Monday, March 29, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 24

Where to even start!?

We had an amazing Zone Conference in Tampa! I got to see Hermana Murray! Boy do I love her! It is amazing how close you become with your companions. When you work hard with one purpose in heart you can't help but grow closer together. It doesn't matter what your background or interests are, it just happens. Especially in the Lord's work. Hermana Murray and I couldn't be more opposite, but yet we're best friends! I look forward to the opportunity to serve with the other sisters here.

I was asked to speak at zone conference. Of course I had but 2 minutes to prepare, but I was humbled by the offer and grateful for the opportunity. The topic was, "The Importance of Obedience as it Applies to the Atonement." Oh boy, thats' a pretty important subject. I did my best, and these were some of the thoughts:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

At times we feel that the commandments of God hinder us from feeling true happiness, they might hinder us from partaking of what the world might think would make us happy, I testify that the commandments of God give us more happiness then we could imagine. They protect us and more than this. They purify us and with the power of the atonement, with obedience and sacrifice we can be sanctified and purified which will lead to us being endowed with power from on high. When there are more commandments given, there are more blessings to be had.

14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye in all manner of conversation;

As missionaries we are held to a higher standard. If we truly wish to be instruments in the hands of the Lord, we must live it with exactness. The thoughts that I have had since I was in the Mission Training Center came to mind as I stood at the pulpit. We are as pottery clay in the hands of the Lord. If we truly wish, we can be molded into the "missionary" that the Lord wants us to be. Then comes the trial of our faith that is more precious then anything else, that Christ may fire us in His furnace. We only need to have the Faith in Him that he will not let the temperature reach that which we cannot overcome. I have a testimony of the purifying power of the atonement. It is real and it can heal us through the blood of the only begotten son. He who was the only perfect person to walk the Earth. Our perfect example in all things.

19 But with the precious of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

We need to be Holy. Representatives of Him. Following the commandments that are set before us as missionaries is only setting the foundation for the rest of our lives. Our choices now will effect everything. I love the Lord with all my heart. I love Him for the person I am being molded into. I testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

I look forward to Zone Conference every transfer. it is ALWAYS an edifying experience.

I don't think I have ever been quite so exhausted in my life as I have in the last week and I LOVE it! The work is EXPLODING and I feel so humbled and blessed to be a part of this exciting time here! We wake up extra early and get home extra late. our agendas are full and bursting at the seams with people to teach. We don't even have the time in the day to teach all of them! We haven't had studies in a week and a half because we haven't had the time to. I feel so blessed! I just hope that we can live worthy enough to be lead to help these people to continue in the gospel. Amazing families!

One of which is Humberto. He is an amazing father of four kids. He also has an amazing wife. We met him tracting in a mobile home park off of Gulf to Bay in Clear Water. it was nearly dark and we were walking out of the park (not a real safe place to be after dark). As we were passing him we started a conversation with him. Oh, how amazing he is! I would just like to share a few things that he expressed to us that have had a sincere impact on me.

We have talked to him many times, usually ending up in a 30 min conversation standing outside his home. He really enjoys talking to us and we really feel blessed to talk to him. Something kind of made me sad the last time that we talked to him. He is one of the most humble Christ-like people I have ever met in my life. He loves the Lord with all of his heart. but he said, he is "stuck" where he is in his life. He came to this country for his children to have a better start in their lives than he did in his. But he can't go anywhere. Everyday he wakes up, goes to work ALL day, every day, and that is his life. He always makes sure that he gives his time to the Lord and attends mass Sunday evenings. He ALWAYS makes time for his family. He says, "I don't drink, our family doesn't go around to the parties like other families. If we have time, we go to the beach together, or maybe a restaurant."

Humberto is LDS and he doesn't even know it. I was sad when he expressed how he felt "stuck." It has had a large impact on me as I look at where I have been in my life and where I want to go. The family that I want to have, the ability I have had to go to school and get an education. I am fighting back tears now as I think about how much I love the people here, for the example they are to me. I've never met more wonderful people in my entire life. I feel honored to be instrument in the Lord's hands to bring them the Gospel. I just hope I don't mess it up! :-)

They call Florida the sunshine state for a reason! If you looked at the very bright red sun burnt skin that I have you would know too! :-) A two and half hour walk during the hottest part of the day will do it to you! Long story, but, I love Florida! You can snap your fingers and the weather has changed! The next day it poured all day! Today its cold, I don't understand! :-)

Eddy has the priesthood! Oh my goodness! I am so proud of him! He is so amazing. As I look at how much he has changed, I know that much more that the atonement is real. Only the atonement can really change us. The Relief Society room was almost full this week! We'll be in the chapel in no time! :-) Rebecca and Jessica will be baptized this next Friday! Oh I am so excited for them! I'll write more about them next week!

