thanksgiving we ended up spending with the Nelsons (the couple we live with). It was a great day. It was kinda like a P-Day (preparation day) so I was able to relax a bit. I unpacked and even got a nap in :)

Later that night, we went and met with Angie. Angie has been looking into the church for two years now. She is a bit stubborn (but then again aren't we all in some way). We were able to talk to Angie about Faith and how everything simply starts with a desire. We challenged her to read the Book of Mormon and pray everyday this week and she said she would! Sister Bone told me that was huge for Angie! The spirit truly touches people and changes lives IF we will simply knock down our walls and open our hearts.

I have had the chance to teach a few other lessons this week and meet with a few other investigators, recent converts, less active members and even strong members of the ward here in Minnetonka. I LOVE being able to teach. I am still trying it figure out how to best be led by the spirit, but I am trying and I know God will help me as I continue to practice listening to the spirit and being directed by Him.

Saturday, November 29th, I went tracting for the first time! Oh boy! I was a bit nervous, I won't lie, but I figured, what the heck what is the worst thing that can happen?! The first door we knocked on I froze and let Sister Bone do all the talking as the man nicely declined our message, but after that first door I was just fine. I can't say were able to teach anyone a lesson, but we did meet a couple sweet people where we were able to talk about Christ and the importance of Him in our lives. I sure do appreciate good, kind people! There was this one house with a sweet looking tree house in the backyard so we the man of that house opened the front door I very enthusiastically said, "You have the COOLEST tree house EVER!". I was so excited to talk to this guy sadly this guy was NOT excited at all, in fact, he was quite the opposite. Oh well, I will never forget you Mr. Tree House Man and your sweet looking tree house!

Yesterday, was my first Sunday to go check out the ward! We have a pretty solid ward I would say. Everyone seems to be friendly and very welcoming. I guess in the past they struggled with missionary work, but within the last nine months that really has been changing and there ward is BOOMING with missionary excitement! I can't wait until I get to know that ward and can feel a part of their ward family. I know as I serve here I truly will grow to love them!

I was able to see Mercy's sister Judy pray for the first time with the missionaries this week- which is HUGE because Judy was really against the church for awhile and didn't want Mercy to be getting baptized, but she is coming around and opening up her heart. I also have been able to spend a lot of time with several different families with little children. Children are just fun! It is great to teach children because their minds are so pure and they just want to understand. I wish we all could be more like children!

Overall, I have to say, LIFE IS GOOD! GOD IS GOOD! I am trying to figure out the swing of things out here. I am sure it will take me awhile to really get into the routine of being a missionary, but I am looking forward to it.

I know this church is Christ's true church. I'm so grateful for the understanding I have of God's plan. I feel so blessed to know that we have a prophet today that leads and guides us and gets direct revelation from God just like the Prophets of old in the Bible. I love my Savior and am eternally indebted to Him for His atonement. I hope that as I strive to take upon the name of Jesus Christ people will be able to recognize the light of Christ in me and want to know what I know.

I love you all. I pray for you daily. I hope all is well and that you can personally recognize the Hand of God in your life today.

Till next week-

Sister Larson

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 2 – November 24th 2014

Ok well I'm just now finishing up my second week at the MTC and am going to be flying out to Minnesota earlyWednesday morning. I'm trying to brace myself for the freezing weather, but I'm not sure there really is anything that can prepare me. Here's a quick overview at week two here in the MTC...

Tuesday:
-Today was the first day I went to the normal gym class and let me tell you... there was a reason PE wasn't my favorite growing up. But you all will be happy to know that I can still run a mile under 10 minutes and that I was able to do 60 push-ups (on my knees). But like the scriptures say, By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.
 
- Our little trio of a companionship had our first little struggle today, but we were able to talk things out and move forward. Being so much older and having experience in my field of social work is definitely going to be put to good use out here that's for sure! Speaking of being older... I was talking with my two companions and we realized when I first got to college they both were still in primary. HA- Kinda funny!

    First day it snowed here at the MTC! Its' about to get really snowy.
Sister Zimmerman Me and Sister Steadman 

- We met with a new investigator Melissa today and our lesson went great. I should have clarified earlier that most of the people we teach are members taking on the role of themselves before they were baptized. But for being members already they make it seem very real still. Even then some of the people we teach aren't members. They don't tell the missionaries who are and aren't.

- Speaking of investigators Carl committed to being baptized today! YAY! We are so happy for him!

- Oh and we also did a skyping lesson with a member and shared a message with her... that was a disaster, but I guess that is why we are here at the MTC. This is the time to LEARN!

-Tonight we met together as a district and we were all able to share our testimonies. It was awesome to hear from everyone and to feel the presence of the spirit.

- Then, tonight my companions talked me into being in the MTC choir. Oh my that was quite a joke! It was kinda a big deal. They recorded us and we did a practice and for some reason the camera kept coming on me! The funny part was that they put me with the girls who sing crazy high and we all know I don't do that. Anyways, I just lip synced my little heart out hopping that you couldn't tell anything was actually coming out. I totally had to pull a Milli Vanilli!


Wednesday:
- WOW today I was insanely TIRED!!! All day long I just struggled to get through. My energy level is definitely going down and everyday when I finally get to put my head on my pillow it is a glorious moment!


Thursday:
- We kick-started our day by cleaning a whopping 40 toilets! That was our slot for service and we happened to be the last group that showed up so we were stuck with the toilets, but luckily they really weren't so bad. My companions and I just sang our little hearts out and chose to have a jolly time together.

- Today I also got the two shots I still needed, but I had mail to read while getting them so they weren't so bad. By the way I'm LOVING ALL OF THE MAIL I'm getting! You guys sure make me feel so loved and so special. Mail truly is the best thing for a missionary!

- Okay, so today the companionship hit another BIG BUMP in the road. We were struggling with negativity. Negative attitudes are not good, let me tell you. They really do affect being able to have the spirit. But once again we talked it out. Today was a much BOLDER talk, but it needed to happen. We ended our chat with sharing positives about each other and our companionship and that really seemed to help get us back on track.

My companions and me. Left to right: Me, Sister Steadman and Sister Zimmerman.

- Later tonight I talked with one of my teachers, Brother Lester, because I was feeling a bit inadequate and like I wasn't near ready to be thrown out in the field. After he told me he had complete confidence in me and that he would have felt comfortable sending me straight out into the field on day one, I couldn't believe what I was hearing! But I really did need that reassurance that I was on track and that I was going to be ok. Thanks Brother Lester!


Friday:
- Today we spent the whole day doing an in-field orientation. The thing I was able to get the most out of it was how to best approach people and go from just talking and getting to know them to switching over to the topic of the gospel and Jesus Christ. I was able to get my creative juices flowing and came up with some good ideas.

- We taught Heather tonight and she prayed! Oh my the Holy Ghost was so powerful. It was such an amazing night with her, by the end of our lesson Heather committed to be baptized! Go Heather!


Saturday:
- My mullet got chopped off today. I know it was sad to see her go... ok not really. I'm still growing my hair out and am hoping to come home with some long hair, but till then I will continue to rock the awkward stages.

Chopped off that mullet. We all got haircuts.
- Brother Lester taught an awesome lesson today in class. I have to say I have some pretty bomb teachers. They do such a fantastic job and I am so grateful for them and for the things they have been able to teach me here.

- Then today we taught a couple over skype and then we also had a chance to go and visit Melissa again. Melissa also prayed for the first time with us tonight. I'm not sure there is anything better than being able to hear someone pray for the first time. Oh, and she also committed to being baptized. I'm beginning to wonder if they just have all of our converts accept baptism before we leave to boost our confidence. Either way we always leave so happy!


Sunday:
- Today I was called on to speak at church. They had us all prepare a talk on how to recognize the spirit and Elder Judd and I were both called to speak. I was grateful I had the opportunity to speak, but I have to let you know I was so impressed with Elder Judd. When Elder Judd first got here he was so shy, quiet, and homesick and now just 11 days later he stood up there and spoke with such power. When he bares his testimony it is amazing! I can't begin to express how much I have loved being able to see the growth in these Elders in my district. They make me so proud!

- As a district we went on a walk up to the Temple and that was fun. It was cold, but there were a TON of missionaries up there so that was kinda fun to see us all together.

MTC Zone on the temple trip.

Funny Temple District.

- Tonight we had to say goodbye to our four elders in our district that are going to Texas. It's amazing how close we have gotten and how much love you can develop for people in such a short amount of time. I truly do love those boys and pray that they will be the best missionaries they can be!

- Ok, lastly this is just kinda of interesting, but after my talk about recognizing the spirit, Brother Bahr (from my branch presidency) came up to me and told me that while I was speaking he was touched by the spirit and had an impression. I told him I thought that was great... I really didn't know what else to tell him. But then he went on and asked me if I would contact him in a year and a half once I got home. I wasn't really sure what he was saying, but I told him I would. What on earth do you think the spirit impressed him with?! And why did he feel like it was so important to ask me to contact him after my mission? Whatever it was I guess it must have been important. I made sure I got his contact information so once I am home I can give him and call.

My District.

My District.
I found Kate's mom (Sister Bass) at the MTC!  She is going to AZ on her mission!

This weeks highlights:
- Elder Koster told the BEST embarrassing story of all time!!!
- Sister Kirkby's Mom sent her movie theater popcorn and let me tell you that stuff has never tasted so good!
- A few of us bought matching CTR Superman shirts. Yeah we are just that cool!
- I got scared to death one night when I thought I heard a bunch of birds flying into our classroom window. Turns out it was just the rain. (However, this morning when we were walking by we did happen to see 3 dead birds just chillin' on the ground outside of the windows so apparently those windows are a problem.
- And lastly I have been craving grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup all week long! That just might be one of the first things I make once I get out to Minnesota.


Until next week- I love you all!
Sister Larson

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 1 - November 17th 2014

I don't even know where to begin... the last few days have been a blur. I have been here for six days and I feel like I have been here forever. Not in a bad way at all, I just feel like I have done so much, grown so much, and have build strong relationships with my mission district here.

To start off I just want to say, I LOVE THE MTC, I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY, AND I LOVE THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS!!! This week has been so powerful and such a testimony builder for me. God is blessing me in so many ways!

First off, I have been blessed with two amazing companions, Sister Steadman and Sister Zimmerman. They both are 19 years old, but they are awesome! We make a great team and are learning so much from each other. These two sisters are such examples to me in so many ways! I love how in tune with the spirit they are. Not only do we make a good team working together, but we have FUN! We know when to work and we know when its ok to be silly and laugh. I'm loving all the memories we are getting to share together here.

I honestly, don't have much time to write this week so I'm just going to bullet point some of the highlights from the last six days...

Wednesday:

- I got to meet my district (District 6). We have 6 elders and 5 sisters. Everyone is going to Minnesota besides four of our elders are going to Texas.

- We had the chance to teach our very first night here. We were in a group of about 40 missionaries who took turns jumping in and teaching an investigator. It wasn't going so good, so towards the end I jumped in. Our investigator wasn't really connecting with us which made it hard for him to feel the spirit and to know that what we were testifying was true. I was able to stand up and tell him about a personal experience that touched him and got him to trust me. I then was able to teach him about prayer and how to pray (Thanks Andrew for teaching me that- you totally had me prepared for this) and then I asked if we could pray together and he said YES! I got up in front of 40 missionaries and prayed. Oh my gosh, the spirit was so strong! It was powerful! Everyone in that room could feel the spirit. After I got tons of complements and our investigator came up to me and thanked me. He expressed what he felt and how I had brought him to tears. I promised him that what he was feeling was the spirit and that he just needed to keep praying. It was so cool! First day BAM!

- I totally didn't sleep at all my first night (but since then I have slept like a baby every night)... you get tired here!!!

Thursday:

- It SNOWED today! Ahhh! Minnesota here we come!

- Today I worked all day and just felt on fire. I could feel the spirit with me all day as I studied. I felt on fire and was getting pumped to be a missionary!

- I really have fallen in love with being at the MTC and it didn't take much time! I love the spirit you feel here and the constant learning.

- I also have fallen in love with my district. We have started getting close and have begun to feel like a family. We truly love one another!

- I have to say I am also noticing that Heavenly Father is blessing me with strength and energy and also confidence. The spirit is carrying me here and I can feel it!

Friday:

-Today we teach each other how to pray. I was able to pair up with Elder Koster and teach him how to pray. He took on the role of "Brian".... I didn't found out until after that he was playing himself. He expressed to me that Brian believed in a higher being, but really didn't have a testimony of God and Jesus Christ. I talked with "Brian" and you could tell he had a desire to know! The spirit was there as I taught him how to pray and he got on his knees with me and asked God to know if God and Jesus Christ were real. It was simply and sincere, but powerful. Elder Koster was brought to tears. After praying he expressed how he was feeling and I told him that was the Holy Ghost and that was God answering his prayer. He then told me he wasn't playing a role, but that he himself was Brian. And that he had just had his pray answered. He went on to tell me that I changed his life and that I was the reason he will be staying on his mission. He told me that he was my first convert. My heart was so touched and overwhelmed I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Talk about powerful! The Holy Ghost is real. God listen and answers prayers!

Saturday:

- This morning my companions and I had the chance to teach Lexi (she is a member of the church who is getting ready to get sealed in the temple next Saturday). While we were talking with her I just looked at my two companions and saw how in tune they were with the spirit. They seemed to know exactly what to say and how to say things. I said a little prayer at the moment and asked Heavenly Father to help me be more in tune that I too might know what to say to Lexi. Sister Zimmerman had just finished talking about doing temple work for the dead and I just jumped in and started talking to Lexi about her sealing and how excited she was to be sealed for eternity. I then went on and talked about how she has family members in Heaven who also want to be able to enjoy those blessings of being sealed together with their families. I then threw out the challenge to Lexi to do her own family history work that she could bless her family who has passed on before. Lexi started to tear up and tell me how that was inspired and that was exactly what she needed to hear. She went on to tell me that she has known she has needed to do family history, but that she has continued to put it off and when she heard my challenge it was a reminder from God that she needed to be doing that. I realized in that moment that God does help me be led by the spirit and it that very moment the Holy Ghost was able to guide me to know exactly what I needed to say at that moment for Lexi. What a testimony builder for me!

Sunday:

-Church was great today. In relief society we were able to watch an incredible video of Christ blessing others. It was very touching and left most of us in tears.

-Later Sister Zimmerman got a really bad migraine to the point and Sister Steadman and I had to help her walk. She had us ask two of our elders in our district to give her a blessing. Our whole district gathered around to support her and support these elders. It was Elder Darlings first time giving a blessing. You could see how nervous both elders were. I have to say it was one of the sweetest and most powerful things I have seen! As those elders laid their hands on her head you could see their hands shaking, but you could also see the power of the Priesthood work through these two young boys. It was absolutely an incredible experience for our entire district!

-That night Sister Zimmerman was feeling much better and so the three of us decided we needed to run back to the classroom to pick up our stuff that we had left there from earlier this morning. We were already in our PJ's since we had a sick sister... so we kinda had to do a little undercover James Bond kinda thing which was so hilarious! We had fun acting all sneaking as we went to the other building to get to our classroom. We really were doing nothing wrong, but since we were in our PJ's we felt like such rebels. It was so fun and a great way to end the night!

Monday (today):

- My first P-Day!

- We started the day off great by getting to go to the temple (which is all the way on the other side of the street) ;) However, it was freezing walking over at 6:45 am

- The best part of the day was I got to wear my backwards hat, my flip-flops, and my jeans! Oh and let's not forget the 30 minute nap I got! Naps are a forgotten thing here on the mission!

- We also got to do our laundry and had a few good laughs there.

Some random fun facts:

- I love the food here at the MTC (And don't worry Mom I'm eating nice and healthy) :)

- They also have great chocolate milk!

- I have done a few early morning workout classes with my companions (Kickboxing and Yoga)

- And can I just say I LOVE wearing my MISSIONARY BADGE!

Love you all and hope things are going well back home!

-Sister Larson



Sister Larson before she entered the MTC.
Thanks Jessi for the picture and taking our girl to the MTC.

Sister Larson and one of her MTC teachers.