Monday, February 22, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 20

Oh what a blessed week!
So much to write about... I'm going to try my hardest to get it down on...
Our numbers were a little sparse this week in the branch. Peoplewere sick, got called into work, etc. It really makes a HUGE impact when even just a few people don't show up. We had enough priesthood holders to perform the ordinance of the sacrament only after Bro. Ross had asked if worthy male priesthood holders could come forward to help with the administration of the sacrament. It made me a little sad to notice the men that didn't fall into that category. Some that have been baptized for years now, but still don't have the priesthood. We have a lot of work to do in trying to strengthen the membership. Just like our own spiritual foundation, it is the same for our little group. We need to build a strong fortified foundation within our membership so that we can sustain those new members and continue to grow with a sure foundation that Satan cant impede.
Goals – In the mission we operate on goals. Of course, we pray and seek inspiration when setting them and then we do everything in our power to meet them. Setting goals is a powerful tool. My fear, is that when we set goals, we lose the purpose behind it and look at people as numbers instead of as children of God. I have a firm testimony of this power. There are many blessings to be had by using this pattern in missionary work and in our lives. Heavenly father wants us to set goals, and do everything that we can to achieve them. he wants us to be successful. When we set goals and do what we can, we are more likely to gain His trust and to be blessed to be an instrument in His hands. I fear that in life we set our goals far shorter than what Heavenly Father would like us to. The reality is that, “I (we) can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me (us).”
Power in our heritage – The Sunday before last, one of the group members brought two of her lady friends to church. They seemed really enthusiastic and loved church. Her friend had mentioned to them that we, the church, have a center where she could do family history work. When she came up to talk to us, she expressed this desire. Very excitedly we set up an appointment with them for the following Saturday. We anxiously awaited the appointment, and on the following Saturday, met them at the church. We huddled around the computers and I asked her what information she had. She had a possible birth date and year. She also knew that this ancestor was born in Spain and moved to Cuba. There really wasn't that much information to go on. We suggested that we start with a prayer, to which they happily agreed. After the prayer, the spirit radiated in that room. You couldn't help but be touched by it. The veil was very thin. It felt like her ancestors were there guiding the very strokes of the keyboard. We spent an hour searching through the archives on the computer. We didn't find the ancestor's name, but we did find his brother! We were hot on his trail. We split up on two computers to double our efforts. As this woman and I sat at the computer, I stopped and asked, "How did you feel at church last week?" She said (in Spanish of course) "I felt really calm and peaceful." I asked her how she felt now, she said, "I feel happy and love." I bore testimony that it is because this building is sacred. It is a house of worship and prayer. I bore testimony that what she is doing for her ancestors will bring them and her eternal happiness. She knows its true! I could see it in her eyes! They are both very excited to be taught and excited to come to church next week and they really want us to come over to their home!
I cannot wait to go home and work on my family history. Doing the work for the living now makes me think so much of how the dead yearn for their work to be done and it is up to us.
The stake presidency issued four goals for our stake to participate in this next year. A daily goal, a weekly goal, a monthly goal and a yearly goal. The daily goal is to read from the Book of Mormon, pray and ponder about it. Weekly is to share your testimony at least once a week. Monthly, to go to the temple, and when that isn't possible, to do a service in preparing your family names for the temple. Yearly, to visit every person on the ward roster. Not only do you do a service to your ancestors when you do the work for them, but you are allowing so many blessings to be yours. The veil is thin and you feel so much love for your ancestors. It is amazing! Here, two amazing women that aren't even members yet, felt of that joy.
I'm running out of time! Ahhh, I really want to write about Heriberto. He is on date to be baptized this next Sunday. Also, Santiago will be baptized on the 14th. I don't even feel worthy to teach Heriberto he is so amazing!
Oh really cool too... I never noticed how much of an impact we've had in the English communities as well. We got a very amazing call last night. A white family that we tracted into a few weeks ago will be baptized in a week! Because they were English speaking, we turned them over to the Elders. It is soooo amazing!
Have an amazing week! Love you!
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 19

Todo esta bien in Sion!
What an amazing week we've had! Last week we had soooo many people on date for baptism! The most we've ever had! Sunday, we were reminded of the agency that they all have. When Sister Ross arrived at the church building Sunday morning, she seemed very concerned because a lot of our usual "attendees" for the Spanish group were not going to be able to make it. We were expecting very sparse attendance. I was really worried about it. We were supposed to have quite a few investigators coming and I was worried about the affect that would have. In the morning it just felt different, not like a normal Sunday.

None of our investigators were answering their phone. NONE! We started calls early to try and wake them all up, but none of them answered, except Heriberto. As the sacrament was starting, people trickled in. Definitely not our usual turn out. Heriberto was kind of sitting alone and didn't seem to understand it. There wasn't room for us to sit by him, so that really worried us. He hadn't been taught before coming, so he knew nothing about the church. I looked over at Sister Alva with a desperate look of, “we need to do something”. So we left the room and kept calling people. We were willing to do anything to get them there. We both decided we needed to have a mighty prayer for them. The only room that wasn't occupied was the kitchen. So we went in there and offered a very sincere prayer that our investigators would have a way provided to attend church according to their desires, and that Heriberto would be touched by the spirit and understand.

We both felt a lot better as we returned to sacrament meeting. There was a different feeling for us. The talks were of sound and simple doctrine of reading the scriptures and the priesthood! It was perfect. We glanced over Heriberto and he was more attentive. After sacrament meeting, we took him on a tour of the church building. As we were walking we came to a picture of the first vision hanging on the wall. I was overcome with the spirit. I was amazed of the power this experience has in our lives if we but let it in. I felt inadequate to be able to convey the importance of this experience. After sharing the first vision and explaining the history of Joseph Smith, he stood there and stared at the painting with amazement. For a long time nothing was said. I was praying like crazy that he would feel the spirit and know that it was true. We introduced him to the Book of Mormon and explained how it is a "fruit" from Joseph Smith and that is how we can know if Joseph Smith was a prophet. I asked him if I could share a scripture from the Book of Mormon. I turned to 2 Nephi 31:12-13. I felt so strongly that I needed to ask him if he would follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized. So I did! It was so amazing! He said, "I want to be baptized by someone that has the same authority as John the Baptist!" Holy cow! I about let out a little scream and jumped when he said that. Talk about someone that is prepared. He is getting ready to be baptized on the 27th. We asked him when we could teach him again, and he said "tomorrow!" So amazing! All the worries about the lack of attendance at church that day were gone. We were having one of the most amazing lessons we've ever had. Heavenly Father knew that we needed to focus on Heriberto.

When we taught him the next day we shared the principles of the restoration. He loved it. As we talked about the great apostasy he just nodded his head up and down in agreement with us. It was so amazing! He is staying with his recently married son. His son has a little boy. When we got there, they said, "We're not all that interested, but we're going to participate to support our dad." Well, they are interested all right! The dad pretty much bore his testimony to them without knowing it! Well, we're excited to see what happens!
The theme for the last few weeks has definitely about building a spiritual foundation. It is so crucial, and is a way of helping people come to the waters of baptism. As I have studied spiritual foundations and the faith needed to fortify foundations, it has been amazing to see the fruits.
We have been teaching Susanna and her daughter off and on for awhile, without much success. She always liked us coming over, but never took the initiative to come to church. Her 10 year old daughter loves it when we come. as I looked over past investigators, I felt like Sister Alva and I should give her a call. So we did. She seemed so excited to get the call, and we set up a time. There was a different feeling about this lesson. We started with song and prayer, and reviewed the restoration. Her mom needed to attend to her 6 month old daughter, so we were in the living room with Miley. It was so amazing. Our zone is really trying to implement using a Holy Ghost dialogue to have them understand what it feels like, and what God is trying to communicate to them when they feel it. So as I sat next to Miley, we taught her the restoration. As I related the account of the first vision, the spirit was so strong. We asked her how she felt and she said, "good" which is the usual response. Then we went to Galatians in the New Testament where it talks about the feelings of the spirit. “Are these some of the feelings that you have?” She said yes. So she recognized she was feeling the Holy Ghost. "Why do you think you feel that way?" We then turned to John 14:26 and talked about the purpose of the Holy Ghost and why we feel it. I asked her what that scripture means. She said, "It talks about truth." Then we know from these scriptures that the Holy Ghost testifies of truth." She said, "Well, if I feel this, then what we're talking about must be true. It has to be true." EXACTLY! Sister Alva and I then both bore strong witness.

So many of the people we teach feel "good" as they so describe it, but they don't know how to discern those feelings and what Heavenly Father is trying to communicate to them. We have used this method, and it works. Every time they have come out and said, "Then it must be true." When Miley's mother returned, we did the same thing with her. The spirit touched her heart and let her know it was true, and she said those words, "I know it is true!" She readily accepted a commitment to be baptized. Learning the tender feelings of the Holy Ghost is an ongoing process and is different for every person. We must always keep a prayer in our heart, and continue in prayer "in our closets" that we may be able to discern and be lead. I pray that all will feel the tender guidance of Heavenly father in their lives through the tender promptings of the Holy Ghost.

One last thing that I really want to share with you all is my strong testimony of the sacredness of the temple and the temple grounds. I feel like I talk about the temple all of the time, but it is amazing to see the influence of the temple to people who are not members of the church. The Lima Peru temple is a prominant structure in a busy part of Lima. Its influence is far more reaching than the people there know. At least 10 people that we have talked to here in Florida that know of the Lima temple and have an interest in the church because of that. The people from Lima recognize it as a special place.

Even before I was baptized, I longed to enter the temple. I knew how important and special it was just by sitting on the temple grounds. The building is dedicated, and so are the temple grounds. One of the first times I went to the temple, I sat and watched as one person after another went inside. I knew I wanted to do everything I could to get inside. I would encourage everyone to go to the temple, even just to sit on the temple grounds.
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, February 8, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 18

First of all, this has been the best week on my entire mission! It's crazy to say, because I have had some pretty amazing weeks so far!!!
First, my new companion is Hermana Alva! and she is amazing! She has been out about 14 months, so she is almost done. Two more transfers I think. Her Spanish is soooo good. I am learning so much! The day we did transfers in Tampa it was really late and we got back to our apartment at about 7:30. We threw her stuff in the room, literally, and ran right out the door because we were eager to work. We stopped by the Saldivar shop to introduce her and she shared a spiritual message. Oh man, was I just soooo excited to have her be my companion!
We have worked our... sorry to say it, BUMS off this week! We taught 8 lessons in one day and each were very powerful! I'd like to share something about one of the people we taught. Her name is Veronica and she is from Mexico and is 17 yrs old. I don't want to share too much of the personal story, but she doesn't have her close family here. They are still in Mexico. We first tracted into her a week ago. She invited us right in and we shared a message with her. She seemed so happy to have us there. We gave her a Book of Mormon. She expressed how much she doesn't know about the Bible and how she has so much difficulty understanding it as she reads. On our return visit this week we had an AMAZING lesson with her. We asked her how her reading was in the Book of Mormon. She said she felt so good as she read it. She compared it to the Bible and said, that she actually understands the Book of Mormon. She prayed before to have help from God to understand it, and gave thanks after reading it that she could! I was soooo stinking excited when she said that! We then read 3 Nephi 11 together. When we talked about authority and how Christ gave authority to Nephi, and taught the way we are supposed to be baptized, there was no confusion. We asked her if she desired to be cleansed from all of her past sins and mistakes. She started to break down and open up to us. Two weeks before we met her, she had been praying to God. She prayed for a way to feel free from her past mistakes. She wanted to know more about him. She said that she felt that "good" feeling when we knocked on her door and taught her the first time, and she knew that we were an answer from God.

Oh my goodness! How blessed I feel to be an instrument in the hands of the LORD! I feel humbled to know that even an inadequate person like myself can be some means to helping a person come more fully unto Christ and enter the waters of baptism. She has accepted the invitation to be baptized on the 28th of this month.
I have been thinking about my preparation for my mission and the things I wish I would have done, the things that have helped me the most to prepare. Especially in the last week as I have had to rely on the Lord more than I have thus far as I have felt the weight and responsibilty for the people that live in our stewardship. It is a tremendous responsibility and there is a lot of people in our care right now. The preparation I have drawn the most strength from is the temple. I was privileged before I reported for my mission to attend the temple often. By attending as often as I could (3-4 a week or more, sometimes every day of the week) I was able to memorize the words of a lot of the ordinances that are performed therein. There is Divine power in those ordinances that we cannot even comprehend in this life. Many times as I find my self unable to sleep, I recite the words of the endowment in my head.
I am at a loss of words as my heart is full and overflowing with gratitude to my Savior, for the knowledge that I have of Him. In the last few weeks I've really tried to focus my studies on Him. I have focused on the Bible and the book, "Jesus the Christ." Oh how I have drawn closer to Him. We have had a lot of our inactive and recent converts start a reading program for this month. We have asked them to read one chapter a day from Third Nephi. It is amazing to see the difference in them. The light of Christ that comes from them is brighter every time that we see them.
I love you all!!!
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, February 1, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 17

I experienced my first LDS funeral this week. I didn't even have to know the lady very well to know that she was an amazing woman. I felt the spirit of it sitting in the chapel. It was definitely different then any other funeral that I have been too. There was a sense of sadness, but people were very happy. Her husband stood at the pulpit and gave her life history. Something from it really touched me and I would just like to share that.

This dear woman had battled serious health problems for 15 years. It started when a bull shark stunned her in the rib cage. She was floating 10 feet under the water. When she got to the shore, she hugged her husband and tearfully said, "Oh thank you for pulling me out of the water. He said "I didn't, you were 20 feet away from me." She said, "I just know I felt 'familiar' hands pull me up to the surface." I felt the spirit so strongly as it bore witness to me of the redeeming power of the atonement. I loved how she said "familiar hands" pulled her from the water. I have no doubt in my mind that "someone" saved her that day. I couldn't help but reflect on my life, and how I have felt pulled from the very depths of the sea as well. Isaiah 41 verses 10 and 13 comes to mind. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
When we feel like we're "stunned" and 10 feet under water, it is really hard to hold onto that. When we feel alone we sometimes feel like there is no one there that can rescue us. Well I testify, with everything that is in me, that the Savior is there with outstretched arms. I have felt his "familiar" hands pull me from despair, from shame, from illness, from heart ache. I still feel His warm embrace now. (This is not what I was planning on writing about, but I hope it will help someone. I feel the spirit as I write this.) The power of the atonement is incomprehensible for me, but I know, that we have to do things so we can "invite" this power into our lives. First, we have to draw closer to the Savior so that he is in reach. We are the ones that move away from Him. We all know the things that we have to do to bring Him closer to us. It is an act of Faith, one that Heavenly Father expects us to do, but NOT alone! Never alone! Lastly, trust that he will grasp your hand. Trust that His hand will be "familiar" to you.
I also felt re-energized for the work after the funeral. The plan of salvation is the greatest blessing. To have this knowledge brings so much comfort. To imagine that three and a half years ago, and all my life growing up, I just thought that this life was it, and that I would never see my Auntie Posey ever again. I had some thoughts that there might be a heaven, but I really didn't know. Now, I do know. I know that there is a redeeming plan for all. A merciful plan from an all powerful Heavenly Father. He loves us so much. Central in His plan is His only begotten son Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, His plan would not be possible.

Before this life, we lived with our Heavenly Father as spirit children. I imagine families eagerly waiting together to have the opportunity to come to earth, and to experience life together. Before we came here, we accepted his plan. All those that accepted the plan of God, received bodies and came here. We accepted it, and we said, "Heavenly Father, I will do everything I can to stay pure and clean, to follow the commandments, persevere through life's troubles so I can embrace you again and live with you after this life." But he didn't send us here blindly. We have families, we have prophets, we have the scriptures to guide us. When we came to this earth, we lost the knowledge of this plan and everything that came before. I feel so blessed to have found this knowledge AGAIN in this life. But, so many people today deny the power of God, deny this plan, the plan that they accepted before they came to earth. We knew that there would be terrible things that would happen in the world, but we said we would do our best to hold true.

The other night riding our bikes home in the dark, there was a bill board in the distance. as I got closer I could read what it said. "Are you good WITHOUT God? Millions are!" It about made me sick. We are ALL children of Heavenly Father. well, needless to say, that made me testify a little bolder. :-) I love it!
I know that the sealing power in the temple is real. It can bind families together for eternity. The power to bind things on this earth and heaven is restored on the earth today.
What an amazing message this gospel is! One of hope and joy!

Sorry I didn't have any "stories" to share from this week. There sure are many to tell, but I felt impressed to write what I did. I love you all!
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz