Monday, December 22, 2014

A Mighty Change of Heart

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!! (If this gave you a seizure, I apologize)
Oh man, life is just too good over here!! I'm 100% excited for Christmas, even more excited than last Christmas. I'm really grateful because I've been in this area for about 5 months now so I know a lot of people whereas last Christmas I didn't know very many because I'd just gotten transferred the week before. But we're going to spend it with some of my favorite families so it'll be great!
A lot of really exciting things happened this week. 
Maggie got baptized! It was a beautiful and spiritual experience. Both of the women who spoke are converts so they gave touching and personal testimonies of baptism and the Holy Ghost. I don't think I've ever attended a more spiritual baptism in my life. We asked her how she felt right after she got out of the water and she said "FABULOUS!!" with a big smile on her face. Her family is softening their hearts little by little as well!
Andy set a baptism date!! This was a total surprise to me, especially because at the beginning I NEVER thought he'd get baptized and when we tried to set a date a few weeks ago I just didn't think it would happen any time soon! But at our last lesson he bore testimony about the reality of the Apostasy and Restoration (the very things that he had originally rejected) and we pretty much asked him "WHY HAVEN'T YOU GOTTEN BAPTIZED YET??" He basically said that he was waiting for a date to pop into his head. We know that God rarely gives us reveleation that way, so we decided to be the middlemen and list off all the Fridays in January. He said that he was stuck between the 16th and the 23rd. Sis. McKenzie said that her dad was a convert and his birthday is the 16th so he should choose that one and then I chimed in and said that there wasn't really anything special about the 23rd. So he chose the 16th. It was just so incredible, though, because this is something I NEVER would have expected the first time I met Andy. It makes me think of a scripture in the Book of Mormon that takes place after a prophet/king named Benjamin finishes teaching his people about their Savior and asks if they believe his words:
"And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought mighty change‍ in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evilbut to do good continually."
I have witnessed this time and time again in myself and in others. People who stop desiring evil and instead desire good continually. EVERYONE has the capacity to change and become like God. If you think it's too late to change, you're wrong. A few weeks ago I witnessed the baptism of an 83 year old man who began his life anew because he experienced this mighty change of heart. Andy has already lived most of his life, but he also experienced the mighty change of heart and is changing his life to be in harmony with God's will. We all can and do change all the time. We are not built to be static. We are dynamic beings who are becoming like God. 
I love you all and I hope that during this Christmas week you all remember the One who makes it possible to change through His grace and mercy. Jesus Christ is the reason we have Christmas and the only source of peace and hope in this life and the next. I pray that we all can bring out lives more in alignment with His will.
Hermana Bethani Holloway
1. Maggie's baptism
2. Making Pecan Balls at Grandma Goewey's. Each batch has sweetened condensed milk, butter, and powdered sugar. YUM.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tornado warning? in December???

But really. We were at our Ward Mission Leader's house for correlation meeting last night and all the sudden the tornado sirens start going off... We turned on the news and sure enough there was a tornado warning for Oklahoma county! Luckily the storm was out in Luther (which is just north of Choctaw so it's pretty far east) so we didn't have to worry. We were all ready to head underground though! It's my first official tornado warning as a missionary in OK, so the fact that it took 15 months and that it happened in December is super bizarre. But such is the weather in Okie-home-a!

This week was WONDERFUL! We've been doing a lot of service, and our mission president announced that they want us missionaries using the website to serve for 10 hours each week. That might be kind of tricky because we're super busy but I love service so it should be fun! We were able to serve for the Salvation Army and help them process gifts for Christmas and then we set up for the ward Christmas party (it was 3 members and 6 missionaries... so it was good we were there). I got to wear pants a LOT though. No complaints there!
We also had our Christmas mission conference that included half of the mission. I got to see some old friends and everything they trained on was exactly what we needed. It was a spiritual and physical feast (because there was good food as well)! President Walkenhorst talked a lot about cleansing the inner vessel and working with members. He said that our goal should not be to get referrals, but to teach them how to be member missionaries. Sometimes I do that backwards, and it doesn't work as good :). But basically I'm just really really grateful that I can be a missionary and learn at the feet of inspired leaders and spiritual giants that really help me and inspire me to be the best I can. I'm also really grateful that I have been able to learn how to recognize the Spirit in general because that is something that I wasn't very good at before or even at the beginning of my mission. It's something that has come as I have diligently prayed and recorded spiritual experiences and sought to have them. Since I have done that I can see exactly when I have the Spirit and when I do not. It's something that's impossible to describe but easy to understand once you've experienced it. So if you haven't been able to feel or recognize the Spirit in your life I encourage you to start learning now, because it will become like a GPS that will give you direction in all that you do.
Also we had our ward Christmas party this week! We had our own missionary table with "He is the Gift" all set up and rolling. A lot of members brought friends that ate the food and had a great experience. Maggie also came and just LOVED it, especially the program featuring a young couple with their own baby. The next day we brought Maggie to a baptism and she had tears streaming down her face the whole time. I know that she felt the Spirit and is excited for her own baptism.
I'm grateful for all of you and your support and examples to me. I love you and I hope that as we move closer to Christmas you can feel the Spirit that accompanies this special season.
Con much carino y amor,
Hermana Holloway
1. Salvation Army service! Courtney drove us and the elders down there. She went to BYUH too, so she's automatically really cool in my book.
2. Our table at the ward Christmas party. #sharethegift!
3. When the tornado sirens went off we did the natural thing, went outside and looked at the sky :). Pretty cool, huh?

Inspired ear infections and the lost key fiasco

well ALOOOOOOOOOHA family and friends!!!
This week was....
It was a rollercoaster. And for those of y'all that know me well you know that I LOVE roller coasters, but sometimes riding them can be exhausting (if you don't believe me, go to 6 Flags on a slow day and ride Raging Bull 10 times. Then you'll understand) BUT it is also really fun. It's that whole principle of opposition thing that I was talking about earlier. To quote myself from 9/22:
So there has been a lot of opposition, BUT as Lehi points out, if we didn't have the bad we would not appreciate or even see the good. ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING has its opposite. I'm sure that all y'all smarties out there have already figured this out, and intellectually I knew it, but I have never seen so many examples of it until this week. We NEED opposition to be able to be happy, of this I am thoroughly convinced.
So yeah. This week has been a rollercoaster. But with every downhill comes an uphill, through every slow patch there's speed up ahead, and every line you have to wait in has a fun ride at the end. But before I wax too philosophical and bore all y'all, here are some experiences to help you ride the rollercoaster with me:
EXPERIENCE #1: Last Monday my ear was KILLING me and I knew from past experience that I had an ear infection, probably brought on by doing a lot of service in the allergy-infested outdoors. So we called the mission nurse and she recommended that I just go to urgent care and get an antibiotic prescribed. Well shoot. Ain't nobody got time for that! We literally had NO time until Wednesday, so that's when we went. We went to an urgent care in Edmond because I've spent 4 hours at urgent care in the city before so we decided to go somewhere that was a little more... classy. Luckily we got in and out in less than 30 minutes and they were even able to fill the prescription right away at the little family pharmacy that's attached to the urgent care. So we went around and started talking to the lady that was filling the prescription. After chatting for a minute, we asked if she was excited for Christmas (one of the ways we transition to "He is the Gift") and she said that she was, but she has a hard time teaching her children about God because they're really little so they don't really know the true meaning of Christmas. Well, just ASK THE MISSIONARIES they can help you! So we told her about He is the Gift, etc and before we could even ask if we could come by she asked if she could have our card so she could get ahold of us. Well ok! We set up an appointment for the next day. But upon examining the map we realized that she did not live in our area... so we had to give her to the Edmond 1st elders. But they had a lesson with her and set a baptismal date and then she came to church! So it wasn't a new investigator for us, but we're all on the same team, right?
EXPERIENCE #2: Friday was definitely the most awkward day of my life. I won't go into detail, but just trust me when I say that it was AWKWARD and a little discouraging. However, Saturday was amazing!(remember that whole opposition thing) We went to a baptism in Stillwater for Sis. McKenzie and then Tieasha (Comesha's daughter) had her baby shower and we were able to set some appointments with her family members. Then that night we were filling up the car and we get this phone call. He says that his name is Chris and that his dad just joined the church about 2 years ago and he's decided that he wants to be taught by missionaries and be baptized. WHO DOES THAT???? We were freaking out just a little bit and part of me thought that it'd be a scam, but it wasn't! The only problem was, though, that as we checked the address, we found out that he lives in the Edmond 1st elders area... So we passed him over once again. Kind of sad, but we know that we're being instruments in God's hands and that he will bless us with new people to teach as we continue to be worthy and diligent!
EXPERIENCE #3: Church on Sunday was JUST AMAZING. We wanted to present He is the Gift at church, and our bishop ended sacrament meeting a little early, and then we introduced the video and the initiative while the congregation was still sitting there. So everyone in the ward saw it and LOVED it. It also became the topic of conversation for the rest of church and many members commented on how much they liked it and that they are thinking of people that they can share the Gift with this Christmas. IT WAS SO GREAT!! and then the rest of church was fantastic. Bro. Cease gave an inspiring lesson in Gospel Principles about testimonies and everyone was moved to tears. And then in Relief Society Sis. Burke had the sisters share the impressions that they received as they watched He is the Gift and how they're going to act on them. It was simply amazing. I have never felt so inspired and renewed after church before. THIS CHURCH IS SO TRUE!!!!! 
...but later on, while we were sitting in correlation we realized that our house key was missing. Like gone. We tried to retrace our steps as best we could on our way to Stillwater for another baptism (by calling people) but nobody could find it. By the time we got home it was 10pm and our options were either to call the mission president so he could bring us a spare key or to crash at another set of sister's house. We chose the latter, because I was not about to make Pres. W interrupt his sleep for our mistake. So we go to the Edmond 1st sister's apartment and sleep on their air mattress and recliner and then this morning we had to figure out what to do. I was a little down for the count because I had not brought any contact solution, and the only sister who wears contacts in that apartment has this weird solution that you can only use with a specific case or else it will burn your eyeballs out (weird, right?). Well I didn't find this out until the morning and my contacts had already been sitting in the solution all night. Long story short, I was blind from the time I woke up until we finally got back into our apartment. Not fun. We never did find the key, so we got into the apartment using the spare and then had the lock changed so whoever has it can no longer get in.
Do you see the rollercoaster effect? All in all it was a great week, though. We have had some great experiences sharing the Gift and I am so excited to being teaching the friends that I know our members will give to us. LIFE IS SO GOOD!!!!
Well y'all are awesome. I appreciate your prayers on my behalf. Please keep them coming, and especially pray for the members here because I know that they want to invite, they just sometimes lack the boldness to do so (as do we all).
~Hermana Holloway
1. Sometimes district lunch gets a little out of hand.
2. Crazy fog on the way to Stilly
3. Our sleepover in Edmond

PS: You should look up "the Missionary Next Door" and listen to it (it's a talk) it's super funny and really amazing!

Monday, December 1, 2014

He is the GIFT!!

GOOOOOOOOOD afternoon friends and family!!!!!
So I hope all y'all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a really really great one. We only had 2 dinners, but they were back-to-back. We started out at the Bishop's house and had a big, traditional dinner and then went straight to Sis. Goewey's (one of our RCs) house for some fried turkey! It was a LOT of food to handle, but it was way fun. And on the way back to drop off the elders we drove through Nichol's Hills (one of the ritziest places in OK. We have a joke that it's called Nichol's Hills because the people have a lot of nickels) and got a preview of their Christmas lights. It's basically a neighborhood of really huge, unique mansions, so of course it was stunning. 
The really big news, though, is called He is the Gift. It's going to be the main tool for members and missionaries to share the gospel this Christmas season. If you haven't seen the video, watch it right now!
The purpose of it is to bring people closer to Christ and to help people discover, embrace, and share the true meaning of Christmas. It's really really great and such an easy and nonthreatening way to share the gospel! We even got special pass-along cards at a special training about it and since then we've been having great conversations with people about it and sharing the gift with EVERYONE. It's so great! Everyone should DISCOVER the Gift, EMBRACE the Gift, and SHARE the Gift, because Jesus is what it's all about. Without Him, none of this matters!
I AM SO EXCITED TO BE A MISSIONARY THIS CHRISTMAS!!! I love and appreciate all y'all and I hope you have stellar weeks and that the beginning of your Christmas season is fabulous. Take care! Amor y besos!
~Hermana Holloway
1. When we were visiting a RC family on Thanksgiving with the elders we saw this white tower thing so we decided to take a picture in front of it! I'm pretty sure it's attached to some energy company.
2. Thanksgiving at Grandma Goewey's!
3. HE IS THE GIFT!! Share it!


ALOOOOOOHA family and friends!!
As you can already tell from the title, this week was AMAZING!!! SO many people making and keeping covenants with Heavenly Father! Life is good!!
Also, this is new planner week... and I forgot my old planner. So if there some holes in the narrative I profusely apologize.
This week was transfers. Nothing changed in Village North, but in our district a set of sisters got swapped for elders. Sad, but true. The wave that began October of 2012 is beginning do die down and they predict that our mission, which is now at about 220 missionaries, will go down to 180 in the next 6 months a lot of areas will be closing, and more sister areas will have to be switched to elders. So if you don't want to go on a mission just because "everyone's doing it", just know that we need you out here. Every able and worthy young man, woman, or senior couple. We could use many many more in this mission and throughout the world. 
Anyways, it was sad to see the sisters go. So now in my STL dominion there are 5 companionships, and when I got here we got 7. This is kind of a blessing as well, because we can devote more attention to each individual missionary. Sis. McKenzie and I have devised a plan to help each sister with her individual progress so that she can grow from wherever she is. I'm really excited to implement it on exchanges!
As for our investigators, this week we saw Elijah every day and HE GOT BAPTIZED ON SATURDAY!!! It was wonderful. He's been taught for a while, and he was just so ready and excited. He had a huge goofy grin on the entire time, and half the deacon's quorum came and supported him in that decision. I was reflecting back on my time teaching him, and the real pivotal moment came when we had a lesson with him in a member's home. I guarantee that he would not have gotten baptized if it weren't for that. Since that lesson he continuously progress until his baptism date. I'm so grateful for the members in this ward! They are so amazing!
We were also able to set a baptismal date with one of our other "eternal investigators", Myrianna! (she's the "Mimi" in "Mimi and Tati" if you remember them) We did a missionary fast (meaning we stopped seeing her for about 3 weeks)because she wasn't really progressing, and then we went to see her and just boldly invited her to be baptized on December 13th. She accepted! Milagro!
And Emmitt's baptism, which was cancelled last week due to snow, happened yesterday! There was also a lot of support from the ward, and Sis. Petermann and Sis. Goelz gave really touching talks that really showed the love they have for April and Emmitt. I love how much the ward has embraced this family with open arms, especially since they have made such sacrifices to be where they're at. 
Mostly I've been spending a lot of time marveling at the members and the work here. This is my 4th transfer in the Village Ward, longer than any other area, and I've seen consistent growth the whole time. The members are catching the spirit of missionary work and are recognizing the blessings that serving Father's children brings to their lives. I'm just so grateful to be a missionary! This is really really hard, but there are things that I've learned out here that I doubt I would have learned anywhere else. At the beginning of my mission I had the attitude that the mission field needed me. Well now I recognize just how much I need the mission field. I need the refiner's fire and the experiences that encourage me to rely on the Lord. It was very necessary for my personal spiritual progression and I highly recommend it :).
Well, I love you all!!! Cuidense y que disfruten del dia de la accion de gracias!
~Hermana Holloway
1. Elijah's baptism! love this kid!
2. Emmitt's baptism! He's so funny!
3. The sketchy basement that has the controls to fill the font!