Love you all!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, March 22, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 23

Hola! I have a new email account! Please share it with everyone, because I lost my email list with the change. Thanks dad for figuring it all out! This Thursday at conference I don't have to get in trouble by president now for not having it changed. :-)
I don't know where to even start with this absolutely miracle filled week we have had. I am bursting with excitement and joy to think that the next week can be even better! :-)
I'll start with the reason I think why this week has been better then any other. PROJECT PURIFICATION. This last Sunday as a zone we had a fast to start our project purification. It is a 40 day “fast”. We all fasted on the last Sunday, while doing so, we created a list of things that we thought impeded us from having the spirit with us more abundantly and could get in the way from the tender promptings of the spirit. It was one of the most spiritually uplifting fasts I have ever had. I had long conversations with my Heavenly Father regarding the things He wants me to do better, to become the missionary He wants me to be. My lists seemed rather long, so I chose a few that I really wanted to focus on.

I have felt the spirit pour over me as the dews from heaven as I have focused on those particular things. Whether they are distractions, faults that I have, and especially fear. I have felt a change and I have seen a change. In the last week, I cant wait to have the opportunity to read the scriptures. Even if I am utterly exhausted, I get out of the car quicker to start tracting and talking to people. I have a new fire and excitement for the work that I haven't felt the entire time on my mission. It is amazing! It is a testimony to me that Heavenly Father has so many blessings that he is eagerly waiting to pour out upon us. It is us that impede them. I think every one should do this... fast and pray to know the things that Heavenly Father would want you to change in your life, and have the faith that he will help you. It won't always be easy. I've spent a lot of time on my knees, but the blessings are a 100 fold!
We are really low on miles this month, so HELLO biking! It has been wonderful, and it is a great contacting tool. You talk to a lot more people that you usually would just drive by. Well, on a day we biked nearly 30 miles, we rode to Heriberto in South St. Petersburg from Pinellas park. :-) So fun! But when he saw us ride our bikes... it was so funny... he is like our grandpa. He randomly calls us to make sure we are okay. That night he called us and left a message. "Call me when you get home so I know you are okay." He is so wonderful. My heart has been filled with so much joy as I have seen him grow in the gospel, especially last week when we helped him prepare for his Aaronic priesthood interview. Heriberto received the Aaronic priesthood this Sunday. I was sitting at the piano playing the prelude music at the beginning of sacrament. As I saw him walk in the room with white shirt and tie, I felt a sense of Joy that I cannot describe in words that brings tears to my eyes even now.
Antonio! Oh my goodness, he is from my first week on the mission. He is a testimony to me that you never give up on someone, unless the spirit directs you to. I have felt a connection to Antonio that has never let me give up on him, and it has payed off. He is the first person I shared the account of Joseph Smith's experience in the sacred grove. I shared this account with him on his door step. He is the one that said I spoke really good Portuguese. I have called him at least two times every week trying to keep in contact with him, inviting him to church, trying to see if he has time, but it was ALWAYS something, but we never wanted to give up. Since Sis Alva came here, we kept trying to contact him. AND HE FINALLY CAME AROUND!!! Oh my! I am sooooooo excited! Last transfer, he answered the phone, and we invited him to church like usual, and something was different. He seemed really excited to come to church, and lo and behold, to make sure that happened, we just happened to be at his front door bright and early so that he could follow us. :-) Work and schedule conflicts made it so he couldn't come until this last week and he brought his friend, which was an amazing surprise.

Something was different about Antonio. He had a light around him and a new "fire" to learn about the gospel. We also had three other investigators at church, so Sis. Alva and I had to go on splits with two other members of the ward to teach them during Sunday school. I was privileged to teach Antonio and his friend who is from Brazil as well. This was one of the most amazing lessons that I have had on my mission. The spirit was so strong as we stood in front of the picture of Christ giving his apostles the priesthood authority to act in His name and establish His church. The spirit of revelation was there teaching, not me. I don't know how to describe it, but I know it is because of the purifying power of the atonement. That is how our internal vessel, slowly can be cleansed from the inside little by little to illuminate around us. There is a scripture that is about that in the Alma, but I can't remember the reference. I must be a bad missionary right now, I don't have my scriptures with me. :-)
Oh, the elders in Clearwater talked to the same lady that we did last week. You will remember that I referred to her as being an "anti-Christ" so to speak. They too had an interesting experience with her. I still just can't comprehend how you could read the bible and not believe that Christ is our savior. It is by reading the scriptures that we become close to him. We learn His voice and become familiar with it. We can become as familiar with the voice of the Lord as a child is that hears the beckoning call of his or her mother. As I have prayed to understand more of the calling that I hold as a missionary, I have realized the importance of being able to hear His voice. That this work is about saving souls. Each one of us as a member of His Gospel, of His fold, has a responsibility to save souls. to reach out and help. I would exhort every person, to pray for the ability to hear his voice as he calls to those that are lost.

As Sister Alva and I have worked to purify ourselves, the missionary opportunities have exploded even more so than before. In two days we placed 8 Book of Mormons while tracting and set 6 dates for baptism. In every one I felt lead by the hand of the Lord. This is His work and our opportunity to help. This is my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, March 15, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 22

I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST! I am so grateful for the knowledge of my Savior and that He lives! He lives!

For the first time on my mission, I encountered someone who doesn't believe in faith or Jesus Christ and openly used the Holy Bible to justify her thoughts and opinions. We were tracting in what I like to call "Mexico City." it is FULL of Hispanic people mostly from Mexico! It really is like you are in Mexico. It was a hot day and we tracted for about four and a half hours. We walked up to this home, and two African-American children were outside playing. They excitedly ran in the house to get their Aunt. She came out and I could see that she is about our age; very young. We asked if she had some time where we could share a message.

Out in the hot sun we sat there for 30 minutes talking to her. She knew her Bible. it was impressive. but I just didn't feel the spirit that strongly. The conversation turned as she used the very Bible that testifies of Jesus Christ as our Savior, of His atonement, and used it to justify that He is not our Savior. I was dumfounded. I didn't know what to say or respond to her. I thought in my head, “What could we say right now? What would the Savior say to her if He were standing here.” Then I just opened my mouth and the Articles of Faith is what started to come out. The same articles of faith that I have never been able to memorize. It was amazing for two reasons, one, that my mind could remember them :-) and two, how powerful those simple truths are. I could list off all of the crazy things that she came up with but it is not necessary.

I would like to share the things that I thought about as I listened to her. Every day we face people in this war in heaven that would like to "quitar" or take away from our faith. When she said, "I don't see how a man, dying on a cross, could take away our sins." When that slightest, "what if..." comes into my head, immediately I try to remember what it feels like in the temple. I imagine myself sitting in the celestial room dressed in white and the wonderful truths that we learn there. There is so much power that we can gain for the covenants that we make. I know that my Savior will be on the other "side" with arms stretched out, I just hope and pray that I will be prepared and ready. I KNOW that he is there.

How important is the foundation that we create for ourselves. I read recently Elder Wirthlin's talk, "Come What May and Love It." Such a simple but strong principle.

Santiago was baptized!!!!!!!!!! Woohooo! Bro Bangeter was the one that did his baptismal interview, and yesterday we went to their home for dinner. He said, "I've met very few people as humble and prepared as Santiago to be baptized." Santiago more then any one I have seen be baptized really understood the commitment that he was making. He is 21 years old and grew up in Mexico. He has an uncle that is a member and would always invite his family to church, but they never went. He is here alone and has four cousins that he is living with, but that is it. We tracted into him just at the end of the last transfer. We taught all of them, but only Santiago was interested. Since then he has gotten a lot of grief from his cousins, especially with his decision to be baptized. However, he is already preparing for his mission. He can't wait to get the priesthood and he is an example for his entire family. His mother said "You know what you are doing." There is this light about him. He shared his testimony at his baptism. It was very strong and powerful. He said that he knows that this decision will change the rest of his life. That he has a new life now with the Savior. I was overcome with the spirit and it was hard to keep back tears. I love this work with all my heart. Santiago just needed to be found. He was prepared. The Lord opened His heart. Now he will be a fighting force for Christ.

Remember Eddy? Oh he is so amazing! Recently, he has been ill. Without insurance it has been weighing heavily on him and he has a lot of fear. We visited him last week and he shared his concerns. Immediately we called some of the group members that live in Palm Harbor. (Prior to this, we had asked Eddy to share his testimony in church, but he always says its not good enough. We asked him to say the prayer for Heriberto baptism. He said he wasn't ready, but he promised to say the prayer at the next baptism. Just side note.) On Friday he received a priesthood blessing. and something definitely changed in him. He said the opening prayer yesterday at the baptism for Santiago, but what floored me, is that he stood up and bore his testimony while Santiago was changing. He bore strong testimony, the strongest I have ever seen from him. There was this added light around him. He said, "I've never seen the prophet or heard him, but I've read his words, and I know he is a prophet of God." How simple and pure is that? As it says in the Book of Mormon in the words of Christ, “how much greater was their faith that believed, but had never seen the Savior.” Tears ran down my cheeks as I looked at Eddy and have seen the hand of the Lord in his life. He has had a change of heart.

I want to thank every one for their prayers. It has been a couple difficult weeks as I have had some health issues, but I have felt the prayers of many. Thank you!

"No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing"

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, March 1, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 21

Heriberto is baptized!!!! Woohooooo! It was the happiest day ever! We're still on cloud 9. Finding someone that prepared to be baptized is what every missionary dreams of! A little about his story. He is from Puerto Rico, the cutest little old Puerto Rican grandpa I've ever met! He used to live in Jersey where he coached a youth baseball team and moved down here to live with his son. Just an amazing man! Well, we tracted into him at the second day of the transfer I think, but I called him that next Saturday (he gave us his info) and invited him to church. The day of his baptism we visited him and he said that when we called he felt the spirit and felt like he needed to come to church. That's when we had that amazing lesson with him and we committed him to baptism. It has been one amazing lesson after another with him.

Heriberto's family has some interest in the gospel. His grandson Tido is very interested. He is nine years old and the smartest nine year old I have ever met! We taught him the plan of salvation once, and the next time he taught it all back to us completely, with every detail! I couldn't even do that after 3 weeks in the MTC!!! The next day at school, he said he was sitting at lunch, and his friend was saying that he doesn't believe in God, so this 9 year old little boy said, "There is a God, and he has a plan for us..." He then TAUGHT HIM THE WHOLE PLAN OF SALVATION!!! probably better then we can! That is so amazing! Talk about a child's faith. Tido has a lot of physical handicaps. He has some chromosomal disorders and is legally blind, but he is the most faithful boy I've ever met. He says "I don't know what I would do or where I would be with out God and Jesus Christ in my life." Oh what this world would be like if everyone had the faith of this little boy.

The Latino society and culture has really been struck this last week. With the earthquakes in recent months, the most recent in Chile, there has been much conversation about whether there really is a God, and why would He allow this to happen. I dove into to scriptures in recent days trying to find an explanation of why these things happen. My mind was drawn to scriptures that I hold dearly as I have served the Lord, such as Mosiah 25:7-11.

7 And now, when Mosiah had made an end of reading the records, his people who tarried in the land were struck with wonder and amazement.
8 For they knew not what to think; for when they beheld those that had been delivered out of bondage they were filled with exceedingly great joy.
9 And again, when they thought of their brethren who had been slain by the Lamanites they were filled with sorrow, and even shed many tears of sorrow.
10 And again, when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and of abondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.
11 And again, when they thought upon the Lamanites, who were their brethren, of their sinful and polluted state, they were filled with pain and anguish for the welfare of their souls.
As I ponder these scriptures, it doesn't necessarily answer the question, "Why does God allow these things to happen?" But it does address why we feel what we feel. In these four verses there is a very interesting pattern. The people that were persecuted so much, brought down to the depths of their faith had every reason to feel turmoil and anguish. But you will notice that as their thoughts changed to focus on the blessings they have received, they felt joy. We may never know why certain things happen in our lives. We will all have trials. Every one of us. But how we feel and what we do to overcome them solely relies on us. We too can feel joy and comfort as we are found, "wading in deep water.” We too can have the very burden lifted from our backs that we cannot feel them if we but turn to the Lord. If we always seek for the "why" we will miss the opportunity we have to grow closer to God and rely on him.

I have found these principles to be true, especially in the last week. One of the families that we are teaching, have a 16 year old daughter Rebecca who was in a car accident where her friend was killed. Yesterday, as we went to visit her and walked through the mobile home park, there was a sadness and heaviness there in the hearts of the people. They didn't have the "hope" of the gospel and understanding of the plan of redemption. We had just taught the plan of salvation to Rebecca and her sister the day before the accident. I'll explain more next week, but we can find joy through turmoil. push the fear aside and hold fast! Always! This is my testimony.

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz