Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lets swap stories. What did you learn this week?

Happy Monday, everyone! 

This week was a good one, filled with lots of learning experiences. I think one of my favorite things about serving a mission is being exposed to so many of my weaknesses and having no way to run away from them. Haha! The only way to get rid of the uncomfortable is to humble myself, turn to God and let Him strengthen and fix those things. I've realized at several different points on my mission that I have been a runner in the past, my pre-mission past, and I think several of us either are that way or have been, or switch back and forth. I realized many times in my life that when I became uncomfortable with a situation or a requirement, I metaphorically "packed up" and left it behind. Don't get me wrong, I mean I have endured things, but I think that most early-life things we endure are tangible ones. Things like a big upcoming test, or a cross country race, or an argument about who's turn it is to feed the fish. But bigger things, like flaws in our character, wedges in our relationships, long-term goals - those one's all seem to frighten me a bit more, so I'll leave them behind for the time being and say, "Oh, I'll take care of that when I have to." I know that I personally needed to come on a mission, to be placed in a position where I would have to analyze where I have been, what I have become, where I am now and where I want to be. This can be extremely painful and really hard and trust me it has been. It is the hardest, scariest thing to apply the things you are teaching to others to yourself. I often feel like I am one of my own investigators being humbled and put back and committed to a deeper conversion to Christ. But, I am so grateful to say, I am not a runner anymore! I am learning how to confront my weaknesses and my fears and my discomforts! I know that my Heavenly Father loves me perfectly and is pleased with who I am and who I am working to become, but I know there is always more I can do. And that doesn't scare me anymore. I'm not afraid anymore to acknowledge the fact that I'm not perfect, nor have I ever been perfect. Believe me! I always have known I am not perfect, but the idea of not being perfect scared me because I didn't even know where to begin, nor did I have the faith that I really could improve. My mission has been my refining fire that has given me the faith to know that I can change. Not only the people I teach can change, but I can change too! I have often heard people tell me this quote, "The greatest convert from your mission is yourself." I always thought that was sweet and a great idea. But, as I sit here this morning and think about where I am, I know that's true. I came here to Oregon to help others and strengthen them. But, on my mission I found myself and I truly feel like I have been saved, lifted up and brought home, closer to my Father in Heaven. It really doesn't seem fair that I have gained so much personally, while trying to give, but I now see why God called me to serve Him. He needed to save me, His daughter. 

These are some of the most precious thoughts that I have right now and what I just shared with you is know one of my most valuable testimonies! I hope that it makes sense to you and I PLEASE want to hear from you your thoughts on it and your experiences regarding that topic.Tell me a story! Please, please share! I encourage you to find yourself in that process and figure out what you need to do next, allow yourself to change and improve. And most of all, please do not be afraid. I know how it feels to live in fear and to feel like things are not even possible, but I promise there has been a change in me that is much bigger than myself. I will never understand how it works, but I know that it is because of our loving Heavenly Father. One of my favorite scriptures, will always be, Isaiah 41:10. "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." I know with all my heart that is true! He will not leave us alone. 

I am experiencing so many miracles here in the Willamette Ward and am so happy. The members in this ward are absolutely incredible and are heaven sent. They take care of us so well and are willing to support us in anything we ask. I have never experienced a ward quite like this. I think my favorite things this week come from two less-active members we have been working with. Their families have been working with us since I came into the area about two months ago. We have been exerting a lot of effort on them and really trying to strengthen their testimonies of the gospel. They both are convert families too, of between 5-6 years. This week, one of the families called us and gave us our second referral from them. They had set up a dinner with one of their friends, asked her to listen to a lesson and invited her to church! My heart is so full as I get to experience the joy of sharing the gospel with this family who joined the church and gained so much from their testimonies. Now they want it for each of their friends! And all it took was a rekindling and patience, then they were ready! The second family did a similar thing. We had set up a time to come see them, the day before she texted us and asked if we could teach her boyfriend at the lesson instead of just their family! Then he came to church as well. It was just so beautifully miraculous. I know the spirit changes us, it fills our souls and helps us to know the actions we need to take. It has been so amazing to be the missionary and to take the spirit to these members who hadn't felt it in awhile, and see what the spirit was prompting them to do! And then to see that they had enough faith to do what they were being prompted to do, was absolutely wonderful. 

Overall, it was a great week and bonus - we got to go to the temple and participate in a session! I love this week! 

I love you family, I am expecting some emails back with stories next week! And even if you're not family and you're reading this, write me about it too!

Xoxo, Sister Kerr 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The days go by, I can feel them flying!

How is everything going for each of you?? I feel a little behind in each of your lives, which makes me way sad. You all get to hear what's going on in mine every single week, I need an update from you each please! Just a quick one :)

This week was an interesting one. I am not quite sure what was so weird about it, but it just felt...weird. Haha! You all know how it feels when things are a bit off. Well, that was this week! It was still way good and we saw several miracles though. God is with you in weird, off, different weeks as well as in the awesome ones!

We got to know and gained traction with several of the people we have recently started to teach or were looking to start teaching. And we saw miracles with this! Favorite example! There is a young adult living in the ward with her parents, she is no longer active in the church and has chosen that she no longer believes in several teachings of the church. We went out for hot chocolate with her this week so we could catch up and talk more with her, totally not preachy at all! After our little cocoa date, we nonchalantly told her about the ward chili cook-off that was going on that evening for the ward that she has gone to once in the last 5 months of being here. We asked her if she wanted to come with us and she agreed to stop by for a bit. Earlier in the day, one of our members had called to tell us that they had invited a less-active man and his non-member, 22 year old daughter to come to the cook-off as well. When we heard that, we called a friend of ours who is in the local Young Single Adult ward and asked her to come to the cook-off with us to meet this non-member girl and invite her to volleyball. Sweet plan! The dinner comes around I start talking with the non-member girl, building a friendship with her! She is darling, but I was waiting for the YSA member to show up. She finally showed up and I was super excited to have her start talking to this girl. They started talking and it was going well, but not nearly as well as I was anticipating. Haha, funny how that works. Then the less-active who was going to stop by for a bit showed up and her and the YSA member hit it off like no other! It always amazes me how in control God is. I LOVE IT. My plans were good, but His were so much better! They had the same background in life, which I had absolutely no idea about either of their backgrounds. But, Heavenly Father did and He loved each of His daughters enough to bring them together and help them feel of His love. It was so awesome. We ended up staying for an hour after the dinner finished talking in our little group and really building relationships and coming to understand each other's beliefs. It was incredible!

Sacrament meeting was one of my absolute favorites this week! It was the Willamette Ward's Primary Program. Oh my goodness, it was incredibly well done and so spiritual! We had two of the people we are teaching there and they absolutely loved it. Gwen, the friend of the recent convert family in the ward, cried several times throughout it because of the spirit she felt and the sweet, simple testimonies of the children. Heck, I cried a few times too. These kids are so precious and their testimonies and the truths they spoke really touched my heart. I miss my nieces and nephew!! I am so glad sacrament meeting went so well. Sweet Gwen stood up in Relief Society and introduced herself to the whole class and told them how excited she was to be there and to know them and how happy she is to be taught. She is so stinkin' cute!

Last thing, we had an awesome experience at the Visitor's Center last night with a new investigator! We got him to come and meet us there and we had a member family as well. They clicked instantly! The member is probably 25 years older than him, but they became like best friends and it was awesome. Dylan, the one we're teaching is a rapper and he is going to be writing one about his experience at the temple last night. Cool beans! I can't wait to hear it. Our member sang him his rap that he had written while serving his mission 20+ years ago about the Book of Mormon! I'll send you a copy when I get it, it was so great! Such a fun night!

I love you all, have to get going! Please send me a quick note and let me know how you are doing. I love you tons and tons!

{Some cutie pie young women from our ward! We are working with each of them and just ADORE them all!}

Xoxo, Sister Kerr 

p.s. I heard a Keith Urban song on someone's radio the other day and my heart started racing! I still love that man and the title of the email is in honor of him!

My heart feels really full!

Happy Tuesday, I hope you all are dying to read this email because I was absolutely dying to read each of the ones I got! I had to wait until today because of a couple of reasons. Reason number one, yesterday the library was closed so I couldn't get to the computer. Usually this would not matter anymore because I have an iPad and can read my emails throughout the week as I receive them. Well, I had a working iPad. Now I do not. Bah! We were at a member's home baking cookies with our recent convert, Taylor and her sister Kassidi. They wanted to use my iPad and try and guess the passcode. Sure, whatever, go right ahead! Bad idea. Apparently, when you try the passcode too many times, it resets your iPad. Totally resets it, like brand new from the store type of reset. So, everything is wiped from my sweet iPad that I have had since February, EVERYTHING IS GONE. I now do not have one that has the materials downloaded onto it that I need. And now I will have to patiently wait for a replacement! It is so sad. Haha, I could NOT believe that happened when sweet little Taylor was playing with it. I haven't told her yet because I don't want her to feel bad or get in trouble! Hopefully Salt Lake will make it snappy with my replacement! 

Onto the week...
From last week, I talked about one of our recent convert families inviting their friend's over for conference. Well, her name is Gwen! We got to meet with her twice this past week and she is absolutely incredible. She has been so prepared to receive and accept the gospel into her life. The first time we met her we did service and helped her to clean her kitchen. As we talked with her, we learned about her past and mostly about the things that are causing her stress at this time in her life. We continued to turn the conversation back to our loving Heavenly Father and she just cried and cried. We gave her a Book of Mormon and told her about the blessings that will come to her from studying it. Right after our lesson, she called her friend who had invited her to conference and told her, "They gave me my own copy of the Book of Mormon! I have one now!" She was so excited! She is really praying about baptism and when she should progress to do that. One of her daughters is interested at the time and we are so excited to start teaching her too. SHE WENT TO SEE MEET THE MORMONS! That was good news. She texted us after and told us how much she loved it because it showed her "how accepting Mormons are of others, no matter their background." Those were her words! What an amazing movie that was, I loved it!

Phyllis participated in her first ordinances this week! She was baptized on 11 October and received the gift of the Holy Ghost on 12 October! It was such a happy weekend for her and for us. She was so nervous when she first arrived, but ended up feeling much better. I blame that on Bishop Chandler! He is so amazing and brings the spirit into each and every conversation he has. This was only the third time he had talked with Phyllis, but he completely understood her and made sure she felt comfortable at all points of the baptism. It was so wonderful! After the actual baptism, Phyllis came up out of the water, stood there for a moment, then said, "Is that it??" Haha! It was so hilarious. We kept trying to tell her that the actual baptism was nothing weird, or complex, but very simple. But, she didn't get it until it happened! She is so cute and funny, I adore her! Before the baptism, we were in a room with her and Bishop talking and she said to him, "These girls are my helpers. They helped me learn about how to get to heaven." Then she sat there for a moment and added on, "They're like my friends!" I love becoming friends with those sweet individuals I have taught. How do you not become friends while you are sharing such sweet, spiritual moments together! It was a good weekend 

Now, for a funny story. We didn't have a dinner appointment this Wednesday, so we picked a less-active family we have been working with and asked them if we could come and make them dinner! Of course, they said yes! It was a blast. We were working on the dinner with the kids, while we had the parents go relax for a little bit. They both work long schedules! It was so fun to cook with the kiddos, they're 15, 13, and 10. We made stir-fry, it was delicious! The youngest, Jason decided to make chocolate chip cookies before we finished so they would be ready for dessert. Then, we all start pigging out on the cookie-dough. Well, Sister Jensen and I did! We all eat dinner together, then go over to begin the clean-up. The cookie dough is still sitting in the bowl and Jason is beginning to put them on the sheets. Sister Jensen goes to roll up the bag of sugar and put it away in the cupboard, but sees something moving inside. She looks in and the sugar had maggots in it!!!! AHH!! Oh my gosh, haha! We had eaten so much cookie dough and 10 year old Jason can't remember if he had seen them while scooping it before. AHHH! The mom was freaking out and so embarrassed, the dad tells us we'll all be fine. I am just dying laughing and Sister Jensen thinks she feels one crawling up her throat. It was so hilarious! I don't recall being sick this past week, so we were safe. It was too funny, I couldn't believe it had really happened!

A woman we are teaching finally was able to make it to church this week! It was such an amazing experience to really get her there! Right after, I asked Shani if we could go to the visitor's center at the temple after church and talk about the temple and explain what had just been talked about. It worked out and was such a miracle! She understood so much better, and she understood how it related to Jesus Christ, which is the most important. Thank goodness for the Visitor's Center that is only 15 minutes away!

I fell in love with my Bishop and his family this week! I am slightly obsessed with them and so grateful for their testimonies and the experiences they are willing to share with us. Bishop and Sister Chandler are incredible people. I am so impressed with their faith and with how far they have come from their past. He gave us a copy of his story and testimony that I really want to share with you, so I will definitely read it to you when I get home. I just am so grateful that God loves us enough to reach out and speak to us individually! We are blessed. 

I hope all is well for each of you, you mean the world to me! Thank you for all you do, thank you for your examples and your hard work in taking care of me and those around you. I love your testimonies, I love seeing you share your testimonies online and through the stories you send me. I love that my family is a family centered on the teachings of Jesus Christ. I know of the devotion that each of you has to our Savior, thank you for that, it strengthens me! I hope your week is happy. Xoxo!

Sister Kerr 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I loved this week.

Hey, fam!

How on earth are all of you? Goodness this week was so marvelous and a big reason why was because of the General Conference that went on this weekend. I know each of us had that in common as well. So I am guessing that made your week just splendid too! I really loved every minute of it and was so sad when the closing prayer was said because it was now all done! But, there were so many remarkable messages taught there and I learned so much that I needed to learn about right at this moment in my life. Heavenly Father really does know me and He knows the things that have been concerning my heart lately. It was very calming and peaceful to listen to His words through His servants. I wrote down a list of "invitations" that were given throughout the meetings, whether directly spoken or things I felt the Spirit prompting me to act on. That was the neatest experience. Now, I have a big long list of actions I need to take and try, test them out. I would really encourage each of you to try that out! It's been a pretty neat experience already, and it's only been a day after. Try it!
 We had a couple of really cool experiences with conference this week and the people we were watching it with. First one was so funny! We were watching Sunday morning with a less active woman. The entire theme, as you know, was about sustaining the dear prophet. She was convinced something big was coming. Eva, runs out of the room to go grab something after about three talks. She comes back in, arms full of candy (probably looked like we used to!), shouting "Breakfast time!" Sister Jensen and I start laughing and she says, "I need to eat all my candy before the prophet speaks and says we can't eat sugar anymore." Hah! It was super hilarious. She is so crazy, but I love her. Luckily, there was no such revelation. The other cool one came from a recent convert family! They are so brave. They come from the very least Mormon-like background you can imagine and have been members for about four years now. They have changed so much, I wish you could hear their stories. I love them! It's so cool to see people change so stinkin much! Anyways, they were super brave and invited their close family friend, with similar background to theirs, and no religious beliefs at all, to come and listen to a session of conference! They are so amazing! They came and watched. The husband is super closed right now, but the wife loved it. Especially President Uchtdorf's from the women's conference last week. She needs the gospel in her life, she is really struggling.It was so wonderful to see the Thomsen family try to offer their friends the healing that they had needed and experienced in their own lives just a few years earlier. I loved it! Try and think in that mindset yourself. 

The whole week was a good one. One of the first highlights was on Wednesday! I was on an exchange with a pretty new sister missionary. She has been in Oregon for about 7 weeks and she is THE sweetest. Guess where she's from! Lima, Peru. YAY! I was so excited, I had my little connection to Skyler! She was taught by missionaries and was baptized four years ago. No one else in her family has considered it and they were quite angry with her decision to join the church. She is so solid! Her testimony was the sweetest in her very broken english, I know it touched the hearts of those we were teaching. People really recognized the sacrifice she made to be here in West Linn, Oregon and they loved it. Skyler, people must have just loved listening to you, even though your spanish was probably not the smoothest to start off with, they knew without a doubt, you were giving up a lot to come live in their country for two years. It was really sweet to experience a day with her! She normally serves in the Visitor's Center, so her day with me was her first full day out being in a full-proselyting English area. She did great and I learned a ton from her! 

Our mission's focus has broadened a lot lately, I don't want to say "shifted" because we are still focused on other things too. We're just having to learn how to multi-focus on lots of different facets of new tools for missionary work. The broadening has now encompassed service. When I first came on my mission and for the first year, we were encouraged to do 4 hours of service a week. We are now expected to have at least 10 hours of community service every week! That's a big jump, but they really want us out in communities, serving the people we live around and serving alongside the people in the area. I love the idea of it! Especially in areas with more affluent people. These people are not just hanging out at home, they are successful people because they are involved and busy with good work ethics. Going door to door trying to meet them is just not effective, we need to go where the people are in order to meet them and develop relationships with them. In a lot of our meetings lately, we've been talking about this topic: "If we are wanting to accomplish more than we have ever accomplished before, we are going to need to go places we have never gone before. If we keep doing things the way they have always been done, we will continue to get to the same place we have always gotten." I love this! God needs us to do things differently sometimes, the same purpose - loving and serving His children - but different tactics are needed. Are we humble enough and willing enough to do it HOWEVER he is asking us to? Or are we stuck on traditions of the past and believe it's the only way it can get done? I don't know, I think that's been one of my favorite lessons of the past month. This is definitely God's work! That took longer than anticipated, sorry! I get off on it too easily. But, I would like to encourage you to think about your day to day habits. Do you do them because they are helping you become better? Or are you doing them because that's just the way it's always been done? It's just the way I've always reacted to this situation? Just the thing I've always said? I realized how full my life was of that! It completely defeats the message of the gospel. Change! The gospel is there for us to change, become better. Do it because you want to be better, not just because. 

...Back to service. We do service at the food pantry every week which is so much fun! One of the old people we volunteer with has invited us to dinner with he and his wife soon! I am so excited. And if you had told me this would happen when we first started, I would never have believed you! We are so excited. We started volunteering at a park this week too. We served alongside volunteers who have been working to restore this park for years! It was such hard work, we pulled ivy for 3 hours! It was so fun though and we got to talk to the funniest, coolest man that we would never have met without serving there. I love it, definitely a big fan!

Well, I am out of time. I think I said everything I wanted to! Haha, I really should start planning these out a bit more, so I don't miss anything! Please have me tell you stories about the Thomsen Family when I get home. They're the best, but writing out the stories is ridiculous! I love you all!

Xoxoxoxoxox <3 Sister Kerr