Monday, December 28, 2009

St. Petersburg Week 12

Well, we thought it was going to be a "normal" Sunday yesterday, but boy were we mistaken. During PEC the bishop told us that President Emery (Stake president) and his counselors want all of the Spanish-speaking members to stay after sacrament for a meeting. Needless to say, immediately Hermana Murray and I had huge smiles! The Bishop didn't know what it was about, but we knew! We have been praying so hard for the Spanish group to be a branch. To be able to grow in the gospel in there own language, so many of our group members are impeded by language that they can't have callings. So we anxiously waited for the arrival of the stake presidency. They needed translation but the first scripture that President Emery shared with us was Doctrine & Covenants 90:15. He asked Sister Murray to stand and read it to all the members. As she read this, I just felt an overwhelming feeling and love for the group of Spanish members. I felt the spirit overcome me with a great amount of fuego (fire) to get to work. I want these members to have this promise, but I know that the success of this is only going to be because of our diligence in gathering the lost sheep.

We are going to combine with the Spanish members that are attending in Clearwater. They are all very excited and we work with them a lot as well. This has been a long time in the works, but we’ve finally got the number of priesthood holders necessary to make it work. Oh my! I am so excited! I was shouting “Hurrah for Israel” ALLL day yesterday!

One sad thing about this change is that Sister Murray and I will be changing buildings. We will be at the stake center, which is actually closer to our house in Seminole. I didn't realize how much I have come to love ALL of the members in the St. Pete ward until we were told that we would be moving. My emotions went from pure excitement, to a little sadness for leaving, then to excitement, then an overwhelming feeling of, WE HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO! There are roughly 1 million people in Pinellas county and 50,000 Spanish-speaking people in all of the stake... and then us! Oh my! THAT’S A LOT OF WORK. Essentially we will be opening a new area! We’ve been here serving in the stake now, but the areas that we focus on will be a little different.

As I sat there on the pew and listened to the comments from all of the members, my mind was flooded with all the people that we have talked to or brought to church that didn't like it because of how much English was involved in the services. Good thing we have kept good tracting records because we are GETTING THEM TO CHURCH AGAIN! :-) The spirit bore strong witness to us that this is the will of the Lord. It will be hard for some of the members (especially those that are bi-lingual) to decide where to attend, but President Emery assured them that they would receive a witness through prayer what they should do. January 17th is the first day.

OH, I don't even know where to begin! SOOOOO many amazing experiences this week! I’m sad that the Christmas time has come and gone away! I loved saying "Merry Christmas!!!" when we talked to people. “Happy New Year” just doesn't have the same meaning :-) Christmas was amazing! A LOT of food! The Spanish people celebrate "noche bueno" on the 24th more than the 25th. So we were doubled on dinner appointments that night. Of course we had investigators there :-) but oh my goodness we ate A LOT of food!!! Tamales! Yakas! From all of over the world! We gathered in celebration of the birth of the Lord with from people from Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and Puerto Rico! We tried all of their traditional foods por la navidad! It was so neat to ask them, “So what do you do in your country to celebrate Christmas?” I’m definitely going to try to incorporate them in my future Christmas celebrations.

Christmas day we were with our family…our ward family. We started off waking up early to open presents, studied in our pajamas and enjoyed a cup of “Santa soup” (hot cocoa) while studying. :-) Then we were off to have an amazing breakfast with the Calhoons. It was just so good to sit around with their family and play with their children.

Later, we went to the Hesse’s and we had an authentic Italian dinner. It is their family tradition. I love the Hesse family. Brother Hesse is half German, so we always share our common heritage. Our favorite cakes are German chocolate. At the ward Christmas party he cut me off a piece and brought it to my table to make sure I got a piece. AND…he is having a German New Years, so I’m excited! Sour kraut and sausage! He is so funny. At church he’s like; “We're having German New Year’s for you!” I’m his little blonde German granddaughter it seems like. :-) It’s amazing.

The best part of Christmas was sitting at the table with Sister and Brother Hesse and talking about the temple and the blessings of temple worship. They are temple workers. Oh, they described the celestial room of the Orlando temple and I can't wait to go!!!! Ahhhhh! But to be sitting around a table with such good saints talking about the House of the Lord was very special to me. How important it is to have the temple in the center of our home. The temple is the reason we do everything in the church. There is nothing that can bring us closer to the Lord than to make sacred covenants with Him and live them. Baptism is only the gate. I miss the temple so much. It is the one place in the world where I can go and have the burdens of life taken off my shoulders. It is where I can ALWAYS feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. We should go as often as we can. If there is any goal that anyone should have for the next year, it should be to go to the temple. Get yourself worthy and go! Heavenly father has so many blessings that he would pour on us as the “dews from heaven” from temple attendance, but it is us that keep Him from blessing us. GO GO GO GO!!!

