Thursday, November 10, 2016

Robert's Baptism

November 7, 2016

Hello everyone!

This week went really well! Monday we were really busy, we travelled to Farmington for a leadership conference that my companion had to go to. It was quite fun, we picked up some sisters in Cortez on the way, they are so funny! We laughed the entire way there. And it was nice to go to walmart! Our shopping options are gas stations and a tiny grocery store. During the conference I joined some YSA sisters and we became a trio, that was pretty fun! We went to a huge trailer park! It was like 5 square miles, thankfully they knew their way around.

Then I went on exchanges in Cortez, and I've come to realize that Monticello is amazing! Everybody kept telling me it's the celestial kingdom of the mission and I was so lucky to go there. Robert's baptism was really great! We were really happy for him. I don't have a lot of time, we have to go now.

I love you more than the number of deer out here! If you don't see like 10, it's a weird day.

Sister Withers

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Towaok and Crepes

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a great week! This week was pretty good for me. We have been super busy, but that's okay, it's good to be busy! Sister Steadman is a sister training leader, which means she has to do exchanges with other companionships, which means I do too. So I was in Cortez Colorado twice this week. We went out on the Ute reservation for parts of it, and it's like a whole new country out there. The reservation we went to is called Towaok (toy-yock). It's like a 3rd world country, even though it's here in UT. When we were on exchanges, we were listening to a song/recording called "Prophet Pep-talk." I was blown away, it was so good! You should look it up!! It's about 10 minutes long. You'll need to brace yourself and put on your spiritual seat belt for this one, it's super powerful! It's a compilation of powerful statements by prophets and apostles! And the music that goes with it is so good! You need to look it up!

Also, we did a service project, and the lady said "oh yeah, be careful as you move that pile of wood, there are scorpions in there" and then later she told us how she has this 6 foot bull snake in the corner of her garage... We didn't see either, thank goodness.

We had zone conference, which was really good. One thing we learned was that if you want God's help, you're going to have to put in the effort. They related it to the Brother of Jared. He didn't wait til they were in the boats, and ask for the light after he realized it was dark in there. He thought ahead, and brought the stones up to the mountain, and then prayed, and then God helped him. Because of his faith, God helped him. That's how God works.

Also, we had the cleanest truck. It's a big competition. We got 50/50, and they give the winners a necklace (or tie tack). It was super shiny, and all the tires had the perfect pressure, we worked hard for that one :)

This week, we had a great experience! Actually, a lot of them. But one in particular was with a guy named Robert. He's about 60, and was ex-communicated about 30 years ago. He used to be active, and went on a mission and everything, but made some choices that took away his membership. But I think he's always had a testimony of the gospel. Anyway, he's been working with the missionaries for the past few months. At first, he flat out said "I don't see myself coming back into the church." But they were persistent, and last night it was decided by the leaders in this area that he can be re-baptized!! So he's going to be baptized this Saturday!!!

And, we've also been working with a less active couple in Colorado, and they haven't been to church in about 30 years. But we visit with them quite a bit, and they came to church yesterday!!! We were super happy about that! They're goal is to be sealed in the temple, but they have to put in the effort!

There are some families in this area that are really struggling. They've come so far, but Satan is being Satan and isn't wanting to help us too much. But we are trying to help them in every way possible. I've learned a lot already on what it takes to have a functional family, and that is vital to life!

We had a funny experience this week. On one of the days that we were in Monticello, we met with these two old ladies for a picnic. They don't live in town, they live far away, like 10 miles of dirt road off the highway. Their living conditions aren't too good either. And they are very Catholic. We ate lunch (thank you, Mom for making me practice as a kid to "pretend you're a missionary and eat the food, and smile and say thank you" because the food they gave us was... I don't even know. They said they were crepes, which are normally good, but these were different. And the filling was fried chicken mixed with a lot of... mayo maybe, and another was some fish stuff, and the bones were still in it. One of them took a bite and said, "oh hey, they still have the bones! Oh well, more calcium!" and so that made them a little crunchy.) And then we basically listened to them talk the whole time about their dogs, and Catholicism, and they begged to know our first names, but I kindly insisted on being called Sister Withers, because my comp said if you tell them, they call you by that forever. But we made it out of there alive :)

I love you all more than the number of days that have passed since Moroni buried the plates! Hope you're all doing well :)

Love,
Sister Withers

Monday, October 24, 2016

Baptism By Fire... Literally

October 24, 2016

Hello everyone!

This week was pretty awesome! We did all sorts of service projects this week. One of them was a little interesting. So, there's this "college" here in Monticello. I don't know what they focus on, but they have about 20 students, and it's just a little strange.They're trying to make a new form of housing, made of sandbags making a dome, and then covering it in a mixture of mud and cement... As if putting mud on a house wasn't brilliant enough. Apparently its earthquake proof(even though it has no foundation, it's a dirt floor), bullet proof, sound proof, and a lot of other proofs... We were in charge of covering it with mud/cement. It was fun, just a little different.

We also helped an investigator paint his trailer, and they chose bright purple! And we raked leaves. And we chopped Sister Codner some wood. And we cleaned out the back room of a thrift store. There was a lot of stuff to be thrown out, but we did it as a district, it was fun.

So, we had an investigator decide he wants to be baptized but his parents won't let him til he's 18, which is in March. It's not too far away, but still. And we have another person getting really close! Both of them are being taught in member's homes, and that makes all the difference!! Members are the key to missionary work.

This week we had a bit of an adventure. Wednesday night we got in, it was about 9:00, so it was dark. We were walking up to the house, and look off to the left and see something glowing. We walk over and see its a flame. So we run in and ask Sister Codner if she knew what was going on, and she didn't. We ran out and got some buckets and a garden hose and put it out some, but it had spread quite a bit. Thankfully it wasn't a lot of flames, just ashes and embers at this point, so it must've been burning for a while. Parts of the fence were on fire, and there was a flame surrounded by pine needles under a big pine tree. We were scrambling, but we managed to keep it under control. We had the sense of mind to call the fire department, and they put the rest out. I'm glad they came. We think it started when Sister Codner spread some ashes from her wood stove. She uses it to heat her living room. The fire fighters said it must've been burning for about 2 days. We got there just in time, because it was picking up quite a bit. But the miracle is that we didn't have any major flames or the fence didn't go down(for the most part) and the house was ok. The fire didn't even get to the inside of the fence. Normally we have a south wind, but I think Heavenly Father pushed it north so the fire would spread away from the house. And it's a miracle it traced the fence but never got in, because the fence is pretty close to the house. Anyway, Wednesday night was an adventure! All is well here, Sister Steadman is the best trainer and companion ever!! She's from Far West UT, which is by Brigham City.

I love you all more than the number of miracles that happen to missionaries all over the world!!

Love,

Sister Withers

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Day in the New Mexico Mission

Hello!!
Wow, this week was a big week! Monday was such a long day, we were up at 2:45 and spent the entire day dragging around luggage through the airports, trying to stick together (there were 11 of us), and then we finally made it and the mission president and his wife are super nice and let us rest for a little bit, but we were still exhausted. But I think I've caught up on sleep now, which is wonderful. I got to my area Tuesday afternoon, and so far, I love it! We serve in 2 wards in Monticello, and a branch in Dove Creek, which is in Colorado. They are both really small towns. 

We drive a silver 2014 Nissan Frontier truck. It's super nice, and it has a USB music port, so we listen to music all the time, and it has the feature where you call somebody, and it hooks up to the speakers in the car so we can talk and drive, it saves us so much time!

We usually drive 20 miles from our home to either Monticello or Dove Creek because they are in opposite directions, and spend the day there. We usually park the truck somewhere and walk everywhere because the town is so tiny. We spent our first day in Dove Creek. We were walking from house to house visiting different people. One of them was a less active, and we were sitting on his back porch reading from the Book of Mormon with him. He has a dog who wouldn't stop barking. It was his turn to read the next verse, and in the middle of it, he shouts "Shut up Homer!" I'm guessing that's the name of the dog. It was really funny though! We tried not to laugh. After our appointments, we were tracting, and there was a drunk man sitting on his porch. Sister Steadman says they have gone many times before and shared a message with him. As we walked by, he called us over, so we go say hi to him and shared a quick message. So yeah, I taught a drunk man on my first day.

On Wednesday, we had a service project. We reinforced a hogan. (Hogan is a traditional Navajo house. It looks like an igloo, but it's made of mud. They are round and about 12 feet tall. This one was a replica for some historical site). The funny thing is, they are made of mud. So, how do you reinforce mud? By adding mud to it. Doesn't that just make perfect sense? I'm wondering what happens when it rains. Or maybe it doesn't rain enough out here to do any damage. But anyway, we spent the afternoon mixing dirt and water in buckets and then carrying it over to this hogan, and just sliming mud where it was weak.

We have an investigator named Louis, who is having a hard time getting over some addictions. He says he's committed to living the gospel, but can't stop drinking. But he has moved to the elder's area now so we won't be working with him anymore. Most of the people here are less actives. And it's surprising how many people have been ex-communicated from the church. I think a third of the population here has been ex-commnunicated at some point in their life. Some of them are still non-members, some have been re-baptized and are now active, but most of the people we work with are less active.

I live in Eastland, which is in Utah but part of the Colorado branch. The lady we live with is super nice. She's 85 and widowed. Sister Steadman says when they first got here, she was a little grumpy, but she has warmed up now that she has company all the time. I think she was just lonely. But she has an awesome house! It's like a country cottage on the outside, and Victorian style and decoration on the inside. It's in the middle of nowhere (a tiny dirt road that turns off of a dirt trail is the driveway). But it's super nice, and there's a piano in there, which is wonderful. We are so spoiled!!

I love you more than the number of square miles of fields out here! (I'ts basically all farmland or nothing).

Hope all is well! 
Sister Withers

Friday, October 7, 2016

Last Week at the MTC!

October 6, 2016

Hello everyone!
Today is P-day, and we went to the temple. We did a session; it was so good. I did a family name for one of the family names that I did the initiatory for last week. (Thanks Chad for the names!) I'm so glad I got to be a temple worker before I came on my mission! It's only been 2 weeks and I can already tell how much it blessed my life. It's weird going only once a week, but it's going to be even harder not going for like 6 months.

Conference was this past weekend. I hope you all had a chance to listen to it. If you didn't, you should look it up and watch it soon! It was amazing! I've never learned so much in conference before. My favorite was Elder Nelson's talk on joy. I like how he said that we are living in perilous times, these are the latter days, no doubt. But in 2 Nephi 2:25 we know that "men are that they might have joy." So here we are, living in this world, and we are supposed to have joy! Thank goodness for the gospel and for Jesus Christ and the light we can get when we keep the commandments. Being obedient equals blessings. Be obedient, and you will have joy. There were lots of talks in conference that I liked, but that one really stuck out to me. Also, when the MTC choir sang "Called to Serve" it was amazing! We were in the MTC standing and singing as our friends and companions were representing us in the conference center, singing that song in front of the prophet! I felt the spirit so strongly!

At the MTC they do movie nights for the missionaries, and by movie night, I mean watch a talk. And we had just watched all 10 hours of conference, and then had a devotional. But we lucked out because they were showing Meet the Mormons too, so we watched that. But it was the new one. I actually don't think it's officially out yet. They added 3 people to the original 6 people they did in the first one. But it was good!
My district is super funny; we always find stuff to laugh about. Sunday night we were in the classroom, and all 6 sisters could not stop laughing (I can't even remember what was so funny) but for a solid 20 minutes we were just laughing our heads off.

On Tuesday nights, they do a devotional, and this past Tuesday, Sister Linda K. Burton and her husband came and spoke. It was so good! (Sister Burton is the general Relief Society President). But I really liked what Brother Burton said. He talked about becoming a missionary. He had his granddaughter come up (she's actually in the MTC right now) and put on his suit coat. He said that the suit represents a missionary's mantle, or purpose. We put on our name tag and represent Jesus Christ, and at first, it's way too big and you feel like you're drowning in it (because the suit coat was really big on her.) But as we serve our mission, it's like we are working out our missionary muscles and we are growing with each lesson or act of service we do. And over time, we begin to fit into the mantle, and eventually it fits! But then we go home, and are released from being a missionary, and take off the suit coat. And what we have left is what we have become. I don't know if that made any sense, the way he explained it was much more eloquent, but it was a really good analogy and the spirit was so strong!

Yesterday, Sister Gillie and I had extra time after lunch, and we decided to go into one of the rooms and just play the piano. We took turns, and while she went, I stood by the window and watched all the new missionaries coming in. I felt the spirit really strongly at that moment, and I know this is where I'm supposed to be. I realized how incredible the MTC is. They have 500+ missionaries coming in from all over the world, and they come here and get a companion and take different classes and teach different people. This place is so organized!! It works like a very intricate clock, and the spirit is always present.

It's crazy to think that this is my last week at the MTC. It feels like I just got here! Time is so warped at the MTC. The days go slow but the weeks fly by. I'm going to miss feeling the special spirit this place has, it's unlike anything in the world! But I'm excited to get into the field and serve the people in New Mexico! I leave Monday morning!!

I hope everybody is doing well! I love you more than the number of missionaries who come into the MTC each week!


Love,
Sister Withers

Thursday, September 29, 2016

First Week!

Hello Family,
How are you all doing?! How's school? How's work? I saw all your emails and read them, it’s good to hear from you. Sorry if I don't respond to them all, I love you and I hope all is well.

I love it here at the MTC, it has been so great so far! But it has also been a very busy week. I have learned so much, I feel like the change in my testimony has gone from the Sahara Desert to the Amazon or something. Not that I didn't have a testimony before, but it has definitely grown. I think it's impossible to not have a strengthened testimony while at the MTC. Each day I learn so much about the church and the spirit is always so strong! I love it! I am actually not homesick. I hope you're not offended. Being at college before this helped. And it is kind of impossible to be homesick at the MTC because we have 16 hour days where it is jam packed full of teaching and class and devotional. And gym time is a great break! But I love learning and feeling the spirit all the time! And you would think that after studying and working with the scriptures and preach my gospel for all day every day, I would get tired of it. But I'm not. I get up at 6:30 every morning excited to get going at it again!

My companion is super cool, her name is Sister Gillie, she's from Montgomery AL. The people in my district are also really fun. All the sisters are going to New Mexico Farmington and all the elders are going to Pocatello ID. The elders are really funny and one of them has an Elmo voice and sometimes sings the Elmo song to wake us all up after being in the classroom for several hours. One of the sisters had us laughing our heads off last night at dinner when she was putting on a southern accent.

 We have class every day, and we are with our district for basically all day, and most of the day we sit in this tiny classroom and study or teach. It’s always best when we have a teacher there to help us. Our teachers are Brother Crandall and Brother Meyers. And did you know that the teachers at the MTC are really young? I thought they would all be older, but both of mine are not even a year off their missions, going to BYU. Sister Gillie and I have been teaching several investigators this week and we have learned to go by the spirit because the spirit is the real teacher. They keep telling us to teach people, not lessons, and it’s so true!

We had one investigator that our teacher was pretending to be, and we got her to commit to baptism and it was so exciting! After we had 3 lessons with her, Brother Crandall told us who the investigator really was and it was so cool! It turns out, he met her on Tinder. The Lord works in mysterious ways! And then he ran into her at temple square, and had a long visit with her. Turns out she's atheist but is slowly becoming interested in God. He taught her and she wanted to meet with the missionaries, but he was nervous to hand her over because what if the missionaries were slacking or not taking their responsibilities seriously? But guess what? One of the missionaries in her area was one that Brother Crandall had just taught in the MTC! And it was his first area, and this investigator took the lessons and is going to get baptized on Oct 10!! I thought that was so cool! That missionary was in our shoes not even 6 weeks ago, it felt so real when he told us that, after teaching her and learning to love her and wanting to help her, and now she's going to be baptized in real life! I have really learned to love the investigators we teach, which is weird because we have only met with them like 2 or 3 times each, but the church is true and I want them (and everyone) to have it in their lives.

Being a missionary is so fun! Our entire purpose is to help others and invite them to come unto Christ. We get to study and teach and love people, and that's it!
On our first day here, they gathered all the new missionaries into a room and we had a devotional and then we sang "The Army of Helaman" and wow, that was so powerful! They got permission from Janice Kapp Perry to change the words from "we will soon be the Lord's missionaries" to "we are now the Lords' missionaries" and the spirit was super strong!

We met our branch president last Thursday night, and he shared with us a really cool perspective. He was talking about Abraham being a noble and great one, and then related it to us and said we are all noble and great. But then he said that we have been alive since the premortal life, and we have had the gospel that whole time! It's only been in the past 19 years that I have been on this side of the veil, and that's nothing compared to 6,000+ years! But the coolest thing he said was that we have been doing this work our whole life. Before we came to earth, we were sharing the gospel and now, I'm on a mission continuing that work. I thought that was really cool.

In our district, there are 6 sisters and 5 elders. I think it’s awesome how we have more sisters than elders. Did you know that twice this year, the MTC has had more sisters than elders?! Go sisters! And guess what else? Spoiler alert: some of the MTC missionaries are going to be singing in the Saturday afternoon session of general conference! But I won't be, they only took the very most talented singing missionaries who have been in at least one audition choir. Not me, but that's ok. Two of the sisters from my district are going! Sam, now these missionaries can say "we're from the MTC, Mormon Tabernacle Choir," and it will actually be true :)

One other really spiritual life changing thing was Sunday night we watched a talk by Elder Bednar called The Character of Christ. The spirit was SOO STRONG! He said that the character of Christ is to turn outward when the natural man would turn inward. Basically, when you think it’s a good moment to glorify yourself or get some credit for something you did, or you want others have sympathy on you, that is actually a moment of being tested to see if you have the character of Christ, because He would turn outward and think of others, when he had every reason to have pity on himself. My whole perspective on life was changed in less than an hour. I challenge you to turn outward the next time you have a moment when you want somebody to look at you and have sympathy for you. By putting off the natural man, you will be more like Christ and you will be blessed! (Mosiah 3:19).

There are so many things I have learned and so many more spiritual experiences, I wish I had time to share them all.

I hope you are all doing well. The church is true! I know that we can all become more like the Savior by doing the small and simple things. Heavenly Father loves us and wants to helps us. He is waiting with open arms for you to turn to him. The Book of Mormon is true. I know that if we try to read it every day, we will have the strength we need to make it through this life and be able to change and when that happens, we will want to read it every day because we will notice a difference.

Love,
Sister Valerie Withers

Sister Valerie Withers

Sister Valerie Withers was called to serve in the New Mexico Farmington mission on June 4, 2016.  She entered the Missionary Training Center on September 21, 2016 and will arrive in New Mexico on October 10, 2016.  Her letters and pictures will be posted to this site.