August 25, 2014

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I’ve loved reading yalls emails and letters, Gretchen made me laugh a lot and I even had time to read Mom’s and Grandma’s all the way through today!!

I don’t really know how to write missionary emails I realized, I’ve mostly been writing little stories so I hope that’s okay. BUT today I’ll try to go day by day a little bit to mix things up.

Monday last week we went on a hike….there are so many weird bugs here, I’m starting a weird bug picture collection. The trees and ground and everything were super muggy and wet and the humidity still weirds me out but it isn’t that bad. And MIRACLE OF MIRACLES my hair is somehow less frizzy over here!!

On Tuesdays we volunteer at a food pantry for 3 hours. We are pumped because we’ve made friends with a devout Catholic man, Judge Charles Herman, and he’s been inviting us into his home. His wife is dying of cancer….he told Sis G about how bad it was a couple months ago and she asked if he wanted some Elders to go to the hospital and give her a blessing. He was hesitant but then agreed to it, and it was a really good experience for them. Ever since then he asks us to come over and visit every week.

Wednesday was prayer circle and it was awesome!! I called out Mr. British Guy on his rudeness, in a nice way of course. It was us missionaries and leaders of Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc churches. They were having a conversation about how each of their religious parties have different strengths and different weaknesses, it was pretty surprising to listen to them openly acknowledge they don’t have complete truth. I Spoke up and said "You can pretty much destroy any religion if you look at the weaknesses and the pieces of history that are misunderstood or don’t make sense… and Cormac (British Catholic guy), forgive me for being upset at you the other day, but that’s why I was upset, I felt like you were targeting all the weaknesses of my church." That sounds like it could have gone over bad but it didn’t, he nodded along and everyone nodded along and continued to talk about different church’s histories, how the Methodists were the first holy rollers but now they’re quite calm and generally don’t acknowledge that part of their history. There was greater love and respect and understanding in the meeting that day, and I think they respect us 4 young missionaries a lot more. They asked about our missions, how we’re called, what it is that sets us apart from other Christian faiths.

I’ve been thinkin how weird religion in general is. Prayers, covenants, ordinances, church, scriptures….it’s just kinda interesting. I’ve been thinking what the point of religion is…maybe the main reason is because of the natural man. The more I do to be more religious, the better I am, becauseI have less time to do bad and more desire to be good. Being religious is really weird especially looking in from the outside, and it even gets annoying sometimes on the inside, haha, but it probably really is God’s best way of setting us straight and keeping us straight.

Ok I super am out of time. Yesterday I got really sick and blacked out at a member’s house, but I feel a lot better today! I’ve gotten a couple blessings this week and I am grateful for the ups after the downs.

I love you all, have a great week!! Drive safe please!!!

– Sister Victoria Hale

Pictures!!!

Gallery

Pictures!!!

Gallery

August 18, 2014

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This was probably the most dramatic week of my mission!!! Mostly yesterday was dramatic so I’ll start there and go backwards.

So we started joining a city prayer circle Wednesday mornings with leaders/pastors/preachers of different Christian congregations and the mayor and some policemen. So this week we were planning a Back-to-School event with a few Christian rock bands and hamburgers and hotdogs. The goal of the prayer circle and events is to unite the area…they talked about how divisive all the denominations are and how ridiculous it is, so they wanted to have an event where we come together for Jesus and all get along, etc., which I thought was really cool and humble of these leaders. I have a lot of respect for so many people in the area but JEEZ LOUISE there is so much immaturity in the way they view/treat people of other denominations. So we talked about this and how the press would be there and that our main purpose was to come together in our faith in Jesus Christ, not promoting any particular doctrine or organizations besides that. The event was yesterday and Sis. Goslewski, Elder Froelich, Elder Udy, and I were there to help out. We were there really early and just talking to the mayor (who is the coolest guy btw) and then one of the religious leaders from the prayer circle (I’ll call him Mr. British Guy) started talking to me and Elder Froelich. We had already been able to tell at the prayer circle that he didn’t like us and looked wayyy down on us so maybe I should have expected him to be antagonistic but hey we were all there for Jesus right? "Do you all know about your church’s history?" he asks in all his British flair. um no I actually don’t know absolutely anything about my church’s history, why don’t you tell me? "I read this book about your church and it’s really quite fascinating.." Awesome, I’d love to hear about my church from someone who has read one book on it, go ahead! And he proceeded to tell me about the Book of Abraham, how it doesn’t match up with the Egyptian characters at all, and how embarrassing that is, and how the Book of Mormon is in the language of the King James Bible, and how silly it is that Isaiah is quoted almost word for word, and how embarrassing it must be that it talks about horses in there and that there is no DNA evidence for Lamanites/Native Americans and how if he had things that embarrassing in his church, he’d take a look at it and wouldn’t be able to go forward, and he asked Sister Godlewski if she believed it because she grew up in the church, and was absolutely so intent on his Mormon-bash rant that he wouldn’t even give me more than 20 seconds of talking at a time before he’d start talking over me with the next thing, "and Joseph Smith had 40 wives and was an alchemist" etc etc etc as if I didn’t know any of that or spend months and months of pain and study over all these types of things. I tried to talk to him about my faith crisis over all this and the different things I’ve learned and experienced, but he was way too rude to let me talk. And because I already had a headache that day and really just wanted to have a fun afternoon with fellow Christians, it really upset me and I went in the car and cried, hahaha. It is just so frustrating that here I am after struggling so long to understand the hard parts of the church, I definitely don’t believe in the Book of Mormon because I grew up Mormon, I really am smart and thinking for myself, but Mr. British Guy thinks I’m an ignorant little kid and I hate that. One of the preachers from another church saw my red eyes and made me tell him what was wrong, I told him about how someone was disrespectful and trying to tear down my faith, and he told me to let it roll off my shoulders and to tell the person I was here for Christ Jesus and I didn’t want to discuss doctrine…..he would probably be surprised to know it was the Catholic priest, one of the head leaders of the event, who made me cry, haha. And the mayor was super nice too, he made me tell him who it was and then told me not to worry about him (I got the feeling Mr. British Guy is kinda like this with the other church leaders). So later as the event was rolling, the priest came up to me and I think it was an apology but I’m not so sure…."You’re a wonderful girl"…thanks…"and we all need to find faith our own way"….yep…."and I’ll pray for you and your search for truth" and he proceeds to pray for me RIGHT THERE. uh thanks, I gotta go cook some hamburgers now though… It was just out of control. You could destroy any religion by spouting off all the weird/bad/misunderstood things about it, I wish he could recognize that about his own church and at least be a little more humble, if not polite. Oh well I forgive.

You got kitties without me!!!!!

That’s cool Jerry and Danielle got to road trip to Idaho!! I miss you two and you should send pictures of Liana and baby precious Desmond. How long are Tobin and Trista in Idaho for? You two should email pictures and stories too!!

We found a family that is just so nice and humble. It’s hard because the mom only speaks Spanish, so we’re going back with Brother Santiago, but our two visits have been uplifting and good. She has 3 daughters and 1 son, maybe there are more family members but that’s all we’ve met.

We’re teaching a guy named Ricky who has had the Book of Mormon for years and he has been reading it a lot more recently but really loves it. I’m excited to talk to him and answer his questions because he has good ones. The difference between a good question and a bad question is the difference between Ricky and Mr. British guy…Ricky wants to learn and Mr. British guy doesn’t give a person 20 seconds to talk. They have some of the same questions but the conversations are totally different.

We had a baptism on Saturday!! The Bradney family had all been baptized/reactivated except 17-year-old Katrina because she wanted more time to decide. Elder Froelich baptized her. She is so cool. We visit that family almost every day because the support is really important for them right now.

I’m grateful for the Book of Mormon and how awesome it is to help us understand the atonement. I’m grateful for the experience the Bradneys had on Saturday at Katrina’s baptism. It was special for them all. Dawn (the mom) bore her testimony and it was so sweet and sincere. I’m grateful to be here!

Oh gotta go! I didn’t get through all the stories but oh well. I am so sorry for anyone I still need to write to or reply to!!! I’ll try to find time in the next few weeks! 🙂 🙂

Love you all!

– Sister Victoria Hale

August 11, 2014

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There is this thing called serving God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength that is kind of hard. If you’re serving with your might and strength but not heart and mind, then you’re probably doing a lot of good things, but you’re probably not all that happy because you don’t want to be doing those things. 1 Cor 13….it’s possible to do a lot of good things even if I don’t want to, but if that’s how I’m going about it, without charity, then “it profiteth me nothing,” it doesn’t make me happy and it doesn’t change me.

This week went by fast and slow…missions are the absolute weirdest. It goes by fast when I am happy and I am happy when I am able to focus and I’m able to focus only when I try super super hard to rely on God. The first day I was able to do that I noticed a huge difference in each lesson and how I felt at the end of the day.

OH MY I don’t know how to break it to you guys but I live in crazytown where most of the people should be in some sort of mental institution. The other night we pulled up to Taco Bell and in the mini van next to us I heard a big hairy idotic dult of a human being give a verbal threat to his teenage son, and I was like WHOA this guy thinks he’s tough, and then he IN PUBLIC in a PUBLIC PARKING LOT gets out of the car, grabs some sort of rod, and gives two giant beatings to the kid. And that’s normal here. All I could think was “I need to get a Book of Mormon into that car” haha and instead of getting his license plate like a normal human being, I ran into Taco Bell and found the lady who was with them and asked if she’d like a book about Jesus (“Yes, I need it” she said). And then they took off before I thought to get their license plate number. Oh p.s. this county is the 3rd highest for drug use in the nation.

Here is another story that you may have heard about. There’s a snake-charming church, something like if you have enough faith you won’t get bitten, and the pastor got bit and died. This was like a year or more ago and it made national news…yeah that took place in La Follette.

WHERE AM I.

On Thursday we had zone conference and it was awesome. President Griffin just came in at the beginning of July and he has a lot of high goals and expectations for us. Historically this mission hasn’t been the most obedient so they’ve been slowly working up to the white handbook rules. Now all the leeway from the past few years is gone. I’m glad I’m being held to high expectations.

Something I’m going to focus on for the next little while is the Book of Mormon. There are two reasons to read the book…one is to gain a testimony, and the other is to experience conversion [with testimony meaning knowledge/belief that it is true, and conversion meaning change and a desire to be closer to God…repentance.]. We talk about how the Book of Mormon is essential to conversion with our investigators…yeah we care that they have a testimony, but that won’t do them much good if they aren’t changed by what they are reading. And it won’t do me much good to have a testimony if I’m not using the book for my conversion, too.

My favorite lesson of the week was with the Bradneys about the Priesthood. I was so excited to teach that lesson. I asked them what the priesthood is (their answer: men doing stuff in the church) and who holds it (their answer: the prophet, the bishop, men). (One of the things they were worried about before being baptized was that women don’t have the priesthood.) I know that Dawn and Charlie, especially Dawn, needed to hear the lesson that proceeded with my very woman-conscious explanation of the priesthood. In the MTC Sheri Dew came and taught Relief Society one Sunday and it was about the doctrine of the priesthood and actually ended up being cool. The priesthood is not men doing stuff in the church, and it’s not something that just men need to study and know about. I have been set apart as a missionary and I hold priesthood authority to perform my duties, as in Elder Oaks’s talk this past April. Anyway….there is still a lot we need to learn about that, but God wants us to be a people of power. We couldn’t perform our callings in the church without the priesthood, I couldn’t be out here without the authority of the priesthood, and the power that comes with our callings and ordinations is such a blessing. So I talked about that and equality and all the stuff I’m good at going off about, haha. They ate it all up and I know the things I taught were so important for that family, and those things wouldn’t have been taught if I wasn’t there teaching them. The Spirit was there.

Let me think if there’s anything else important….fireflies are still so cool. It’s like there are magical fairy creatures that actually exist and it blows my mind (p.s. no one has sent me a wikipedia article on them yet…..)

Ok I’ve gotta go. I love you all so much, thank you parents for the family camp pictures!! Olive already looks older to me. Ok bye!

– Sister V. Hale

August 4, 2014: Bedbugs and fireflies and secondhand smoke and I hate dogs but this is good

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Wow wow wow I will never have enough time to write everything I want to write.

So Tuesday morning of last week, we got about an hour of sleep and then took off to the airport. I was excited to be in the real world again, haha, but then not so much when this airport lady was super rude to all the missionaries…kind of a wake up after having everyone treat you so nice and tell you they’re all so proud of you, haha. Luckily the ladies I sat by on the plane were super nice. One of them gave me earplugs and gum to chew on and a granola bar and just took care of me on my first airplane flight. On that flight I read all the DearElders people sent me. Thank you all!! Some day I’ll have time to individually respond! It was cool to read all the encouragement and mission advice from my aunts, so thank you. So flying is pretty cool. I AM SO SORRY MOMMA that I didn’t get to call you at my layover, our first plane took off half an hour late so we had no time. On the flight from Dallas to Knoxville I sat by the cutest old mustached Catholic man and we talked the whole way. I asked if he had a favorite scripture and he said no, so I said let’s find ya one! I asked what he wanted it to be about, and he said “Travel!” (he’s a big time traveler) and I had one come to my head but I couldn’t find it so I just said it to him, “The Lord thy God will be with thee withersoever thou goest.” He liked it a lot and asked me to write it on a sticky note for him, haha. Then we read some of the Book of Mormon together and he liked it and admitted he would learn more about Christ by reading it and it would probably help him in his life, but he didn’t want to read it because he’s old and it probably wouldn’t change anything. “Did I disappoint you?” he asked. “Nope, just keep doing what you’re doing, keep praying, you’re doing great.” That’s what we end up saying a lot…”Nope I’m not interested, I’m Baptist through and through.” “Awesome. That’s one of our favorite things about being in Tennessee, meeting so many people who love the Savior so much, so keep doing what you’re doing and build that relationship with Him.”

My new companion/my trainer is Sister Godlewski [God-les-ki] (really?? first Trommlitz, now Godlewski?) and she is so great. She has been out for almost a year. She is just so chill about everything and in control of every situation. Apparently her last companion was kinda lazy so we are excited to work together and pick up the work in La Follette. [luh-FAWL-it] (not all fancy and French sounding like I thought at first haha). AH, speaking of that, I don’t know how to talk anymore!! I have my Idaho hic and Utah vernacular mixed with my leftover teenage girl mumbling and now mixed with the Southern drawl and La Follette hic. I seriously sound different every time I talk and everyone probably thinks English is my second language.

Missions are hard. I wonder why I am here but I know I need to stay. No individual day is worth it, I don’t think. But the 18 months as a whole will be worth it and I’ll be glad I stuck it out. There are a lot of promised blessings to be fulfilled only on my mission in Tennessee. It is hard when every house you go to reeks of cigarette smoke and poor hygiene and there’s bugs and dog hair everywhere. (Seriously everyone smokes here, I’ve walked into one home out of 20 that doesn’t smell like smoke.) It’s hard when you approach a house and know you’ll come out with flea or bed bug bites. It is hard when you have no idea how these people will ever understand the gospel. I need to have faith in God’s ability to help people learn and change….like, a LOT of faith with some of them. Many people already have a great foundation of faith in Jesus Christ, but also many people are really superstitious (a lot of weird obsession over the gift of tongues, or even witchcraft practice, etc) or just have weird backgrounds in general.

The coolest family so far that we teach are the Bradneys. Dad Bradney (Charlie) and Christian (20) got baptized a few weeks ago. Charlie quit smoking and drinking in ONE DAY. I love hearing them talk about their choice to be baptized. “The environment of our house is totally different. There used to be a lot of smoking and drinking and fighting, and now there’s none of that.” They still have struggles (like me) but have come so far. We get to see them almost every day.

Fireflies are so cool!!! Could someone send me a wikipedia article on lightning bugs? hahaha. I want to own them and farm them and bring them back to Idaho.

Funny story. So we are teaching a 25-year old named Dallas. Sister G has been teaching him on and off for four months. We were trying to determine last week if he wanted to talk to us because he’s interested in the gospel or because we’re girls, haha, so after an entirely unproductive lesson with him on Saturday, and also that night he texted us and asked if we were allowed to date out here, lolol, we decided if he didn’t show up to church we were gonna drop him. He had never come to church and he never read scriptures or prayed or kept any commitments to us, so we were pretty shocked when he actually came on Sunday. He was really funny, showed us his facebook status that was something like “I’m at church with 2 girls and I can’t believe it, trying to make a right turn in my life” and every ward member he met, he’d say “It’s my first time here! My first time at church,” just proud of it, haha. During sacrament meeting he kept scooting closer to me and getting close to ask questions. Eventually I had to tell him to not put his arm around me, hahahahaha. “I was just tryin to hear ya, not hug you or nothin’.” RIGHHHHT. So my first investigator at church was maybe investigating me. We’re handing him off to the Elders soon to see if he’s serious about it. We are going to try to visit his girlfriend in jail though!

So it hasn’t been that humid here because a tornado came through just a few days before I got here and the climate hasn’t readjusted yet. The tornado touched down from the mountain on our branch mission leader’s (Bro. Mugridge) property, tore up a lot of trees, SPLIT IN HALF and WENT AROUND HIS HOUSE, and then continued on its way. wut. We went to help clean up his property but a bunch of inmates were already doing it, so we hung out with them and helped a little. haha.

I love the ward! Actually it’s a branch!! The branch president is Pres. Smith and he and his wife Sandy are wonderful. He’s funny. In the MTC, the weekend before I came out here, we were watching a cheesy presentation on working with ward members, ward council, ward mission leaders, etc, and I suddenly started bawling. I felt like I’m going to love working with ward members and just felt grateful for them and maybe even that the specific ward/wards I’m going to already love me and pray for me. I felt grateful for them and their support, even though I hadn’t met them yet. I think I kind of forgot I’d be going to church and interacting with church members, I thought I’d be out there on my own for 18 months, haha. Church was good yesterday and I am grateful for the support of my little branch. So (mom and dad) if you ever want to show gratitude for the people who take care of your daughter, do it by helping the missionaries in our stake!! I know you already do, especially with your callings you have right now with the missionaries. I bet they are grateful for everything you do to help them!!! And that is cool that you’re teaching Sunday School now Mom.

I have to go soon. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change. Missionary work is fun. Bed bugs are real. I love you all.

– Sister V. Hale

Quotes of the Week:

“You know honey I was thinkin, if the tornader had taken out our house…we’d be out of debt!” – Pres. Smith (he has just about the hickest accent of any of them)

“I think when Jesus comes and we’re all together again, we’ll have such fun and be so glad!” – 100-year-old Blanche who we went and sang to in a nursing home yesterday. She hasn’t been baptized, too old to get in the water, but wants her work done for her when she dies. She has such a strong testimony of the Savior…also had some good dating advice for the Elders. Haha.

oh oh I’ll try to send pics if I have time