Monday, February 23, 2015

We Are All Investigators

We got an email from Collette today! She shared so many wonderful things! Enjoy!

"Hey everyone!!

This has been such a crazy week... as always, but here we go!

I had my first baptism on Saturday the 21st! Her name is Kimberley Gonzalez! She is super wonderful and has such a strong testimony and firm beliefs of the gospel! The whole time we were thinking she was already a member. She was absolutely golden! We taught her all the lessons in less than a week and a half, and it was really stressful because we were team teaching with the temple square sisters and we could only go through Kimberley if we needed to talk to them. We were pretty sure she loved them more than she loved us! haha But it's ok. She is amazing and we love her so much! I know that she is going to be such an amazing influence towards her family and hopefully one day bring the rest of her family along. It was fun to see the changes she made and fully come unto the Lord! The gospel really brings happiness and joy! I could honestly see how happy she was after she was baptized and it was incredible!

Sister Widdison, Kimberley Gonzalez, and Sister Barclay

Not only did I love watching one of my investigators get baptized but I loved the talks and the lessons that were shared! Elder Crouch and Elder Johnson got up and started teaching the restoration because we had a ton of investigators at the baptism! Man, let me just say, the restoration of this gospel has never hit me stronger than it did while they were teaching! I know that Joseph Smith restored the gospel and I know that Thomas S. Monson leads and guides our church today under our Heavenly Father. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and knows me personally, and I know that Jesus Christ died for me and the atonement is real. That hit me like a ton of bricks! I realized how cool it was that not only was I teaching the missionary discussions to investigators, but I was learning for myself that everything we teach as missionaries and as Latter-day Saints is true! Elder Johnson talked about why we, as missionaries, wear our name tags and why our names are always directly about Jesus Christ's, and it was because Jesus Christ is always lifting us up and we will never be alone as long as we keep Heavenly Father close to our hearts!

Lately, I have been thinking what if I was investigating the church. How scary would it be to start gaining a testimony and to believe what these 18, 19 year olds are telling me! Then I realized that we are all investigating the church because we are always learning and digging deeper into the gospel; we never stop learning! Last Sunday, the bishop felt really inspired to have this lady get up and bare her testimony and she was super nervous, but she said she didn't have a 'traditional testimony'... I didn't really think much of it until the speaker this Sunday said, "I hope I don't have a traditional testimony. I want my testimony to be unique and from my heart!" And that is exactly what I want too!! So I'll keep working at it!

Sister Barclay laughing with Sister Widdison

Sister Barclay with the ward missionaries

Right before the baptism on Saturday, we had Zone Conference and Elder Kapishka was the speaker. He talked about how we, as missionaries, need to not just look at the number of baptisms or investigators we have but really love the people we are serving and look at them like Heavenly Father would. He talked a lot about being together as companions; always finding ways to teach and be the best missionaries God would have us be! It was so awesome! He was so cool!!

It was a really good week and I'm so grateful I get this opportunity to come closer to my Heavenly Father! Thank you for all your letters and support y'all give me! I love y'all and each y'all!

Hope y'all have a good week!

Sister Barclay"

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mardi Gras!

Utah has their 24th of July parade to celebrate the Mormon pioneers, where kids on floats throw candy to parade-goers, and Louisiana has Mardi Gras parades to celebrate Fat Tuesday, where masked people on floats throw beads to parade-goers. 
...That's a good comparison, right??

Yes, you guessed it... This week, the missionaries were able to experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans! Sister Barclay sent home lots of fun pictures so you could try to imagine what it would be like to be there, although, I think I'd be alright in saying that the pictures don't do it justice!

Sister Widdison and Sister Barclay

Don't hate on the fact that I wasn't 100% sure of the purpose for the holiday before getting the email... instead, be happy with the fact that Google was kind enough to inform me that Mardi Gras is French meaning "'Fat Tuesday' alluding to the last day of feasting before the fast and penitence of Lent" which starts on Ash Wednesday.

Well, that was a good start, but that still didn't really tell all I wanted, so I found another site called Mardi Gras New Orleans which clued me into a few interesting things to note. To save you all from lengthy reading, here are some of the things I found out: 

• Mardi Gras is now an official holiday in Louisiana

• The first Mardi Gras was celebrated in 1703 near New Orleans

• In the 1700 and 1800's, secret societies were formed who would parade around the streets with either a huge bull's head on wheels or an actual bull draped with a white cloth to signal the coming of the Lenten meat fast

• Mardi Gras changed from elegant society balls into more of a carnival when New Orleans had parades of masked individuals with carriages, horseback riders, and dazzling torches

• A break off of the secret societies of old came in 1856, known as the Mystick Krewe of Comus, and they anonymously brought magic to New Orleans with extravagant floats and masked balls

They pull their floats with tractors!

Sister Barclay and Sister Widdison with another couple of sister missionaries at the parade

• 1870 was the first time different "krewes" started doing Mardi Gras "throws" which includes things like cups, beads, toys, doubloons (basically collectible aluminum medallions), and stuffed animals. 

• Two years later, they invented a "King of Carnival" to preside over the parade, and to impress a visiting Russian duke, the king presented the duke's family colors as the official Mardi Gras colors; purple for justice, gold for power, and green for faith

This is how people decorate for Mardi Gras

• Private social clubs make up most of the "krewes" today and since their members fund the parade organizations, the people of New Orleans call Mardi Gras "The Greatest Free Show On Earth!"

• Although Mardi Gras is on Fat Tuesday, the party is known to start about a week before the actual holiday so tourists flock to New Orleans around this time to enjoy the carnivals

Elder Johnson loves his beads!

Sister missionaries displaying their "throws"

"I love this girl!" (Sister Barclay and Sister Widdison)

I asked Collette to tell me about it and she said, "Oh my goodness!! It was a freakin' party! They throw out beads and there's like 9 million people, so it's just crazy! And everyone on the floats are getting drunk and dancing (!) and everyone's fine with it! haha The pics are just not doing it justice... you need to experience this!" 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Excited To Be Back To Work

"Hey y'all!!

Man this has been just a crazy week as always! I got a new companion! Her name is Sister Widdison and she is absolutely wonderful! She is from Utah! Wahoo! She is so cool and she has such an amazing testimony of the gospel! I am really learning a lot from her! She just came from Denham Springs from a car area so she is having to adjust to the whole biking situation! I don't think she is liking it too well! We have been trying to figure out how to just get around our area! It's so big and it's quite the challenge on bikes, let me tell you! 

Sister Barclay with her cute new companion
We had a couple of appointments and only through prayer did we find those houses! The lessons went really well! We have this investigator that has been taking lessons from the temple square sisters over the phone and they just turned her over to us, and if she is ready, she already has a baptism date set for the 21st of this month!! Wahoooooo! We are super excited! We just hope she is in it for all the right reasons... she heard the church helps with welfare stuff... and she's got some financial problems... it's pretty interesting, but she came to church yesterday and loved it, so we'll keep praying that everything goes good!

We are also going to start teaching Pam and Willie (the cute newly wed couple from the last post) from the beginning! I'm so excited! We went and saw her the other day and she kept hugging me and told me I could never leave! It made me feel so good! I really felt like I was sent to Pam for a reason! She loves me! It is so wonderful! I'm so excited to be her missionary!! She is wonderful!

Sister Barclay! Isn't she beautiful??
I am excited to be getting back to work! I have been trying to strengthen my testimony and over these past couple of days, I have really come to know that Joseph Smith really was called of God and I am so amazed  with how much faith in our Heavenly Father he had to restore this gospel! I know that he is a prophet called of God and that through everything he had so much trust in God that what he was doing was true. He is so amazing!

I know that the atonement is real and Heavenly Father wants us to use it and come unto him. I know that through repentance we can be clean of all our scars and mistakes; he loves us so much! I know that through him we can get through anything! I love being on a mission!

Well, I love all y'all and each y'all! Hope y'all have a fantastic week!!

Love always,

Sister Barclay"

Sister Davis and Sister Barclay hanging out with the Spanish Sisters before Sister Davis headed home

Monday, February 2, 2015

Experiences to Keep

So in last week's post, I had mentioned from Sister Barclay that they had taken Sister Davis (her companion) to the ER for abdominal pain and dehydration. Well, I got a little update on that today:

"Sister Davis is actually going home on Tuesday :( So I will be getting a new companion this coming Wednesday! Sister Davis is going to get surgery and go through all the doctors appointments again to find out what is going on :( I'm so sad!! But she told me she'd send me video diaries and updates on what's going on! Pretty intense!"

Everyone please keep Sister Davis in your prayers! She and Collette have become really good friends and she will be missed!

Sister Barclay and Sister Davis with their district
In addition to that news, Sister Barclay also sent some pictures and told us of meeting with an apostle:

"Did you hear that I got to shake hands with Quentin L. Cook!!! He spoke to all the missionaries on Saturday in Baton Rouge! It was the coolest experience of my life! His testimony was so powerful and you could just feel the spirit so hard!

That is my favorite part about being a missionary. These experiences will stay with me my whole life! How many times do you get to shake an apostle's hand?! Shoot!"

Lauffenere Park
Lauffenere Park
Lauffenere Park
And now for a couple of missionary stories and experiences from her last letter to my little family:

1. The New Investigators

"So we did get new investigators, which pretty much rocks! They are a cute couple that just got married on the first of January. Apparently they were meeting with the missionaries before Katrina hit and then lost contact after, but it's a long story and it's so cute. They just LOVE JESUS!! She kinda reminds me of Grandma Odie on Princess and the Frog haha it's awesome!

People's accents and stories are amazing! People have their crazy moments but we just gotta love them like Jesus and Heavenly Father does! I know this gospel is true even when people don't want to listen to us. I know that Heavenly Father is there for us and is helping us every step of the way!"

2. Visiting with Members

"We have this less-active member we go see and one Monday we went over, some members were there as well. When the less-active saw us she literally said, in one sentence, 'Y'all are welcome in my home anytime, but I don't want you to come over anymore...' haha She was so drunk! 

And Brother Bush (one of the members that was there) said, 'Wait, I'm confused.'

And she looked him straight in the face and said, 'Well, stand up, Brotha Bush, so you're not confused!'

We were all dying! You should've seen Brother Bush's face as he slowly stood up to be 'unconfused'! Me and my companion have laughed about it since! 'Well, stand up, Brotha Bush, so you're not confused!' I can't wait to say it in person to you! You'll die!! 

Missions are always fun when you find the positive!

3. New Years Hashtag

"On New Years we were in at 8:00pm and we were too tired to party :( We played cards and went to sleep. #MissionLife

And Sister Davis says 'Hey!'"