Can you believe I only have a year left? Yikes! It is coming tooo soon and it’s going by faster and faster. It feels like it was just November first, now December is gone.

Thank you everyone for your support! All of the Christmas gifts, cards and letters. It really does mean the world to me. There is nowhere else I would rather be!

Have an amazing week! We have A LOT of work ahead of us!


Hermana Vaughan Schultz

Monday, December 21, 2009

St. Petersburg - Week 11

Oh boy oh boy, did we have the most crazy Sunday ever yesterday. From the time we woke up to the time we fell into our bed from exhaustion, it was the best day ever. You know how I said last week that we were going to do whatever it took to get Mercy to church, well, we got her to church but it took a LOT of effort. :-) But it was sooooo worth it! We woke up early, thinking that we might have to drive up to Clearwater to help her get the lady that she takes care of in the car. So we were up, and ready for the phone call. We called her, and it turns out that Satan had worked on her car over night and it didn't want it to work, so we frantically called members that would be able to drive them. What makes it harder, is that she is outside our ward boundaries, but she has to attend our ward because she only speaks Spanish To find a member, Sunday morning that is willing to drive clear up to Clearwater and be able to have room for a 94 year old woman in a wheel chair. I was about to pull my hair out, but we quietly knelt in prayer amongst the turmoil. After the prayer we knew that a way would be prepared for her to attend church, and it was! A member so willingly picked them both up. She didn't have room for the wheel chair so we had that in our car, but oh my was it so special to look behind in the rear view mirror and see them on the way to church. We could also tell that there wasn't ANY conversation in the car since the member only spoke English. Sis Murray had some good laughs on the way to church, but we were all richly blessed.

Joel is amazing. He is a friend of the Bible genius, Raul that I told you about. We actually tracted into Joel. when walking next to him as he was carrying his laundry. I asked him if he would have time to hear a message about Jesus Christ. He said, "Orita? Yo dijo, por que no?” So we sat right outside the door of his mobile home and started with a prayer. There was something different and amazing about this lesson. Not that we don't have the spirit in our lessons, but in this lesson it was particularly strong. We taught the entire lesson and I was still feeling the spirit really strong and I thought in my head, "We need to act on this." I have never done this before but I knew we needed to. Hermana Murray shared Moroni's promise and then I bluntly asked him, “Do you have these three things (spoken of in Moroni's promise)?” He very humbly said, “I hope so.” Then I said, “Let's pray right now. Will you pray (orita), to know if the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the fulness of the gospel." His hands started to shake because he was nervous, but he humbly knelt and bowed his head in prayer, and the spirit touched me in a way that I have never felt. I knew that he knew that it was true. We are teaching him again tonight, and we are really excited. We plan on giving a date for baptism and it is just so amazing to see how people are prepared. It is so amazing. God loves us soo much.

Lately we have been working with a less-active family in our ward. I can't remember how much I have told you about them, but they have been inactive for quite awhile now. Sister Murray and I have been visiting with them since I got here. She is from Venezuela, and her husband is American. They used to be so active, ward clerk, Sunday school teachers, the seemingly "perfect" couple. But after some personal events, they stopped attending. I have loved going over to their home and seeing the difference since our first visits. Sister C. has been a lot happier. Her husband even has pointed out to us that she laughs a lot more. She and I have inside jokes and I usually leave with a stomach ache from laughing so much with her. The last two visits with them we invited the Elders with us and really started to get Brother C. involved in the missionary work. He always says, "I know what I'm doing wrong, but I just keep doing it. I get ready for church in the morning, but I just sit around the house and don't go." So we have him giving our investigators rides. He doesn't speak that much Spanish, but he loves it. He needed to feel needed! This last Saturday we went over there with the elders for an authentic Venezuelan dinner. The dinner was great, but what was even better was the miracle that happened before we even got there. They have been having marital problems. It's personal and I don't need to go into details, but this is what Sis C. said at the dinner table, "I had so much fun with Tom today. We cooked together and just spent time together, and we laughed." Just that time together was so important. They were uniting in the service of the Lord and they were really excited to have us over.

Yesterday, after our hectic ordeal of getting Mercy to church, we arrived at church with about a minute to spare and still had to set up ALL of the translation equipment. STRESS!!!!! As I had my hands full of equipment and walking down the aisle, I felt a hand reach out and grab my arm, and I looked over and it was Brother and Sister C. !!! I let out a little scream and jumped almost dropping all the translation equipment. A lot of the people in the congregation laughed but I didn't even care. I was sooo happy! I put my arms around Sis. C. and gave her a big hug and shook Bro. C.'s hand. Oh it felt soooo good to look back at them in the congregation. I learned many important things from this. Lifelong principles. Members of the church need to know why they need the Savior in their lives. Bro. C. recognized it when he felt the spirit again. Also, they need to feel needed. Bro and Sis C. have united in the service of the Lord, forgotten about their previous problems and they are happier than I have ever seen them.

SERVE SERVE SERVE the Lord in whatever capacity you can. Losing yourself in serving others does "fix" the things that seem daunting in our lives. I know these things to be true. Through my service to Lord and those around me.

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, December 14, 2009

St. Petersburg Week 11


Wednesday we had our mission Christmas conference. It was so amazing! I remember just after I was baptized I went to a transfer meeting for the Everett mission and remembered how it felt to be in a room full of missionaries singing hymns. It is all the more powerful when YOU are the missionary! We had about 100 missionaries there. I had a part in the program and got to share the nativity. I also got to share my testimony. THIS IS ONLY MY FOURTH CHRISTMAS! Isn't that exciting?! I say that because this is only my fourth Christmas since I have come to know who my Savior is and why we really celebrate Christmas. There is something special about this time of year and sharing the love of the Savior with the people here in St. Pete. Everyone has this glow about them. "The Christmas spirit." They are happier and more willing to listen. Just last night, we had a couple appointments cancel, so we had and hour and a half before we had to head home. It was dark, but the streets were lit up with Christmas lights. we had planned on tracting a lighted apartment complex, because it is late and kind of a not so nice part of town, but we said a prayer and felt like we needed to tract a particular street. We knocked on one door, and as we waited for a response, we both looked at each other and said, "we need to carol." Any one that knows me, knows that I can't sing worth beans, but I had so much fun! I can't wait until Tuesday when we do it again. People were so surprised when they opened the door, then they smile and invite there children to stand at the door. One house last night was amazing. They were a family from the Philippines. They were actually singing Christmas songs when we knocked on the door. Dad was playing the guitar with mom and three daughters singing. They invited us in to join them. It was amazing. We sat on the couch and sang with them. They came here 10 years ago, and it was 6 yrs ago when they "found" Jesus Christ. In their homeland it was forbidden to be a Christian.

Just little miracles every day!

PEGGY! Oh my! I'm soooooo excited. I could not even write the words to express my feelings and experiences with her, but I'll try my best! Yesterday, we went with Sis. Bangeter to pick up the painting. Peggy greeted us with a huge smile! She and Sis. Bangeter talked a lot about paintings and all that stuff. :-) Then she invited us to sit down. Sis. bangeter said, "these girls sure have told me a lot about the painting." So Peggy stood up and went and grabbed it from the dinner table. When I saw it I had that same feeling like I was in the sacred grove and I started to tear up. So did Sis. Bangeter. She felt it as well. Peggy said, "I don't know how you got in my door, but I know that you were supposed to. I know that this is a special place I painted. I believe in miracles and I know you are supposed to be here." My heart was just burning inside. I started to express to Peggy why this painting is so special. I tried to reference everything that she said from before... "The light is like God shining down...." I said, “That that statement is true. God did appear in that very grove of trees.” I referenced how she had been confused about religion, and said that a young boy, was once confused like you and wanted to know the truth. He had the faith that God would answer his prayer, so he walked out of the back of his house, in these woods, and knelt in prayer and an amazing thing happened. God and Jesus Christ appeared to him and his question was answered. I told her that I have been to the sacred grove, and have felt how special that place is. I know without a doubt that Heavenly Father was there. Sis. Bangeter also testified and shared her feelings of being there as well. I told Peggy that the last time that we were at her home, when I saw the painting, I felt like I had walked into the sacred grove. I thanked her for that. Peggy started to tear up. The whole time while we were talking, the painting was sitting on a chair across the room, and I just kept looking at it. It is the most beautiful thing I have seen. Strong testimony was borne, and the spirit permeated the room. It was a miracle that Peggy let us in her home that day but I know we needed to be there. I feel so blessed to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. It is what I strive to do everyday, but I'm afraid I fall short a lot, so I am humbled when miracles like this happen. Ahhh, its so exciting! we left the Restoration movie with her, and next week we will teach all of the first lesson, she wants to learn. It is amazing!

Isn't it amazing to have two witnesses of the birth of Christ? Oh how special and beautiful Luke is, but also the testimony of Samuel the Lamanite as he so fiercely testified with outstretched arms on top of the wall of the city. I just recently finished an intense study of the Book of Mormon, and in the spirit of Christmas I moved to prophecies of the coming of Christ. It has strengthened my testimony sooo much, and I have realized how much I don't know. :-) Oh how I long to have been able to go to seminary when I was younger. Those years are precious. I'm having to do a lot of catch up :-) I feel close to the Savior as I have read through Luke. I try to imagine myself there, witnessing the miracles that he performed. I often wonder if I have the kind of faith that the women did who touched the hem of the Savior's robe and was healed. I love how Christ taught those that needed to hear it. Even a Pharisee asked him, (paraphrasing) why do you talk to "these" people... people being those that are troubled or sinning. (I feel bad i'm not doing this justice, but I don't have my scriptures with me). Christ responded and it applies so much to the work we are trying to do. He teaches the people that need Him, and need to know about Him. Oh so amazing! It gives me strength when I think of some of the people we talk to and an added fire to find those that Christ wants to help and that need His help.

I feel so grateful for the Atonement. I feel like the person that was indebted 500 rather 150 (Luke 7) and was forgiven of my debt. I feel a desire to testify more strongly because I feel such a strong desire to have others feel what I have felt.

Speaking of not feeling like I know anything in the Bible, we are teaching this man, Raul that we found. I have never met someone, at least Spanish, that is so literate in the Bible! The first time we taught him we sat in the middle of s shuffle board court in a trailer park. We started with a prayer and I started testifying about God (the usual first lesson start) then I asked him, "Who is Jesus Christ to you?" He asked for my Bible and immediately went to Genesis and said, “That God and Jesus Christ are two personages.” I was floored and shocked! “Golden investigator” rang in my ears and got me sooo excited! We have had two lessons with him, the last lesson was an hour, just on the spirit world. We dove into the scriptures and he likes to teach us too. I'm floored by it. The hard thing is that his Bible is a "New Era" edition, so we spend a lot of time explaining the differences and what the doctrine is and some things get lost in translation. It so amazing! I have a lot of homework to do, but I'm up to the challenge! :-)

We've had a struggle getting people to church, Especially Mercy because of the care for her patient. So next Sunday we're going to be at her door at 7 in the morning and WE ARE DOWN RIGHT DETERMINED TO GET HER TO CHURCH! Should be pretty exciting!

Well, have an amazing week! I know I will!!!

Oh, we find out transfers on Saturday,. I have a feeling that we will stay together for another transfer, but we'll see. Here's hoping! :-)

LOVE YOU! I'm going to try my hardest to get Christmas cards out today, but there are so many that some people might get them late, but hey, its the thought that counts, right?!

te querro!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz
also known as "baum-hul" that is how they pronounce it. :-)

Monday, December 7, 2009

St. Petersburg Week 10

Hola familia!!!

Wasn't the Christmas devotional amazing?! Definitely what we missionaries needed to hear! The opening prayer was one of the best I have ever heard at a conference. We watched it (in English) at the stake building in Seminole and hurried home so we weren't late.

We've had yet another amazing week. We have quite a few (brothers and sisters) on date right now, but it has been so hard to get them to church. Many of them don't have cars, and struggle with finances so much that they have to work on Sunday. They don't have a choice,. It's that or not having any food. So we try to help them the best we can. We've made food and taken it to a lot of them using our food storage and the food that we get from members. It's hard to see, and I wish we could do more to help them.

I want to tell you about Carlos and Helen. They are absolutely amazing. They are the kind of family you dream about finding on your mission. Helen is the sister of recent convert, Karen. Helen has been visiting her sister for the last couple months. We've been teaching her, and she wanted to get baptized but the only thing that was holding her back is that she wanted her husband to be taught too. We tried really hard to get missionaries to contact him in Peru. Lo and behold, who would have thought that the missionaries who would contact him would be the son of Hermano and Hermana Ross (members of our ward in St. Pete). Heavenly father has really provided a way for their family to hear the gospel. Well, Carlos has been here for a couple weeks now awaiting the birth of their new baby Angelina, but he is leaving today. That is the sad part. We taught him all that we could with the time that we have had with him. He knows it is true and wants to be baptized. He just has to leave to go back to work. He is a manager for a bank in Peru, so they are fairly decent shape financially. Every time we would stop by there home, he would grab two stools right away, and put them in front of the couch. He would be so eager to sit with his wife and listen to our lesson. The spirit was always very strong in every lesson that we taught them.

Carlos and I really connected. its interesting how that happens. He was very interested in my conversion story and how I came to know of the gospel. Every time we saw him he would have more questions for me until I finally wrote it all out for him. As we parted ways last night it was very sad. When Helen returns to Peru with her new baby in a month and a half they are going to be baptized there. They already have plans for a temple sealing. They live right down the street from the temple in Peru and have always had a "draw" to the House of the Lord. Helen and Carlos want us to be there at the sealing and we plan on keeping communication. He has turned into a father figure for us in a way. I am sooooo excited to go to Peru for their sealing when I get back! Hermana Murray and I are already planning on it!

We had our Cuban feast with Mercy and it was amazing! It was such a special evening. We arrived at her home and she had the table all set up formal, with a bunch of fruit in the middle. She asked us to sit, and said, "In Cuba, we always start a meal with fresh fruit." So she fed us fresh papaya and for the main dish we had Cuban style sweet papas, arroz negro, and a type of shredded beef that I can't even remember the name of and of course Pan de Cubano. the color of the sauce was like a fire engine red. The best part of the whole night was just sitting and listening to her talk about what life was like in Cuba for her. She had a hard life growing up, but it is interesting to see how Heavenly Father has always taken care of her and provided a way. She gave us Christmas gifts too. It is a tradition that if you invite someone over for a "formal cuban dinner" you give them a gift. So she gave us a box of chocolate. Then what was really amazing, she excitedly ran to the other room and said, with a lot of laughter, "close your eyes." Then when we opened our eyes there on the table in front of us was this adorable Santa Claus on a tricycle with a lollypop. We then had a lot of fun playing with him on the table.

I thought that I ate a lot of food at home for Thanksgiving. I have never eaten so much food in my life in one sitting then I did that night and it wasn't because I was putting any food on my plate. Mercy kept putting more and more! :-) I could have eaten four meals with what I ate. I really didn't want to offend her, so I just kept eating. Hermana Murray and I had A LOT of good laughs on our way home talking about how much our stomachs hurt and how that was the worst way to start a fast. We have some great video of it.

This is one of the reasons why I love Florida so much and the opportunity that I have to serve here. If I went anywhere else I would not be able to be engulfed in so many different cultures. We've met people from all over the world. it is amazing!

OK, this experience is very tender to me. I've shared a little bit about the situation with Li. In the last couple of weeks she has really opened up about how she is feeling. Through the experience I am about to share, it amazes me how the power that the Holy Ghost can comfort us and give us strength. We went over to Li's home. When we got there, we could tell that she was just absolutely stressed out and weathered, so we told her, we only want to make you feel better right now. So just forget about your worries, just even for 20 minutes. So we watched the Restoration DVD. I swear Satan's little helpers were poking her daughter because she was so restless, but the spirit was still there. After the movie, we asked her about the last time that we were there. Specifically, how we knelt in prayer with her, and she asked with all the sincerity of her heart if the gospel was true. We asked her how she felt about this experience. This was her response. "I felt a power. I felt confidence. I felt like everything was going to be OK." I asked her how her husband would feel if she was to be baptized and she said "Oh, he would be furious. I would be scared of him." I was so sad. she then said "I really want to be baptized, I want my daughter to be baptized, but I don't want the reason for us to separate to be because of region."

What I want to pay attention to, is that night when her husband came home. She was different. She was strong and courageous. Her situation didn't change, but she has the Holy Ghost with her. The Holy Ghost will be the greatest thing that she can have in her life right now. Having the Holy Ghost doesn't change the ability she has to pay her bills or stop her husband from his bad acts, but it does change how comforted she feels. The Holy Ghost can have the same affect in our lives. I know it has in mine, more so now than in any other time of my life. I remember the first time I recognized the Holy Ghost. I will never forget it.

I love you all! Have a good week! Sorry I can't write more!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz