Monday, January 25, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 16

Hola familia!
What an amazing week!
Second week in the branch and we had the baptism of EDDY! Yayayayay!!!! It was so amazing! More than anyone we have taught before, I saw the atonement work in his life. He is a completely different person than when we first met him. He is happy. The last lesson we taught him before his baptism was on the temple. Dad, your letter was inspiration, because that is what we shared with Eddy (Doctrine & Covenants Section 109). He loved it. By the end of the lesson he couldn't wait to go to the temple. He lived in Canada for about three years and he said he always saw this big beautiful building up on a hill and always wondered about it. He knew it was a special place. When he put two and two together, that was the temple. When we told him that in a year he could go inside, he was so excited he threw his hands up in the air and was like, "Oh, I'm going!" :-) The Lord had been preparing him long before we even came into the picture, like everyone else that we have come into contact with.
Some mobile home parks are kind of "scary" more then less. We don't really go into the 55 and older parks. Most people say, "Don't you know that there is no soliciting in here?!" We assure them that we are not selling them anything. What we have to offer is free! :-) The elders just taught and baptized this amazing couple. Well, they just happened to be the managers to this HUGE mobile home park! She just happened to have a map of the whole park AND knew every house that was Spanish. so the map she handed us had highlighted marks on those homes. :-) So yesterday after church, we went to those homes and now have five families that want to be taught! Isn't that amazing?! We had a lady that same day say, "You know we could call the managers and have you kicked out!" I just chuckled inside. :-) Ironically, we were on our way to have cookies and milk with the managers. :-)
I'd like to share a few things that I learned this week at our Zone meeting on Wednesday. The theme was obedience. We used our "white hand book clarifications list" and had an "open table" discussion about obedience. Of course there was a little laughter, about talking of previous "goofs" or what not. We talked about how we need to follow everything in the white hand book because it will bless us with more baptisms and success. As they were all talking about this, I just bowed my head down and said a little prayer. I had an overwhelming feeling. What they were saying, was all really good, but I couldn't get the temple out of my mind. Specifically, the covenants that we make in the temple. I know the white hand book is inspired of God, but there is more now that we are trying to live up to. When there are more commandments, if we obey, then comes more blessings. So I raised my hand, and shared my feelings and thoughts about the temple. These are some of the things that I said (paraphrasing). "As we talk about these rules that we have, I can't help but think about the temple. The covenants that we make and the higher laws that we are held to. We have the white hand book to carry around to remind us of the "rules" of the mission, but we carry more than that with us. We have a daily reminder of our temple covenants. This (the mission) is the closest opportunity that we will have in our lives to live the law of consecration. This time is to refine us to be who Heavenly Father wants us to be. It is the same purpose that we give our investigators commitments to progress and repent. This is our opportunity to become what Heavenly Father wants us to be. We do everything for the temple."
Con Amor,

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 15

Many people in our mission have been affected by the tragedy in Haiti. It is very sad. I haven't heard word from Sister Petit regarding her family there. Our house is by the coast guard airport. They have been constantly coming and going since the earth quake. Prayer is very important in times like this. Sometimes its the only thing that we can do.
I truly am in awe and at a loss of words to try and even describe this last week. I have grown more and "found" the Lord more in the last week than in any other week on my mission. There ar two experiences I wish to relate to you, one full of anguish and another the greatest joy I have ever felt in my mission.
Some of the most precious spiritual experiences I have had have been while testifying to and teaching Georgia. I have grown to love her so much and have gotten so close to her. There has been a special spiritual bond I cannot describe. I was the first person she ever prayed out loud with in her life. The last time we were at her home teaching her, we could tell by the spirit that she was closing her heart. Sister Murray and I both felt that we needed to testify boldly about the need for a restoration and about authority. It is the boldest I have ever been. "Georgia, you know that I love you, and this is why we're here. We are not here just to help people become better or feel good. We were sent as missionaries to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that people can have eternal life and return to live with Heavenly Father." She insisted that she felt the spirit when she was baptized previously. I testified again that in order to be baptized, that the person needs to have been given that power from God by the power of the Priesthood. We left Georgia a little frazzled, but I felt very sustained by the spirit in every thing that we said.

The morning before our next visit with her, Sister Murray and I were planning, and said, “What can we teach Georgia today?” I thought and thought, then the talk from the last General Confernce by Elder Tad R. Callister about Joseph Smith came to mind. So we decided that it would be good to read it with her. When we came to her house it was very different then before. Her husband wasn't as pleasant with us and Georgia was acting a little different. She invited us in. We sat at the table, had an opening prayer and then I said that we had something that we wanted to read to her. So I pulled it out and started reading. Many things in this talk addressed every doubt that Georgia had. She said, "So what you are telling me, that I was pretty much just dunked in water before, because this person didn't have authority?" We calmly said, "In order to be baptize, the person must have the authority given to him from God. Then we went the rounds of, “Well how do you know.” At this point we knew that she was closed but I felt like I should keep reading.

The next part was about how God the Father and His Son are two separate beings. That really got her. This concept wasn't an issue before. In our prior meetings, we would address her concerns with the scriptures and the doubt would be taken care of. But now that her heart was closed it wasn't possible. Georgia kindly and sweetly let us know that we were always welcome in her home, if we ever needed anything we could call. She said she has prayed on it and feels that God is pleased with her choice not to continue with the missionary discussions, but she openly acknowledged that she feels the spirit when we are there.

I had the biggest ball in my throat. :-( I was so sad that I felt like my heart was ripped out. We asked if we could have one last prayer. She said it. She thanked God that he placed us in her way. After the prayer, under her breath and tearfully said, "Why didn't I just shut the door like I usually do." We got up and Hermana Murray gave her a hug. I just stood there. She then walked up to give me a hug. I always have given her a huge bear hug and she always comments on it. She gave me a hug. Then buried her head in my shoulder and started crying. She said, "If I hugged you as hard as a I want to right now I would hurt you." She then stood and said some very sweet things about me and what she thought about me. I had a smile on my face, but I was really hurting inside. With a tearful glance as Sister Murray and I rode our bikes away the tears really started to come down.

We rode down the street and pulled into another street and parked. I kind of started pacing and praying to Heavenly Father. All I want from Heavenly Father is to find one family that will except the gospel with all their heart and be sealed in the temple.  We had a mighty prayer together, then I took a few steps and said "Hermana, let's go find a family to baptize." We wiped away the tears, worked fervently, and not 45 minutes later we found another family that is ready to except the gospel! Heavenly Father pours His blessings on us if we but ask and have the faith that we can receive it. I felt the dews of Heaven pouring out over me!...
We have been working as hard as we can getting the branch ready. Visiting the numerous inactive members, tracting, inviting, and getting less active members excited! Sunday morning I must have been lacking in faith, because I was really worried and nervous that not that many people were going to come. We heard that some of the solid Spanish members in St. Petersburg ward decided not to transfer to the branch. I was so worried that we wouldn't have enough priesthood holders. We got there early to get everything set up. We were in the relief society room for services. It is a large relief society room. This particular stake center is the biggest model that the church builds. We had all the chairs set up and anxiously awaited the arrival of the members.

I stood by the stake presidency translating as we welcomed people in. Ten minutes before the start of services, I peered in the room and there was only about 8 people. For a moment, those feelings of despair that I had that morning crept in. So I said a silent prayer that Heavenly Father would prepare a way for those that wanted to attend to be able to make it. Well, I did have a lack of faith. I leaned over and asked the 2nd counselor. So how many is the stake presidency expecting. He shrugged his shoulders and said 25 would be good. I felt the pressure, but oh my... I went into the room to get the organ ready (apparently I'm the music person now. Funny how that works out :-) … good thing it is electric) as I stood up and greeted more people, I watched as one person after another came into the room. The same counselor came and stood by me and asked me, "So how are you feeling right now?" I was overcome by the spirit. My heart was full of so much gratitude for Heavenly Father I thought it was going to burst. I leaned back and couldn't even speak a word. I think the tears let him know. that room was not only filled with the spirit, it was filled with faithful Saints!

As I watched active families, less actives and many inactive people come into the room, I can't even describe how it felt. I poured out my heart to Heavenly Father thanking him. Everyone had a huge smile and was so eager to worship! We had 59 Spanish members in attendance and 3 investigators that have a date for baptism. One will be baptized next Sunday, and that one is Eddy from Cuba! :-) I am so grateful to be blessed with this opportunity to serve them. I want to earn the trust of these members and let them know that we work as hard as we can. Relief Society was in the High Council room. They are some of the most faithful women I have ever heard. Many of them coming from South America they have such amazing stories of how they have found faith. They even asked me to share a little bit about my story. I experienced a first in relief society. I was having to translate from Spanish to English!!! That is soooo cooooolllllll!!!!!!!
There is one women that I'd like to write about real quick. she is an amazingly strong woman. She is a returned missionary and I could tell she was a little skeptical towards us at first. She kind of gave me the, "Are these sisters hard workers? Should I trust them? Stand offish." look. I could tell she was watching me like a hawk and wouldn't really say anything to me. After I stood up and told a little of my story and bore my testimony she gave me a little grin. I was surprised. During our amazing potluck supper after our services, she came over by me and looked at my name tag. She wanted to know why I had two names. So I told her. :-) She smiled more. Hermana Murray showed her our planner. She commented on how we were really busy and teaching A LOT of people. She smiled at me. Slowly we have gained her trust. It was amazing. She will be instrumental in the branch. She's having us over for lunch on Friday. Oh how amazing this work is!!!
con amor,
Hermana Vaughan Schultz

Monday, January 11, 2010

Semana Magnifico! St. Petersburg Week 14

I love love love being a missionary! Love it! It is really hitting me this week. The other day I woke up from a dream crying. In the dream I had flown home, and was sitting in President Southworth's office. I remember feeling so sad to be sitting there. All I had running through my head is all of the people that I had taught. Those that accepted the Gospel and those that didn't. I also saw many people that I have never seen before. In the dream I was removing my name tag, then I woke up. I thought it was so real, and I woke up devastated like it was all over and that I wasn't a missionary anymore. I was pretty shook up, but I soon realized as I opened my eyes. I AM STILL A MISSIONARY! Whew! I have definitely worked with a little more energy since this dream. Both Hermana Murray and I have been working very hard this week, and boy have the blessings poured out upon us!

We had an amazing conference this week in Sarasota. It was for the Spanish speaking sisters. There are only 12 of us. We won't get any more sisters for 6 more months. President kind of threw this together last minute. It was absolutely the funnest day ever. We were picked up early by the AP's and the Tampa sisters and we had the long drive south. My stomach hurt all day from laughing!!! The conference gave us all the opportunity to share things that have worked and not worked as far as language, companionship unity, finding, teaching and baptizing. We have an amazing group of sisters! Just rock stars! I am so excited to serve with them. Sister Petit and I will be the youngest sisters for the next 6 months. I came away from this conference absolutely excited for the work and completely re-energized. I especially got a new fire for study techniques and ideas. It is sometimes hard to sit for three hours and stay completely focused, so I am REALLY excited for studies next week!

The work is exploding! Since Hermana Murray and I have sacrificed a little "fiesta" time to go that little extra mile, blessings have been poured out upon us like we never expected!!! Right now we have 6 amazingly solid people on date for baptism. We will work ever so hard and diligent to make sure that Satan does nothing to stop those from happening. A new excitement and enthusiasm has started in the Spanish members as we prepare for the new branch. Many of them are eager to help us with lessons and visiting less active members. I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW MANY INACTIVE PEOPLE ARE HERE!!! It is just amazing. Many of them are coming to activity again because of the new branch. it was just so difficult for them to attend church and feel edified because they didn't understand the language (English). Families are now excited to attend the branch. We have gotten so many referrals from visiting these inactive members that we literally don't have enough time to get them all visited! It is amazing! Just yesterday we had to do a lesson ON THE PHONE while driving in between appointments, and it was amazing!

The most amazing thing by far on the mission is to see people change. My eyes have been opened to a new understanding of the atonement as I watch others apply it in their lives. I don't understand how it works but it does. Eddy is the most amazing example of this. We have been teaching him since the first part of the first transfer. At the time, his family was chaotic and not very happy. He liked it when we came over, but he wasn't very patient with my struggles with the language and he kind of ignored me. We had him committed to baptism for the 17th of December, but he said he wasn't ready. He said for him to be a Mormon he would have to read ALL of the Book of Mormon. Slowly and slowly and little by little we have seen a change in their family as a whole, and a HUGE change in him. We visited them before Christmas and it was the happiest I have seen their family. In the following lesson with Eddy, we had planned on teaching him about family and the blessings from the gospel. He has been having struggles with his family from Cuba and with his health, so he was really not in the mood to talk about family. So instead, as I held the Liahona in my hand, I searched in the topics for something that might help him as Sister Murray was talking to him. I found a discourse about covenants and the strength we gain from them. Perfect!!! As we read he just kept nodding his head up and down, agreeing with everything. It was amazing. He started to have a little bit of a smile on his face. By the end of the talk he seemed so much calmer and relaxed. He said "this guy (the author of the discourse) knows what he is talking about". In my head I was thinking, "It is amazing the power the Lord's servants, the apostles, have in bearing witness and teaching with the Holy Ghost." Eddy said the closing prayer, and he thanked Heavenly Father for us, the lesson we taught and that he feels a lot better now. We parted ways and Hermana Murray and I were jumping up and down as we ran to our car for our next appointment.

We met with eddy again this week, and we couldn't believe the change! He was an entirely different person as we talked to him. He sat eagerly on the couch waiting for us to start the lesson while we said hello to his family. He sat at the edge of the couch intently listening to everything we had to say. He expressed some concerns in the last visit that has been keeping him from baptism. We never got to teach him about tithing. He has been having trouble with his immigration papers and needs money for it. Money he doesn't have. He knew he had to pay tithing, but he thought tithing meant that he would have to pay 1/10 of everything he had ever gotten. and he was afraid he wouldn't be able to do his immigration papers AND pay tithing. Oh he has so much faith. Needless to say, after we cleared up this little misunderstanding, he was pretty much telling us what day he is going to be baptized. :-) He is soooooooooooo happy!!!! Sooooo happy! What gave him the strong testimony was that he was reading that conference address in the Liahona from one of our beloved apostles. He has a very strong testimony of priesthood and authority. I know that only through the atonement could Eddy have this change. He is a new person. I truly have come to know that the atonement of Jesus Christ really can heal without a scar.

The more I understand the atonement and learn and apply it, the more I want to share, just like Lehi. On my planner this transfer I have wrote "Be as Lehi.” At every door I testify more boldly and take every opportunity I can to teach and testify. I would challenge any person that if they have but the slightest desire to share the gospel and are afraid, study the atonement of Jesus Christ. As you apply it and feel it work in your life, you can't help but want to share. I have never repented more in my life as I have as a missionary and it is amazing.

Have a wonderful week everyone! Te querro!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

We just had our last week of English services. Yay!!!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 13

Hurrah for Israel!
Oh are we ever busy trying to get everything ready for the new Spanish branch! It is coming up quick. We've spent a lot of time searching through church records finding in-actives and less-actives and visiting them. Many of them have renewed interest in the church because they can now worship in their own language. The new branch really is inspired from God. As we have visited with the members, we have been made aware of what this change will cause. Many of the Spanish members have children. Usually their children speak Spanish and English and feel many attachments to the wards that they are in. We are doing all that we can to try and help them with the transition. We reassure them that Heavenly Father will answer their prayers on what action they need to take. It is humbling to me to see how faithful these members are. Many of them haven't had the same opportunity that we get to understand everything that is spoken on Sunday. They really have to be in tune with the spirit to feel that edification. It is possible. Some of the most powerful testimonies that I can remember before my mission were when people bore their testimony in another language. I know this is going to be a great blessing for all.
It is cold! I know it is colder in Washington, but it is really cold here. I just got used to the heat, now I'm freezing! We're biking at least 10 miles a day and walk a lot! With skirts... Need I say more? ;-) When my feet are cold, I look down I try to imagine the Savior and the shoes he walked in and how he told his disciples that they need not take more then is necessary. They were to wear sandals. When I look at my bicycle and grudgingly think, uhhh, 5 miles... I think of the donkey that Jesus rode, or the 60 miles he walked to find John the Baptist. Needless to say, it isn't as cold after I think of those things :-)
We had an amazing lesson with Peggy yesterday! Oh it was just amazing! the Lord has been preparing her. We talked about other religions for awhile. She has a lot skepticism towards other religions and is kind of against organized religion. She was born and raised catholic. She is a very wonderful spiritual lady. When we saw her she lovingly welcomed us right in. She has watched the restoration DVD. She said, "It was like a good Bible story." we asked questions, and as she described how she felt, she described the confusion that Joseph Smith had. I quickly got my scriptures out and shared Santiago 1:5. I mean James 1:5. I bore testimony on how we really can receive answers from Heavenly Father. that there are people out there that want to deceive us. That is why we need to go to Him. God is not a God of confusion.

I could tell something had clicked for her. I shared Second Timothy with her about the apostasy and explained the significance of that and why we needed a restoration. It was a great conversation and I felt the spirit very strongly. There are some things she said that really stuck with me. She said, "Well, you two are such sweet girls, that your church can't be all that bad." :-) She also expressed how good she feels when we are there. We are planning on a lesson again with her. we're going to paint with her. She is very excited. She said we'll take over the kitchen :-) I still am amazed every time we go over there how strong the spirit is. I put the picture that she painted across from the table I study at so that every day it is a reminder, not only of the restoration but of how important it is to follow every impression. As we were getting ready to leave I noticed a new painting on her wall. She painted a picture of the grove for herself. :-) So for the rest of her life she will have a reminder of it for her. This church is true! :-)
I'm thinking of all of the amazing things that have been happening, I just don't have the time to write it all!
I hope everyone had a safe and Merry Christmas! I love you all! Thank you everyone for the gifts, love and support!
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz