Monday, April 26, 2010

Hasta Luego St. Petersburg!

HERE I COME FORT MEYERS a.k.a. Rio Vista! It is about a 3 hour drive south from here and I hear it's like you are in a whole different country! It is called the “language zone.” There are no English missionaries, only Haitian Creole and Spanish! It is going to be a HUGE change from St. Pete! HUGE!!! But I'm soooooooo excited! Sis Baum will be my new companion. She is amazing! I met her brother in the MTC, and just hearing about her, I've wanted to be her companion since I got here. She is a HARD worker! So we're going to tear it up! :-)
Seven and a half months in St. Pete makes this really like my home. I didn't realize how much I had come to love the people here, until I had to start saying good bye. I realized that this will likely be the last time I see a lot of them for the rest of my life. I am tearing up just writing this.
I can't believe how much this area has grown! At interviews with President Colton I talked to him about how we felt a little overwhelmed with the amount of people we were teaching, and with all those still waiting to be taught. So we talked about adding another set of missionaries in the area and how it should be split up and what not. So, that's what they are doing. St. Pete will have TWO sets of sister missionaries!!! Now it will really grow!!! The members are sooooo excited! I love it!!!!
Virginia showed us how to make flour tortillas! They are so good! She is doing so amazing and is staying so strong in the gospel! I feel so blessed to have been able to be a part of so many people's conversions and helping them on their journey of finding faith in Christ.
We had four investigators at church on Sunday. Very exciting. Eleven new investigators this week! It is so hard to leave when such great things are happening, but Sister Petit is coming here! With her and Sis Alva and the other two sisters, St. Pete is in very good hands!!! 
Serving a mission was the best decision that I have ever made in my life. I love every second of it. I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I have never in my life felt the joy that I have felt here on the mission. EVERY PERSON who has the opportunity or ability to serve a mission, SHOULD!
I see miracles every day here, but I think the greatest miracle I have seen is the one inside myself.
I love every one! Thank you! Sorry it's so short but, I have some packing to do! :-)
con amor por todo
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, April 19, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 27

Well, wouldn't you know that the night before my half way mark, I would have a dream that I returned home, and I hated every moment of it! :-)

I think p-days are my least favorite day of the week. If we stay in the apartment too long I go crazy. I just want to be out doing something. I have no idea how I'm going to handle being home. I DONT EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT!!! :-) Today has to be my favorite p-day on the mission thus far. We had an exciting day planned. We were going to get up at 4 a.m. and go fishing with the Calhoun family (I spent Christmas with them. I love them!!!), but one of their sons got very sick and was in the hospital. We got the call last night and the first thought that came to mind, was, “Lets go do some service for them!” They have four boys with genetic disorders that cause them to be sick quite often and every little cold could be fatal. So needless to say, a little help makes a big difference. So we decided to go clean their house and bring them some meals. So Sister Alva and I got up at 5 a.m., headed to WalMart to get food, and with cleaning buckets in our hands tackled their house! We cleaned it head to toe! It was soooo much fun! We brought our speakers and rocked out to MoTab (Mormon Tabernacle Choir) and had a blast! I know we can't really take away the burden the Calhoun's must feel when caring for their children, but we can sure help them in other ways!

I NEVER WANT TO LEAVE ST. PETE! And I told President that too! :-) We were formed into a branch Sunday! I have never felt the spirit so strongly in a sacrament meeting as I did sitting there listening to President Emery read the letter from president Monson approving the organization of the branch. I had tears running down my cheeks. Oh so many tears and drops of sweat have been shed from many people and missionaries that have given it their all to make this happen. I feel so blessed to have seen our "little" but "mighty" group grow into a organized branch.

They called President Lopez to be the branch president. He was a former stake president and bishop in Venezuela. He is AMAZING!!! The first thing he said to us after church (after all the chaos) was, "The first thing we are going to do is get a ward mission leader called. We know you need the help and it is the only way we will gather those inactive members and fellowship your investigators." Oh, how I have longed to have those words said to us. Since I have been here we haven't had any priesthood stewardship to guide and prepare a plan to help those that have been "lost" in the Spanish "group." It has been a lot of pressure but oh man, did that ever get me excited or what!!!!!!!!! I know with the priesthood direction, this place is just going to explode.

I talked to President during interviews and showed him our planners so he could see that we don't have enough time in the day to teach all of the investigators that we have. We talked about getting another set of Spanish missionaries assigned to St. Petersburg. We talked about how it could be set up and the best way to split the area. Very exciting stuff!!! About every day this week we have solid lessons from 9 in the morning to 9:30 at night! Oh it is amazing. Now that we have the capacity with the branch to help so many more people that we are now being blessed with the opportunity to help them. They are coming out of the woodwork! Many, many prepared souls!

So amidst the chaos yesterday, AMAZINGLY GOOD CHAOS I MIGHT ADD!!! :-) Virginia Cirilo Garcia was baptized! Oh how beautiful it was! But I just want to add a funny little comment. Sister Alva and I have had two really funny experiences while filling the baptismal font. Not sure if I shared the first (this was for Santiago), but we started the font while Sunday school was going (in the Relief Society room) and we were on the male side of the dressing rooms. Well, so was the levers for the faucet. Needless to say we got stuck on the boys side of the font. It filled too quick. So I said, "Hermana, get on my back!" :-) I took, my stockings off, and we waded across to the other side! Whew! LOL! Oh so funny! It was sooo hard not to laugh hysterically! AND yesterday we had a lot of investigators at church and sacrament ran over a little bit (baptism was after services) and with getting them all to preistghood and relief society, we were walking down the hall and I stopped, my stomach hit the ground, I turned around and said, "Hermana! THE FONT!" WE FORGOT TO START THE FONT!!! AND ITS BIG!!! We ran! I started the font, and grabbed pitchers from the kitchen and went to work! Oh my goodness! What a crazy wonderful day! we took lots of pictures to document! Just little tender wonderful memories
from the mission! :-)

Virginia was beaming with light and I never saw a smile leave her face! She loves church! She loves the gospel! Sister Alva and I have a lot of fun teaching her. Sister Alva and I pick on each other a lot and she loves it! It is so much fun! Every time we go over to her house she greets us with the biggest smile in the world! Oh I love her to pieces! I just don't even know how to express in words the love I have for every one here. The thought of leaving puts a ball in the back of my throat... I hope I get to stay here another transfer, but I don't know. :-(

Last night when we came home, I was FILLED with the spirit! I sat at my desk just in awe about the day. I thought about our amazing lessons with in-active members, the many in-actives were back at church today, all the people we have on date for baptism, looking at our investigator board and seeing all the people, the AMAZING people that we have the opportunity to share the gospel with. I was just overwhelmed. I rested my elbows on the desk and gave the most heart felt prayer of thanks to my Heavenly Father. I hope President doesn't mind the tear drops that landed on the letter I wrote him, but I was just so filled with LOVE. That's the only way I could describe it. Then I realized that I hadn't read a chapter out of the Book of Mormon for the day! We were just so busy. So I said another prayer, and asked if I could read something that could help the members as we prepare to build the foundation for this branch. I felt like I should use my old English scriptures that have a lot of markings from my first years of being a member of the church. (I haven't read out of my English scriptures in a LONG time) and by no coincidence my eyes met this verse:

Mosiah 8:18 "Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty
miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings."

I feel like this is what we should share with the members as we do our visits with them this week. That we are only men, and with that we have many imperfections, but WITH FAITH we can work mighty miracles. I know that this is true, and it is for the benefit of our fellow men. It is so exciting!!! We have the ability to help so many other people now that we have the branch! Oh boy I'm excited!!!

I love you all!!! Soooo much!!!!

Sorry so short today! Gotta get going! We have a lot of appointments today in Clearwater and St. Pete!!!

Con todo amor que yo tengo en mi corazon!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, April 12, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 26

Oh my! has it been another week already?!?!?!

Next P-day is the 19th! That is my half way mark, or "hump" day! I think that calls for some celebration! Any suggestions? :-) Certainly the day before will be one to never forget! The Spanish branch will be officially organized this next Sunday, along with the Baptism of Virginia. We found Virginia about 3 weeks ago. She is 45 years old, lives with her whole family, from Mexico, in a mobile home. I don't think I have ever seen her without a smile. You can't beat that, having a baptism on the day that the branch will be formed! I feel so blessed to have seen this area grow so much in the short time that I have been here. Starting from having to translate to a little Spanish group meeting in St. Petersburg, to a group meeting in the stake center, to growing so quick to be able to be a branch. I LOVE St. Petersburg. It has taken a piece of my heart that will stay here forever. I am going to be very sad to leave.

I just wanted to write a quick little funny story. Sister Alva and I were tracting in "Mexico City" a.k.a. downtown Clearwater. We were walking back down a road that we had just tracted. In front of one of the homes where we got a potential contact for the elders was a car. From the drivers seat a women about our age waved us over. She said she wanted to learn more, so we started to teach her and her male passenger in the passenger seat. Hey, we'll take any opportunity we can to teach. Well, after about 5 minutes our potential contact for the elders came running out, and I kid you not, as we were standing there, teaching principles of the Gospel, they did a drug deal right there. We saw it and everything. My mouth hung wide open and I thought, "That did not just happen!!" Well, just a funny thing that we get to see on a regular basis.

I would like to share something that I shared with the district this morning. We woke up early and went to a park and had personal study and district study. As we were going around the circle sharing what we had learned, something else came to mind that Sister Alva and I experienced this last Saturday that has been seared into my mind. It has had a sincere impact on me and has strengthened my testimony of the blessings from the gospel. We had just visited a inactive member that lives by our apartment. We still had dirt in our finger nails from helping her get rocks out of her flower bed. As we were pulling up to a four way stop, a car was awkwardly pulled off the side of the road, and there was a women running around. Then an old women came to our window with the most terrified and frantic look. Then the younger women that was running around came to the door pleading for us to give her a ride to the hospital. Well, my EMT mind kicked into gear. Sister Alva looked at me and I said, "We're not taking her to the hospital." Well, I told the younger woman to sit on the ground. She had blood coming from her mouth. Through her crying I was finally able to figure out what had happened. She was on a motorcycle with her husband. She said they had been driving about 5 miles until she jumped off of the motorcycle. The husband had been beating her on the motor cycle and telling her that he was going to kill her. Well, this sweet old women that was driving way under the speed limit saved this woman's life because she was driving so slow that the younger woman was able to jump off the bike as they followed the old woman's car.

I called 911 and they promptly came to the scene. My heart ached for this women. As I examined her injuries I was heart broken. There were open lacerations on her ring finger where her husband tried to bite off her wedding ring... I was absolutely... I don't even know how to describe. I felt the pure evil, yet felt the tender spirit of this woman. I constantly prayed in my heart while I knelt by her, telling her that she is safe now, that everything was going to be okay. There are lots of other details of this that I don't think would be right to share, but as I shared these little things with elders, their eyes saddened, for good reason. My heart is sad from witnessing this act. What happened to the woman was the very work of Satan and his followers. Then I shared with our district a tender story about one of the women that we had taught for 3 months. She too was in a dangerous situation with a husband that was addicted to drugs and was abusive to her. When we first started teaching her, she hardly had the strength to do anything on her own. ALL of her self confidence seemed to be ripped from her. I described the change that I witnessed in this woman as she started to grow in faith. This women that we taught eventually found the inner strength that God saw in her to get away from that terrible situation. AND SHE DID IT! TOTALLY ON HER OWN! She made the decision. She realized that she is a DAUGHTER OF GOD and the she deserved to be treated as such.
The woman that pleaded for our help this last Saturday is lost in a way. She needs to find that inner strength. I testify, because of personal experiences and observing others, that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the restored gospel on the earth today, knowledge of God and his plan for us, love, families, temples and service that can lift us from the grasp of Satan and his followers. We can't take away the agency of others, but we sure can fortify our spiritual fortress just as Captain Moroni did to protect those values and virtues that are most precious including the knowledge that we are sons and daughters of our Heavenly father, and that he loves us.

I learned a life long lesson from my Uncle Jerry that I have been reminded of in the last two weeks. I must have been 10 yrs old. I was riding my go cart through our apple orchard. I slowed down while going through a wet patch of grass and then came to stop. There I sat impatiently stepping on the gas harder and harder trying to get it to go, but to no avail. It just wasn't working. I even got out and tried to push it. My uncle Jerry said, "Get on the go cart and watch." So I did what he said. I looked back, and saw my uncle Jerry standing on the back bar of the go cart to put extra weight on the driving tire. Then he told me, "HIT THE GAS!" So I did, and slowly the go cart's tire got the traction it needed to get out of that slippery spot. At ten yrs old, I didn't know that I would learn a life-long principle. Sometimes we find ourselves in "slippery" spots. I thought the logical thing would be to step on the gas harder, or maybe do the thing that might be the hardest but would get the job done (pushing it!) but Heavenly father knows all. He is standing back watching us make our choices. I believe, that those things that may seem to weigh us down, are actually the things that give us the traction to get us through those slippery spots. I have had to step back and look at a few situations we have had to deal with in the last few weeks. It's tried and true! :-)

Rebecca and Jessica were baptized!!! Yay!!! Oh what a blessed day! I have never seen such beautiful beaming girls in my life!!! I will try to write more about it later. Their mother took them shopping for white baptismal dresses the day before, kind of like with my mom did. :-) Oh, I can't wait to write about it next week! Rebecca bore her testimony, it was so powerful. she is a FUTURE SISTER MISSIONARY!!! They brought a friend to the baptism, and another to church yesterday! All of their friends are dying to be taught by us! We're having a family home evening with a bunch of them tonight! “Girl's night,” plus the elders I guess. :-)

Oh I love the mission. Every part of it. I am not the same person that left home.

With all the love that have!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Thank you all for the letters!

Monday, April 5, 2010

St. Petersburg Week 25

Where to even start?! I think I say that about every time I sit down and think of all the amazing things that have happened in the last week, and feel overwhelmed as I try to convey them only through words. It really just doesn't do the experiences justice, but I will do my best...

First, CONFERENCE! Oh my, do you think that the family is important? I think we were blessed to hear something about families in about every address given. How amazing! We were blessed to be able to watch the first session of conference in the home of President and Sister Colton. Oh what a special blessing that was for us. There is such a tender warm feeling of the spirit there, like home. I wanted to share an experience that I had as I was there. At the close of the session, President Colton stood up and sang the last hymn. As I glanced over towards him, I noticed shiny worn spots on his suit pants right at the level of his knee. Then the spirit overcame me and testified to my heart of the mantle that this man holds, and the keys he holds over this mission. How many countless hours would he have to spend on his knees to have his pants to be worn in that manner? Truly we need to seek inspiration for our lives just as much as he needs to for this entire mission. We truly can be guided and directed, even in the little things. How wonderful it is. Let us magnify our callings. Whatever it may be. Let us be instruments in the hands of the lord to bring about this great work.

The 18th is the BIG DAY! WE'RE GOING TO BE A BRANCH!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!! I jumped up and down and screamed, "HURRAH FOR ISREAL!!!" when I got off the phone with Bro. Ross. Oh, I can't begin to describe the joy it brings to my heart, To see our recent converts have callings. To serve and help others. To have organization and the direction of the priesthood to grow this little branch into a stake. We're going to try and bypass being a ward. ;-)

Without disclosing to much about some personal experiences this week, I would like to address the power of prayer. In times when we feel like we are completely alone, there the Lord stands with out stretched arms. He will come to us if beckon Him. We can do this through prayer. This has been a difficult week, but also one of the most blessed. In preparing my mind and heart to ponder the purpose of Easter, I have come closer to my Savior. This has been my favorite Easter, not because I had a big fancy dinner around a big table (we decided to teach instead of have a dinner appointment in a home, but the nice Relief Society sisters made us a plate and we ate it quick before the second session of Sunday conference) this was my favorite Easter because I really understood that the Savior Lives. That He died, but more than that, that He lives now for us.

My joy came this Easter as we frantically went around trying to get people to church to hear the voice of the prophet beckoning people to come unto Christ. We had three investigators at church this weekend. Sadly, short of our goal of 8, but what a miracle it was. Milea and her mother Susanna made it to conference for the Saturday evening session. We have been teaching them since my first transfer here in St. Petersburg. They are amazing! We have had special fasts and prayers as a zone, district and as a companionship for them. In particular we have prayed for them to be able to make it to church. Those prayers were answered in a magnificent way this weekend. It is all in the Lord's time. We could have given up on them a long time ago, but no way! The Savior never gives up on us, so I'm not giving up on them! We feel that strongly! They tasted of the wonderful fruit and spirit that conference brings and they are HOOKED! She is already asking her boss to have work off next Sunday, and for every Sunday thereafter. (I think I told their story in previous emails.) So amazing! Ahhhh, I love being a sister missionary!

To know the joy, we must feel the sorrow. That has never rung so true to my ears as it does now. I have had distinct personal experiences in my past that I have been able to draw from to help people here. Whether it be with my companion, investigators or dealing with my own challenges. :-) The Lord is in our lives. I thought I would never say this, but I am grateful for the mistakes that I have made and the trials I have faced. I say that with caution, but when we feel the atonement take those burdens from us, when the Savior starts to take it from off our shoulders, we truly can use them as a strength to lift and help. I know this to be true with all of my heart.

Till next week!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz