Monday, May 24, 2010

Ft. Myers Week 4

Who said a mountain can't be moved with faith in these days?! Even if we have to get out our shovels, a mountain can be moved!!! And it has! I haven't had the time to explain too much about Johnsi, but, I can breathe a sigh of relief now because he was baptized on Saturday and confirmed on Sunday. So here I go trying to express in words one of the most tear jerking, heart throbbing, and most exhilarating experiences ever all at the same time, through email nonetheless! :-) Written words really don't do it justice, but I'll try!

Everything was going really great with Johnsi. He is the 15 year old that came from a rough background with gangs and well, just a rough up bringing, but he has had the sincere desire to change and I have never seen anyone change as much as he has in the last weeks that we have been teaching him. Well, we never seemed to be able to cross paths with his mom no matter how hard we have tried in the last weeks. Obviously, because he is 15, he needs his mothers permission to be baptized. Well, we had only talked to her briefly. She works until 10 at night and leaves before Johnsi gets up, so he hardly sees her at all, and had only briefly told her about church. We called her on Friday and we had a really good conversation. It took some convincing, but she said she has noticed a real change in Johnsi, for the better. He doesn't have his anger anymore, and she sees him reading his "book" at night and she knows it is good for him. She doesn't believe we are true, but she said she would support her son if he really wanted to do it. She said I can't stop him. So Friday we left the paper she would have to sign with Johnsi so she would sign it that night.

Can I just say that Saturday was a blast? Sister Baum and I took two of the young women from the branch out with us ALL day! Oh it was so much fun! We taught, tracted and went to the polga! (flea market). We got double the work done and it was great! It was a blessing that those girls were with us for what awaited us next. We went to Johnsi's to pick up the paper that gave permission. Well, he said, she didn't sign it. So, we all sat down outside, his friend was with him, and we said a prayer and it got very serious real quick. He wouldn't really look at us, he didn't seem like the same Johnsi that we knew. We couldn't figure it out. I guess he had talked to his mom the night before, but when he talked to her he said he was a little scared, (SATAN!!!!!!!! I really don't like Satan!) Because Johnsi was a little hesitant she wouldn't sign it. So after an hour of testifying, talking, crying, sharing experiences the day was slipping away and the time was quickly coming for his baptism. Sister Baum would talk, then in my heart I would be praying my heart out, then we would switch. We knew that if we left him, there wouldn't be a chance he would get baptized. After talking a bit more, I shared 1 Nephi 7 that I have talked about a lot on my mission. It is about how Nephi was bound with strong cords. I related that to Johnsi and said he was like Nephi.

We asked him to go in his room, that we would time him, and he had to pray for at least 12 minutes and read by himself and ask God if he should be baptized and ask if this fear was from God. So he did, but he was still scared. So, Sister Baum and one of the girls went and got some chicken wings and Little Caesar's Hot and Ready pizzas and we sat and watched the movie, “The Prophet of the Restoration” with him. His eyes were glued to the TV. He was truly moved as he saw the sacrifice of so many saints and the prophet giving his life. After the movie, Sister Baum and I went outside with Johnsi by ourselves, and had a real heart-to-heart with him. He started saying all the things like, “I'm not ready,” “I can't do this,” “what if my family hates me” and on and on... I tried to hold it in, but I just couldn't. I couldn't help but think of one of the loneliest nights I have ever had was the night of my baptism. Sitting in the corner of a couch holding back tears as I thought about the people that I loved the most weren't at my baptism. I was worried about all of the loneliness and unknown things that would occur later. Finally, I stood and bore testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ that this was true. That John didn't need to have a sign to know, that he didn't need to know Jesus Christ like Joseph Smith did because we were sent here from Jesus Christ. I knelt down in front of him, tears rushing down my face, and I shared with him one of the most treasured experiences of my life. A dream that I had two nights before my baptism. I looked up at him and told him that in my dream, I was a homeless person sitting on the ground under a freeway overpass. Next to me was a person who had scriptures on their lap as we sat around a fire. There was a light in the distance that glistened on the wet pavement. I had absolutely nothing of worldly possessions, except the scriptures that I had in my own lap, but I felt happy. I really felt true happiness.

I told Johnsi that the person next to me, let their scriptures get too close to the fire, and the pages darkened and could not be read. This person handed the scriptures to me, and I wiped the pages clean so they could see them and read them. I told Johnsi that since having that dream I was willing to give up everything for the gospel because I knew I would still be happy. I said other things, some of which I feel like I should not say, but the spirit was very strong. I told him to stand up , dust of his shoes, and put his trust in the Lord.

I realized that his ride would be here in 30 minutes and we still needed his mom to sign the paper. Thankfully Johnsi said, “alright.” I said, “Thank you,” and he went in , got changed real quick, and all of us walked to the restaurant that his mom works at. As we waited outside we were praying our guts out. Not two minutes later he walked out, with the paper in his hand, signed by his mom. I couldn't believe it! I was awe struck by what just happened! A mountain was moved, I tell you what!!! When he told us his mom signed it I jumped 10 feet in the air and just started running around. I have never felt joy like that in my life! They all laughed! Oh I wanted so badly to run and give him a hug!!! We barely got back in time for his ride! Satan was running the stop lights too! He was doing everything he could to stop this baptism from happening! Oh my, I can't do this justice! Our mouths were wide open with awe when we got in the car. We couldn't believe that happened! Well, this is the Lords work. As we walked back to his house, I had a nice conversation with the Lord. If my mission ended in that moment I would be so happy and feel complete. Kneeling in front of Johnsi and being able to share my experience with him, made every bit of the loneliness and unknown things I had to deal with in my own life worth it. It was a very special experience I will never forget for the rest of my life!

Well, I had the privilege in speaking in church yesterday! So fun! I think my Spanish has gotten a little better since the MTC. Maybe a little. I was given the topic of what we can do to return to live with Heavenly father! Wow! That's a big one. I didn't prepare anything, but as I approached the pulpit, I just felt like I needed to testify of the Book of Mormon. It is the way!

Love you all!

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ft. Myers Week 3

“But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry. (2 Nephi 33: 3)
This describes how I feel for the people we are teaching. There is nothing more powerful and moving than to see the atonement work in the life of someone you have found and are teaching. We are currently teaching a 15 year old boy named John Si. He is a nephew of a member. he has had a very hard up bringing... immersed in gang activity even at such a young age. He is very mature for his age. It is kind of sad, but because of some of the choices of others, his opportunity to "just be a kid" was taken away. Every time we have taught him it has been a very powerful and spiritual experience. We've taught him now for a week and a half. I can't believe its only been that long, but just in that little time he has changed so much. The first time we met with him we he was a little rough around the edges, but had sincere interest in changing his life. It was the desire of His heart. We testified to him, that the only way that he could really have the strength to change, to really change for the rest of his life, is through faith in Jesus Christ. So just like what Alma has instructed us to do, we started an experiment.

John promised he would do the things that we asked him. He said now he doesn't get as angry anymore, he always has a smile. He has seen a miracle with his mom as well. She has started to take the time to spend with him and their relationship is starting to mend. Oh boy! It is so exciting! I challenged him to keep the Book of Mormon with him wherever he goes. I promised him that it would protect him and that whenever he is tempted that he can open it, even just hold it, and he would be comforted. The last time we went of there, he said, "I've kept it with me where ever I go, it really does make me feel good." Last Sunday, he couldn't come to church because he was grounded, but he said he had church at home. He read and prayed and made it really special for him. he will be baptized this Saturday. We are all very excited! I know that it is only through the atonement of Jesus Christ and the Grace of God that we can change.
This transfer, Sister Baum and I have focused all our energy and thoughts on faith. What can we do to strengthen our faith? We have set some hefty goals with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, goals that sometimes seem way out of our reach, but we know, that if we have the faith that we can accomplish it, Heavenly Father will provide the way. This principle has proven to be true. I have really reflected on the power to heal in these last weeks. Many times I've asked myself, "Do I have the faith to be healed if but I only touched the hem Of Jesus' garment?" Because of the atonement, Jesus Christ is always within reach. we do not have to have an "issue of blood" to be healed just as she was. but how much Faith does it really take? What do I need to do to feel that healing power of the atonement?

It is interesting, that as Sister Baum and I have focused so hard on strengthening our own faith, some interesting experiences have been placed in front of us. Remember Amalia, the lemonade lady we met in the gas station? Well she is set to be baptized the first week in June. Her son however, is not as open to our message. I find myself looking at him, and seeing where I was 3 and a half years ago, sitting there saying, "Who is Jesus Christ?” and “I'm not really sure if God exists." While Sister Baum taught Amalia on the other side of the room, Jesus and I had a really good heart to heart talk and I shed some tears with him. I shared with him a little bit of my journey of finding faith in Christ. It was a very touching moment for me to be able to share that with him. Well, I said, "Jesus, its not going to come all at once, only little by little. So we are starting with "homework" assignments. Watching the DVD “Finding Faith in Christ,” reading assignments, conversations on the phone. I shared with him about Alma the younger (Alma 36) and the power that faith had in his life. I shared also how Alma taught about an experiment (Alma 34) I can already see a light in him. It is very exciting!
As a mission we were so blessed on Saturday! For the first time in maybe 5 years, our mission was all together at one time. We're just so large and spread out that the most we get together at one time is 1/3 and that is at Christmas. Elder Anderson came to visit the mission. Being so far down south, it was an ALL day adventure! Yes, with the Naples sisters we had an awesome day! Road trip! It is just over a 3 hour drive! we had so much fun! Sis Baum and I couldn't even sleep the night before we were so excited. We said, "This is better then Christmas eve! Santa Claus is fake, but seeing an apostle is the real deal!" So funny! You can probably guess what the focus of conference was, yes, FAITH! Sister Baum and I were just soaking it all in! We were all privileged to shake the hand of Elder Anderson. Oh what sweet spirit filled the room as he walked in. The spirit testified so strongly that he truly is a special witness of Jesus Christ.

(Ahhh, I'm running out of time!!!) I will have to write more about this next week! But it was absolutely amazing!
I really want to talk about an experience that we had yesterday while tracting. Well, I'll have to share that next week too! Ahhhh, I always run out of time!!! Love you all!!!
Hermana Vaughan-Schultz
P.S. – I'm kind of sad because we have our last interviews with President and Sister Colton tomorrow. I sure have grown close to them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ft. Myers Week 2

Can I just say first, that IT’S HOT DOWN HERE!!!!!! Oh my! Why even take a shower, because you stay wet ALL day! :-) Saturday, we were privileged to visit the beach. We're not allowed to go to the beach unless it is a ward activity. Our ward had a special day at the beach for Mothers Day. It was fun, but definitely when I come back after the mission, I’m running to the water and jumping in, clothes and all, no me importa! :-)

We had a very wonderful Sunday. Isn't it nice to have a special day to reflect on everything that our moms have done for us? I sure did. It made me very happy! Being away from home for so long, you start to reflect on the things from your childhood and the things that are of most importance. In reflection of this wonderful day I chose to study about the 2,000 stripling warriors. You can probably guess why. As I read it, I tried to have the mind set, what do I need to do now, so that my children would say the same thing about me? How can I have the faith to teach them in the manner that the mothers of the 2,000 young men taught? Just like Paul, my greatest desire is that my children "walk in righteousness." What choices and decision do I need to make now to put me on that path? It was a very wonderful spiritual experience as I reflected and pondered on those

I look back at the last week, in pure amazement and awe as I think about all the miracles. I have never felt so directed in so many different circumstances by the Lord than I have in the l last week. There is nothing more powerful then having a personal witness from the Holy Ghost that you are standing in the exact place and in the exact moment that Heavenly Father wants you to be.

As we were pulling out of the gas station the other day, I felt subtly impressed that we should turn left instead and head down a road that we have never been down. As we drove, I felt the same kind of calm impression that we should tract these particular duplexes that awkwardly were set back away from the road. They weren't really strong promptings just calm thoughts. As we started tracting, within the first three doors we knocked we met a Puerto Rican man. We had a wonderful conversation and then we shared the restoration with him. As I stood there, reciting the first vision, the spirit overcame me. I was reminded of a dream that I had in the Missionary Training Center. I dreamt this exact moment, with this man, this doorstep and his bright red tee shirt. I was awe struck. Moments like these have been happening very frequently. I know more now then ever, that I am supposed to be a missionary, right now and right here. I know how important it is to follow those calm, tender feelings of the spirit.

On about our 4th doors down the road further, we found Westin and his family. He is the only member of the church in his family and is not active. He has 3 boys ages 15, 8 and 4. They are English-speaking and we just heard from the Elders that they are coming to church, and they just committed the 8 yr old to baptism. This family will be founded and built upon the rock of the Gospel just as written in Helaman 5:12. We even shared this scripture with them and likened it to the big bad wolf and the three little pigs. Oh the kids love that! But just think, what if I would have ignored those tender feelings, what if Sister Baum wouldn't have had the faith in me, as a companion to receive revelation. Surely the work of the Lord won't be frustrated because of my inabilities or lack of faith, but how grateful I am to be a part of this. If we have little tender "thoughts" we need to have the faith to follow it. Sister Baum and I are focusing on strengthening our faith. We know that the direction we receive, how we are lead to the elect that are prepared, is solely based on our faith. I know as we focus on faith, and work hard with exact obedience, we will be blessed. We already have! The Lord has put us on the path that has lead us to 9 people that are prepared to enter the waters of Baptism! The work here is exploding and we feel so blessed to be a part of it!

Elder Anderson is coming this next Saturday to visit our mission. We're so excited! It will be the first time ever that our entire mission will be together at one time. We are just so big and spread out that it has never been possible. Those mission miles are valuable! :-)

We would be on bike more, but Sister Baum's bike was stolen last week... kind of a bummer.

Oh, and dinner yesterday the elders were at a members house last week helping them and one of the elders was attacked by a rooster. Well yesterday we ate him! So funnny! The whole thing! Every part! They don’t waste anything!

Con Amor

Hermana Vaughan-Schultz

Monday, May 3, 2010

Hola Ft. Myers!

Oh, how I love St. Pete, but OH HOW I LOVE FORT MYERS!!! oh my goodness I'm in love!!!!!!! At times it feel like we are literally in a different country. I'm serving with Sister Baum. She is absolutely amazing and I am learning so much from her! She is from the huge town of Le Grand Oregon, you know that little speck of a town that we drive through on the way to Utah. :-) But hey, shout out to the Northwest! She is such an amazingly hard worker and I love it! We literally talk to EVERYONE! Just the way it is supposed to be. We teach everywhere and in every circumstance. I don't know how many times we have been driving, and we see a Spanish person walking on the side of the road. We'll turn the car around and pull over right next to them and talk to them. We have had full lessons in the middle of streets, alleys, door steps, gas stations, every where! There's so many potential and progressing investigators. I'M IN HEAVEN! Sister Baum and I have so much fun! To be in a functional ward with leadership and callings! It makes missionary work so much easier. We really can't be successful without the help of the members, it's not possible and it's not the way the Lord wants it done. So I am excited!
We had a member referral come to English class last Friday. Her name is Ana. She is from Mexico city and she is here on a "nanny" program. She is staying with a host family for a year. She is 19 yrs old and we have just really hit it off with her. She is the sweetest girl. Well, she noticed a calm feeling when she was at the church that Friday. We taught her an English lesson, got to know her, and shared a spiritual thought. We invited her to the baptism we had this Saturday (Illianna: that's a whole story in its self). Well, after the baptism we took her on a tour and used the holy ghost dialogue and the first vision, and when we knew the spirit was there, we committed her to baptism. It was so amazing! What was really funny is that after Anna left the church building, Sister Baum and I were so full of excitement, in the foyer of the church building we ran up and did a chest bump in front of the members. Oh did they ever laugh at us!!! It was so funny, but it is so great to feel the excitement this ward has for missionary work. It makes all the difference!
I don't think that I could begin to write about the miracles that I have seen since my short stay in Fort Myers. Sister Baum is teaching me how to be a good missionary and I love it. She is the best example anyone could ask for. I really am learning a lot from her. I have never seen so many Spanish people in my life! It is sooooo different than St. Pete. There, we would have to knock 20 doors sometimes to find one Spanish person. Here its hard to find someone that is white! It's so awesome! I love people here so much! It was hard to leave St. Pete, but that void was quickly filled by the love I already feel for the people here! I would be content staying here for the rest of my mission! :-)
I would like to share a somewhat personal story. It has to do with lemonade. Thursday during our planning meeting I made a big thing of ice cold lemonade for us, did I mention that it is HOT down here! Oh my! You should see my tan lines! So needless to say, we drank so much lemonade we had to make a few pit stops at the bathroom throughout the day. It was a little annoying, but it got us into some doors to teach. That's how we found Amalia and Jesus. In a complete inopportune time, we needed to make a pit stop at a gas station. We had a member in the car with us and it was... ya... but, we went in and Sister Baum had to use the bathroom, so while she went in, I was waiting looking at all the food and what not. This is one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had on the mission, so I share this hesitantly but I think its OK. So as I stood there, I felt a tap on my shoulder, when I turned around, no one was there, but my eyes immediately went to a Spanish mother and son that were on the other side of the gas station. I wasn't startled by the touch. It was a very calm and comforting feeling. I immediately went over and started to talk to them. It was very special and powerful. Sister Baum came out and we set up an appointment for the next day with them. Amalia was a little hesitant at first, but she accepted the invitation.

The appointment the next day was amazing. We shared the first lesson up to Christ's earthly ministry. She expressed her feelings about infant baptism and how she didn't agree with the Catholic beliefs on this topic. So, we invited her to read Moroni 8. She loved what we had to say as we explained about how infants are perfect and they have no need to be baptized. I didn't know what it was, but my words were fumbling in Spanish. I couldn't speak at all, but all I could think about was, bear testimony, bear testimony, so I did. I just opened my mouth and started bearing testimony, and it just came. It was amazing. I told her the experience I had with someone tapping my shoulder and that's why I went over and talked to them. She started to cry and so was I. She said she felt like she was talking to angels, and that she could feel something. When she came to church yesterday she said she felt the same warm feeling in the church building. We invited her and her son to be baptized on the 22nd of this month. They accepted and we are super excited!!! I love the Lord. I love this work. and I love lemonade!
It is my testimony that this is the Lord's work, and how great a privilege it is to be an instrument in his hands, is my testimony, in the His name, Amen.
Hermana Vaughan Schultz