Monday, November 28, 2016

12 new investigators + 5 baptismal dates + the Book of Mormon= 1 very happy Sister Pyper

Oh my goodness what a great week! At zone training a few weeks ago, someone gave an instruction on planning to baptize. They talked about how President wants us to set three-month goals and ask the Lord how many baptisms we can have each month for the next three months and then from that figure out transfer/weekly/daily goals. Sister Ruske and I did that and felt that Heavenly Father would help us have 2 baptisms in both December and January. In general, in this mission, 32 new investigators translates to 1 baptism. So in order for us to have 2, we need to find 64 new investigators. We did the math and figured out that we needed to find 10 a week in order to do that. After prayer and some discussion, we came up with what we felt the Lord wanted us to do in order to find those 10 people every week. We have been trying our hardest to do what we told Him we would do and He has definitely been holding up His end of the covenant! This past week we found 12 new investigators, 5 of them in one day! We had set a goal during weekly planning to have 3 investigators with a baptismal date and we ended with 5! The work is really progressing here and I am so excited to see what continues to happen!

Okay, one of the investigators we found was Eric. He is so amazing! Sister Burkholder and I had met him and we have been trying to get back in touch with him recently. The first time we met him we talked about the Book of Mormon and gave him a copy. He has an extensive knowledge of the Bible and has some....unique...ideas about some of the things it talks about. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and committed him to start reading and praying about it. We went on exchanges this week and had stopped by while we were in the neighborhood. He was sick but told us to come back later in the week, he had some questions about the Book of Mormon. So we show up for our appointment on Friday and had a member with us. In all honesty, the lesson started out terribly. Eric and the member are both very strong-willed and opinionated. Not in a bad way, they just both refuse to back down from what they believe is right. So this member and Eric were starting to argue and be a little contentious. I did not feel the Spirit and I was starting to get frustrated myself. I was trying to kindly interrupt and get back on track when Eric's sister spoke up and asked what made our church different than Christian churches. That was the perfect opportunity for me to bear my testimony. I had no doubt that the Spirit prompted her to ask that question because it turned the entire lesson around. I bore my testimony that we are in fact Christian, that everything we believe is centered on Jesus Christ. I was able to bear my testimony of the reality of a living, modern-day prophet and of the Book of Mormon. As I bore my testimony I felt the Spirit come back into the room. I can't take any credit at all for that, it was all the Spirit. Our member told us in the car after the lesson that she had felt prompted to pray to know what to say or when to keep her mouth shut. That is honestly the best thing she could have done! She was such a great contribution! She bore her testimony to Eric and his family and was able to relate to him in ways we couldn't. After I bore my testimony, the Spirit was there for the rest of the lesson and it was incredible! There was no more anger or contention, only calm and peace. Eric's heart was completely softened and he said that he had no problem reading the Book of Mormon, that he knew it was about Jesus Christ. I think the biggest lessons I learned from this lesson were the power of bearing testimony and the importance of prayer. It was bearing testimony that brought the Spirit back and prayer that helped us all know what to say. Thanks to our member's prayer, we are all now reading Genesis and have until Friday to finish. She apparently felt impressed to challenge Eric that if he would read 1 Nephi by the time we came back, we would read Genesis and talk about it. Sister Ruske invited them all to baptism and they all said yes! 

Other amazing investigators we found this week (running our of time, so I'll just tell y'all a tiny bit about them and fill you in more later)
Sarah: We met her Saturday night and she came to church the next day! And stayed for all 3 hours! 
Melanie: Let us right in, knew that it wasn't an accident that we met her. 
Mina: Saw us walking and asked us who we were. We taught the Restoration and she is willing to do what we commit her to!
We went on exchanges and the Hermana I was with prayed (in Spanish) that we would find 2 new investigators as we tracted in the evening. Well, we did find 2 new investigators, but they spoke Spanish so the Hermanas got them. If only we had prayed in English :)

This past week has really strengthened my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I haven't ever really doubted the Book of Mormon, but recently I have gained a deeper appreciation for it. I know that anyone who sincerely reads it and prays to know if it is true will receive a witness from the Holy Ghost that it is the word of God. I have done that, multiple times, and the answer is always the same. The Book of Mormon is true. Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet. The authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances was restored through him. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is Christ's church. Jesus Christ really lived and died and was resurrected. He is truly the Savior of the world. I know all of that because of the Book of Mormon. I can't imagine my life without the truth found in the Book of Mormon. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father prepared and preserved another record of scripture so that we could have the fullness of His gospel. 

OH! Daily gratitude
Nov 21- socks. We tracted in the evening and I was so glad to be wearing boots and warm socks.
Nov 22- the tiny bit of Spanish I know (just enough to tell people that there are other missionaries that actually speak Spanish). We run into enough people who speak Spanish that any little bit helps.
Nov 23- my planner. Seriously, this little planner is my brain. I would be so lost without it and I would forget everything
Nov 24- The Book of Mormon. How grateful I am to have this additional witness of the Savior and the truth contained in its 531 pages. 
Nov 25- Members of the ward. This is the day we had that lesson with Eric. 
Nov 26- Members of the ward pt 2, specifically the bishop. He is so concerned about us and the people we teach, he always wants to make sure he is doing what is right and helping them progress.
Nov 27- Tiny miracles. One of our recent converts had an argument with their family a couple weeks ago and then vanished. No one had been able to reach them for about a week and then they walk into church like nothing happened. That was such a relief!!!

Love y'all
Sister Pyper

An Unusual Sacrament
​Yesterday was one of the most unique, and powerful, sacrament meetings I have ever been in. It was interactive and full of singing. Instead of speakers, we had songs. 8 people chose their favorite hymn/children's song and bore a short testimony explaining why they picked it. Then we all sang a couple verses of each song. It was incredible! The Spirit was so strong! We had an investigator at church for the first time, which can sometimes be stressful and worrisome, but not today. It was so powerful and she ended up staying for the whole time, even though she had planned on leaving early. 

 D&C 25:12 For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.

Once again, my companion dressed me
(One of) the nice things about having a companion is an expanded wardrobe :) Yesterday I was sick of my clothes (all the ones I loved I had already worn) and couldn't figure out what to wear. So Sister Ruske let me borrow her clothes. The whole outfit is hers and I'm pretty sure I got more compliments on it than on my own clothes. 

Reason # 123876343643 I love the South
Found this while tracting. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Halfway done training and I'm still convinced Sister Ruske is training me

So, in unrelated news, Ethan got his mission call! He is going to Tahiti! He reports March 22, 2017. Any and all prayers his way would be much appreciated :)

Okay, back to Durham. Durham continues to be amazing, as always. First, an update on Jarek, who isn't our investigator anymore. We gave him to the elders a couple weeks ago and that turned out to be the best thing for him! We had been thinking about dropping him and I am so glad we didn't. The elders clicked really well with him and have been able to help him progress. They set a marriage date and a baptismal date with him. He is scheduled to get baptized on Dec 10 and married the day before. We are so excited for him! Both elders are getting transferred, so we offered to make sure that the wedding goes as planned :) 

Now, for people we are teaching. CHRISTINA. In case I didn't tell y'all about her last week, she is amazing. The Hermanas found her and asked her if she would be interested in joining our church. She told them she would definitely consider it. The first lesson we had with her, before we had even taught very much and were just getting to know her, she asked us what she needed to do to be baptized. We set a baptismal date that first lesson and she has been progressing really well! This past week has been really stressful for her, she was in danger of being kicked out of her apartment. She had no idea where she would go or even if she would have to move. We had invited her to church and the member who came with us lovingly pressured her into saying yes. Our member, Sister Johnson, is the best! She promised Christina that she would hear something at church that would help her figure out what God wanted her to do. So she came to church, a little nervous because it was stake conference and we told her it wasn't like a normal Sunday. But she came and she loved it! Long story short, I wasn't sitting next to Sister Ruske, I was sitting with someone else (no we are not fighting. I love her dearly. I just had to sit next to another investigator). Anyway, Christina was asking about callings and why we were sustaining people. Sister Ruske explained that no one in our church gets paid and that we are all asked to help make the church run. Christina really liked that and asked if she could get a calling. After conference, I went over to talk to her and she told us she had good news. She said she knew we had been praying because.................SHE GOT A RAISE AT WORK AND HAS ANOTHER WEEK TO PAY HER RENT!!! Heavenly Father definitely answers prayers and rewards our faith. Now we just have to help her quit smoking and get her married/living away from her boyfriend and she's good to go! 

Nov 14- Email. It is amazing that I am able to talk to y'all even though we are far away. The fact that I can hear from people I love instantly is such a miracle. 
Nov 15- The guidance of the Spirit. Yes this is a repeat, but I am still grateful for it. We had an amazing lesson with Christina that was totally led by the Spirit. 
Nov 16- My ward. This is such an incredible ward and the members do so much to help us. 
Nov 17- My apartment. Having a safe, comfortable place to live is definitely something I take for granted. 
Nov 18- Sunshine. It is getting cold here, but the days are still beautiful. 
Nov 19- Cars. It is really nice to not have to bike everywhere :)
Nov 20- GPS. I have a terrible sense of direction and NC roads do not help with that at all, so having something to help me get where I need to go is really helpful. 
Bonus: each and every single one of you. Honestly. I am so incredibly grateful for all the people in my life and I am even more grateful that y'all care enough to actually read my emails. 

The title for this email comes from the fact that Sister Ruske teaches me every single day. She is so enthusiastic and cheerful and is such an example to me. I'm pretty sure I learn more from her than she does from me. 

Love y'all,
Sister Pyper

My District
This ridiculous group is who I spent the last 6 weeks with. This picture accurately captures all of us. Sadly all the elders are leaving and one of the Hermanas is too. So the district will be a lot different this transfer.

So, I never taught her, but I love her dearly. She got baptized in D2 back when I was in D1. I came on exchanges here when she had her baptismal interview and that was the first time I met her. She is so sweet and so good. We stopped by to see her one day and this is what happened <3

New favorite shirt

Trees in NC
While we were tracting one day, we noticed this tree. This is what all of Durham looks like right now and I love it so much! 

Monday, November 14, 2016

A week full of being placed in the right places

This past week was full of amazing things! Here are the things I was grateful for each day, along with explanations for the more interesting ones. 

Nov 7- Electricity. 

Nov 8- Promptings/inspiration from the Holy Ghost. Sister Ruske and I had gone to stop by someone who was interested, but they weren't home. Neither of us felt like that area was where Heavenly Father wanted us to tract, so we prayed to know where we should be. I felt/saw a family and felt like we should go find them. I was telling Sister Ruske about it and said that I felt that there was a family with a little girl we needed to find. As I told her that there was a little girl, she asked "like that family that is sometimes at Corinthia's"? Ummm, yeah, actually. We knew which building they lived in, but not the exact apartment. So we went to that complex and knocked on the door we thought it was. No one was home, so we decided to just tract the rest of the building. We knock on the next door and end up teaching the woman who answered. When we asked her who she knew that would also be interested in hearing our message, she told us she lived with her brother and sister-in-law. They have a two year old daughter. Yep, we found the family I had been impressed to find! Heavenly Father is definitely involved in all the details of this work. I am so grateful for the guidance of the Holy Ghost in this work, there is no way I could do it on my own. 

Nov 9- Kindness of the ward (also partly inspiration). We had a couple lessons set up for the next day but we hadn't found members to come with us yet. We were texting and calling all the people we could think of, but none of them were able to come or they didn't answer their phone. One member told us she wasn't really feeling well and couldn't come with us. By this time it was 9 pm, so we prayed to start our nightly planning. Sister Ruske prayed that we would be able to find a member to come with us to our first lesson, because we had one for the second. Not even 1 minute after we prayed, this member called us back and said that she could come with us. She had felt bad about saying no and didn't want us to miss a lesson because of her. So even though she had originally said no, she ended up taking us. Not all of our prayers are answered that quickly, but it was wonderful to see the Spirit working. When you follow a prompting, you just might end up being the answer to someone's prayer. 

Nov 10- I am grateful for the Atonement. It is incredible that the only perfect person to ever walk the Earth voluntarily suffered and died for each of us. 
Cool story of the day: meeting Bonnie at Costco. Another story where we didn't feel like we were in the right place and Heavenly Father led us to where He needed us. After an appointment fell through, we didn't feel that tracting was what we were supposed to do, at least not in that complex. After praying to know where we should be, we felt that we should go to the Costco right around the corner and talk to people in the parking lot. We weren't quite sure how to go about contacting people, but Sister Ruske had the bright idea to offer to help people unload their carts and then we could talk to them. So that's what we did and we met Bonnie. Sadly, she lives in the Raleigh stake, but she was so cool! She was super sweet and kept telling us that she appreciates what we are doing to help more people learn about Christ. We gave her our number and told her to call us if she wants to get in touch with the elders in her area. It turned out that she had already met the elders! They had knocked on her door one day while she was making dinner. Her husband answered the door and they were talking to him. They commented that whatever she was making smelled good and the husband offered them some :) Too bad for them, it wasn't ready so they gave the elders apples instead. We're hoping that the next time she sees the elders she will stop them and invite them in for a real dinner. And then get baptized, of course :)

Nov 11- Such a great day!! We set a baptismal date with two of our investigators, one of whom was a referral from the Hermanas. Her name is Christina and she is amazing! The Hermanas told us that they had seen her a couple times when they were in the neighborhood and had stopped to talk to her. One of them (likely following a prompting) asked Christina if she would be interested in getting baptized and she said "she would definitely consider it"!!!! How awesome is she!! Anyway, so we went to contact her and it was amazing! She told us that she had gotten mixed up and thought she had a doctors appointment at the time we were supposed to go see her. So she went early to her appointment, only to find out that it had been earlier and she had to reschedule it. She had just barely arrived home when we knocked on her door. We taught her the Restoration and the member who was with us bore a powerful testimony. Christina asked a question about why the Sabbath is celebrated on Sunday when Saturday is the seventh day. Our member was able to explain that to her, telling her about an article she had just read a few days ago. Missionaries are not the only ones who receive the promise that we will be given what to say in the moment we need it, that promise is given to all who open their mouths to share the gospel. As we talked to Christina and explained that our role as missionaries is to help others come closer to Christ through baptism and learning about his gospel, the first thing she said was "what do I need to do to be baptized?" After a moment of being speechless, Sister Ruske and I happily told her that that is our job :) She is so prepared and I am so excited to keep teaching her! We committed her to keep meeting with us and prepare to be baptized on Dec 10
Our next lesson was just as incredible! We met with Twanna, who we had found the past week. She had ordered a Bible online and is really interested in the gospel. Sometimes I am not as excited as I should be about people who order a Bible, thinking that they just want the Bible and nothing more. Twanna has proved me wrong and given me more faith in media referrals. She has already been baptized, just like 99% of the population here in the South, but she "doesn't feel like she has been fully baptized". She is Baptist, so she believes in baptism by immersion. When she got baptized in her church, though, her face didn't go under the water and the person didn't do it again. So she has spent the past 20some years wondering if her baptism really counted. When she gets baptized on Dec 17, it will though so all is well :) Hopefully this ward gets used to having a baptism at least monthly, because Heavenly Father keeps sending us incredible people who are prepared to hear the gospel. 
The evening was spent doing work for the elders. They have been really struggling to find people to teach, so Friday night 4 other sets of missionaries came here and we all went out and found people for the elders to teach. It was amazing. In an hour and a half, 12 new investigators were found for the elders to teach, and some of them were families. It was powerful to see the other missionaries coming together to help the elders. Tracting for someone else was so different than tracting for ourselves. I am always excited to find people to teach, but doing it for someone else made it so much sweeter. I felt more love for the people we met and more of a sense of the importance of the gospel. I am so excited that the elders have more people to teach now and I am excited for their investigators to progress. 

Nov 12- LAURA'S BAPTISM!!! We spent most of our day at the church; filling the font, printing programs, setting up the room and studying. The baptism was wonderful, there was a great turnout from the ward. So many people came that every seat was full and there were still people standing in the back. Standing room only at a baptism is probably one of the greatest things that has ever happened. Sister Wall and Sister Huang, who were the sisters before I came in, were able to come for her baptism and that meant a lot to Laura. After her baptism there was time for Laura and some of the missionaries to bear their testimony. It was so sweet to hear Sister Wall bear her testimony and express her love for Laura. (It was also really weird to realize how long Sister Wall has been out. I was here in Durham when she came out, almost 9 months ago. Which means that I have been out for longer than that and I'm not sure how I feel about that)

Nov 13- Oh my goodness, the miracle of today is definitely that Laura got confirmed. Church starts at 11, so we told her to be there at 10:45 just to be safe. Of course, that didn't happen. 11 comes around and she is nowhere to be seen. Sister Ruske and I start getting antsy, but we're trying to stay calm. She was supposed to get confirmed right before the sacrament, but when she wasn't there, they moved the confirmation to after the sacrament. So we had a little more time, but we were still worried. Laura finally walks in right after the sacrament is over, at 11:25. She had told us she couldn't stay long so we were hoping she had enough time to stay for the rest of sacrament meeting. She walks into the chapel and immediately gets called up for her confirmation. When she comes back to sit with us, she immediately has to leave again. She had been called in to work last minute and literally had just enough time for her confirmation. Also, I got to hold a ferret today, which was fun :)

OH! I almost forgot! The story behind the bird picture! Wednesday we were eating lunch when we hear a thud outside our door. Thinking someone had dropped something off, we opened the door but didn't see anything. Then we look down and see this little bird just laying on our sidewalk. He had hit our door and must have been stunned. He didn't move or try to fly away, even when we got close enough to touch him. We weren't sure what to do about our newfound bird friend, we didn't want to kill him but we also didn't want him to stay there to get eaten. Eventually we decided to move him to a box and hide him in our bushes. When we came back from a lesson, he was gone. There wasn't any blood or feathers left in the box, so we are assuming he was fine and ended up flying away. 
Luke 12:6-7 "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows"

I know that Heavenly Father is intimately aware of the tiny details of our lives. Every single aspect of every single persons life is known by the Father who loves you perfectly and eternally. No matter how insignificant the world may think you are, there is always someone who loves you. A perfect Father who sent His perfect Son, your brother, to feel everything you go through. Never forget how much you are loved. 

Love y'all
Sister Pyper

Laura's baptism
​The other two sisters were involved in Laura's teaching. The blonde one was here for 6 months and got really close to Laura. It was so sweet to see the two of them so happy to see each other <3

I made a new friend!

We had dinner at a member's house last night. While waiting for the last bit of food to be ready, one of the boys brought me his pet ferret! Funny thing about being a missionary, it has changed my perception of what smells bad. The family told me that ferrets stink and that this one needed a bath. He didn't smell that bad too me, I have been in places that were worse. 

Our bird friend
This was the bird that decided to fly into our storm door. He ended up being totally fine :)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Well, it's been another week

Not a lot happened this week, so this might be kind of short. Laura will be getting baptized this Saturday though, so that's exciting! 

Monday-Preparation day/Halloween. We couldn't go out tracting (obviously) so we spent the evening passing out candy at the ward mission leader's house. This year was a pretty slow year for them, we only got about 500 trick or treaters. He told us that in past years they have had close to 800. It was cute to see all the little kids in their costumes. 
Tuesday- Our appointment with Laura fell through so we tried to contact a referral. After a lesson with a different investigator, we went tracting and ended up finding two new investigators in about 20 minutes! That was awesome! Then after dinner we had a lesson with Lisa and talked about family history. We are trying to get her to the temple as soon as possible. She is so excited to be able to be baptized for her mom!
Wednesday- Well, I was sick this day. Don't worry, it was just a 12 hour bug and I am completely fine now. Poor Sister Ruske was bored out of her mind but she was really sweet and took care of me. We rescheduled most of our lessons but kept one for her to go to. A member took her and another member took me to her house to sleep. Unfortunately, the lesson ended up falling through, so Sister Ruske had only a very short break from boredom. I was totally exhausted and couldn't make myself stay up for more than about 20 minutes, so I spent most of the day sleeping. The elders came and gave me a blessing that night. The best part of the day was the amazing ward members. One member took me to her house to sleep while Sister Ruske tried to see someone, someone else brought us soup/crackers/"sick people food" and a bunch of people called to see how I was doing. Being sick as a missionary is awful but this is a great ward to get sick in, everyone here is just so sweet. 
Thursday- The biggest miracle/tender mercy was that I woke up in the morning and actually had enough energy to do things again! It ended up being a really good day and I am so grateful that Heavenly Father helped me to get better so quickly. After we did our weekly planning we went to contact a referral. When they weren't home, we went tracting for about an hour and met this man named Bryan. We had a fun conversation about how people always try to spell our names with an i instead of a y, the right way :) Anyway, he is really nice and we are going to see him and his wife again this week some time! That evening was the Relief Society activity and we went with Laura. The topic was really good but the best part was being able to talk to a less-active member who was there. She is so sweet and really wants to be active. She was telling us about some of her struggles as the only member in her family and how she has some concerns about things she has heard. She definitely has a testimony and she knows the church is true, she is just struggling right now. BUT she is doing what she can to stay strong and I just love her. 
Friday- Laura passed her baptismal interview! Not at all surprised, but it's always nice to be official. We went to contact a referral who we had called before but had never answered. We stopped by her house, but she wasn't home. We started writing a note to let her know that we came by, but then she walked up! We taught her the Restoration and invited her to pray about it. She had been wondering which church is true and it was amazing to see that all of her questions are answered by the gospel. Side note: Sister Ruske is doing so well!! She still sometimes feels nervous teaching but she does such a good job! She taught most of the lesson and didn't seem nervous once. I'm so proud of her! Then we went to go see a less-active who is trying to turn her life around and come back to church. She has had an incredibly hard life but she is still so sweet and kind. She is raising her teenage son and is also letting two of his friends (who have gotten kicked out of their own homes) stay with her. We were able to bear our testimonies to her about the Atonement and the power that it has to cover every pain in her life. I had heard a lot of not so good things about her, and it was so sweet to see that they are wrong. She is doing her best to overcome her past and become the person she wants to be. 
Saturday- Pretty much everything fell through today, but we were able to help the less-active we saw on Friday. She called us and said that she was feeling overwhelmed and asked if we could come help her clean her house. It turned out that all she needed us to do was wash her dishes, but she was so grateful for that small act of service. 
Sunday- Testimony meeting. Oh my goodness this ward is so great! Two or three people bore their testimonies and shared an experience they have had in sharing the gospel. It was wonderful to hear of their experiences and to feel of their love for the gospel. I'm hoping that more ward members see that missionary work isn't hard or scary and get to experience the joy of sharing the gospel. I had the thought that missionary work is nothing more than bearing your testimony. That is what I get to do all day every day as a full-time missionary, but it is something that everyone else can do. And it doesn't have to be a formal thing, it is as simple as telling a friend something that helped you. "I know when I am struggling, reading the scriptures always helps me find peace" Being open about your religion and not hiding it is also missionary work. When people know there is something different about you and you let them know that it is the gospel, they will be interested. So answer questions, let the joy of the gospel be seen in your everyday life and love the Lord. That's all it takes to be a missionary. 

When I'm home, I try to do a daily gratitude post on Facebook for the month of November. Since I don't get on that often as a missionary, I will just include them in my emails for this month. 
Nov 1- My body and all that it allows me to do
Nov 2- Priesthood on the earth/love and support from ward members
Nov 3- Good immune system
Nov 4- Sister Ruske
Nov 5- Scriptures
Nov 6- The ability to take the sacrament every week

Love y'all
Sister Pyper

NC in the fall
​This is the road on the way to the church, so I get to see this often throughout the week. I am so in love with all the colors here!!

Go home GPS, you're not making sense
​Only in NC would the GPS directions specifically tell you to leave the road. The best part was that there wasn't even anywhere to drive where it told us to turn.