WA Week 30 - Hallelujah!

Happy Easter everyone! Holidays on the mission are the best! We've had a fantastic week. We've been able to teach a lot of lessons. We found one girl (actually she found us) named Brittany who had met with missionaries before and now she wants to be baptized! She is so solid. We're looking forward to her baptism next month! We were also able to have a special Easter zone conference.

It was totally focused on the Atonement, the center of everything, and especially about how the Atonement applies specifically to us as missionaries. I'm grateful that we were able to have that zone conference on Thursday night because the rest of my weekend I was able to ponder it more. (I'm going to talk a little more about that at the end of this email!)

Easter was really nice. We had investigators at church, there was a really good sacrament program, and then we got fed by three different families. What more could you ask for?!

Now I'd like to share a few of the things I was thinking about this Easter season, specifically about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

If you are unfamiliar with the word "Atonement," here's a definition: "As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God." 

One thing I was thinking a lot about is how the word atone is literally "at one." As missionaries, we have to rely completely on being at one with God. If we aren't one with God, we could knock all the doors in town, walk every street, and talk to every person outside, but we wouldn't be able to be led to those who are ready to hear the gospel, or know what we need to do to help them. 

One of my favorite missionary talks is called "Missionary Work and the Atonement" by Elder Holland. This is a pretty big chunk of quote I'm going to include, but it's too good not to:

"Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” 16  then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way."

I love the quote from Preach My Gospel that says as our understanding of the Atonement grows, our desire to share the gospel will increase. I know that it is only through the Atonement of Christ that all of the hard things we experience in life-- regret, sadness, pain, stress, anxiety, you name it-- can be taken away and replaced withpeace. Jesus Christ paid the price. He literally went through exactly what you are going through. He overcame it, and because of that we can do. He will help us, and all we have to do is Follow Him. That is the center of everything we teach as missionaries, and that's why Heavenly Father sends us all over the world: to share the blessings of the Atonement with all of His children.

What a wonderful time to be involved in this work! I am so grateful. I hope that you all had a wonderful Easter and reflect on the daily blessings that the Atonement brings you.

Love you all,
Sister Skousen

WA Week 29 - The Right Place at the Right Time

Good morning everyone! I hope y'all had another great week wherever you are. We've had another good one. We talked to a lot of interesting people this week.
At the beginning of my mission, I really detested tracting. I was always so self-conscious and felt dumb and would get discouraged when people were mean. Now, I feel like I've really learned to forget myself and not care what people think. It's pretty fun talking with all different kinds of people. This week we've been going all over the place sharing the new #Hallelujah initiative with people. People are so funny. We never know what kind of reactions we're going to get from people. Our funniest experiences were getting serenaded by one guy and getting prayed for by a man on the street that "all that is unclear to us will be made clear." Never a dull moment.
We also had some amazing experiences this week that reminded me that the Lord always guides us to the right place at the right time.
One night this week we were walking down a street and saw a man outside a house heading inside. We called out to him and asked if we could give him a Hallelujah card. He said we could. We started talking with him a little bit, and he seemed a little caught off guard. We came to find out that he has been going through a lot of problems with his family, and actually has a friend in the tri-cities who's a member of the church and has been sharing a lot about the gospel with him and even invited him to church. He said that he's been seeing missionaries everywhere lately --- walking down the street, at the store ... everywhere. That's why he was a little freaked out when we started talking to him. He said that he felt like God was trying to tell him something. We testified to him that we are the Lord's representatives and that we are led by him to whoever He wants to reach. We said a prayer with him and he told us to come back. This experience made me think again about how the Lord is truly in charge of this work. Every little thing lined up exactly right for us to come across this man at the perfect moment.
Another experience we had was with a former investigator last night. We had visited this couple last month right after we came into the area and we got the feeling that they weren't that interested, so we dropped them. Lately, though, their names just kept coming into my head. Yesterday, we felt prompted to give them another try. We went by, and we got a totally different feel from them. They told us that they were looking for a church for their family to be united in. They even asked us about the qualifications for joining our church, and seemed pretty accepting of the commandments, and talked about how they wanted to go to church. This week we're going to go back and start re-teaching them the lessons.
These experiences I know didn't take place because of our actions. So often we think of the Spirit as being our instrument, but it's the other way around. We are His instruments. It's our job to keep ourselves sanctified and worthy to be led by Him.
I'm so grateful for the testimony I was able to strengthen this week that this is the Lord's work, and that "no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing."
I know that if we keep ourselves worthy of the Spirit, that He will lead us exactly where we need to be this week.
As always, thanks for reading and I'll talk to you all next week!
Sister Skousen

This is the view of Mt. Adams from Sunnyside. We can also see Mt. Rainier in certain areas.

WA Week 28 - All Things Denote There is a God

Good morning, friends and family! It's been a wonderful and eventful week in Sunnyside, Washington. 

One thing that really stuck out to me this week was on exchanges when Hermana Juarez and I ran into an atheist outside and talked to him for awhile about religion. He was a super nice guy, and had at one point been religious, but felt like science disproved the existence of God and how there is no evidence for God existing. He admitted, though, that he was much happier when he believed in God.
Even though his beliefs are logical and make sense to him, I've been thinking a lot this week about the evidence of God existing. I love this scripture in the Book of Mormon:

"Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." --Alma 30:44

I've been paying attention to all the things that testify of God existing. The scientific knowledge that we have and advancements that have been made in recent years are amazing and I'm so grateful to live at a time when we know so much about how the universe works. President Russell M. Nelson said: "There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both.” There is so much that we don't understand.
The more I think about all of the wonders of the world-- how the conditions of the Earth are soperfect for life to flourish, the diversity of all the life on Earth, all that humankind has been able to achieve and create, the range of emotions and feelings that we experience-- the more I am sure that there is a God. Heavenly Father has revealed and is revealing everything about Himself for us toknow that He's there and that He has a plan for us. He's made it possible for us to know this plan, but there's no way we can know unless we seek it out.

He is so involved in every aspect of our lives. An example of this happened yesterday. A man named Wilmer randomly showed up to our gospel principles class at church and wanted to learn more about Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon. We told him that we would visit him that night. He gave us super vague directions to where he lived in the boondocks. At 8:00 last night we were driving around dark farmland looking for his house and we couldn't find it. We were just about to turn around when a couple of guys came out asking if we were lost. We said we were looking for Wilmer and one of them called out, "I'm Wilmer!" It was a miracle that we were able to find him. He told us that he knew Jesus sent us to him. He said that after church he was feeling really sad about things going on in his life and had just been thinking about us when we showed up.
Another miracle that happened this week is that twice when we were out tracting, we ran into less active members of the church who were visiting their friends.
Things like that don't just happen. I've been able to see more and more little miracles like that the more I look for them.

I know that this happiness is possible because of Jesus Christ.

I am so grateful for my testimony of God and His plan. It allows me to appreciate all of the beauty of this world, and even when times are hard, I can find little things to be grateful for and happy about.

I hope you all remember the "A Savior is Born" video the Church came out with at Christmas time.Well, there's a new video out called "Hallelujah" for this Easter season that you can find at mormon.org/easter.

It's sooo good. I hope you all get a chance to watch it this week and think about what's possible because of Jesus Christ AND pay attention to all the things that denote there is a God. And then share what you learn with someone else!
I can promise that it will make your week much more meaningful and happy.
I love you all! Thanks for following along.
Sister Skousen

WA Week 27 - This Mission is On Fire

Hey everyone! 

I don't know where to begin this week's email! It's been another great week here in Sunnyside and I'm loving every minute of it. The weather has been gorgeous, and I'm looking forward to the blossoms that will be blooming in the next few weeks.

A couple highlights from this week were ....

1. Seeing Lezli Finch (my friend from Africa) last P-Day! I'm super bummed that I wasn't able to get a picture with her, but hopefully I'll see her again sometime this transfer.

2. Trainer/Trainee meeting on Tuesday at the mission home.

Sunnyside sistas ...

3. The Ramirez family committing to baptism on Friday! We had an awesome member with us who actually invited them. We couldn't believe it when they said yes! #sunnysideonfire

4. Zone Training Meeting on Saturday. I get so PUMPED at meetings. One of my favorite parts of this ZTM was a training on how we are the ones that own our missions, just like we own our lives. If we are diligent and serve with a sense of urgency, we will always have work and always see miracles. They talked about how many miracles have been happening since the mission has been created. I'm so grateful to be in an area where I can see the results of this. The Lord is truly hastening His work.

"For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and it is the eleventh hour, and the last time that I shall call laborers into my vineyard." D&C 33:3 

5. Church yesterday! We had 10 of our own investigators at church on Sunday! Granted, 6 of those were from one family, but we seriously could not believe it. Last transfer I had a grand total of 0 investigators at church, so this was crazy.

6. Giving a sermon-on-the-mount like discussion to 17 people and 3 dogs last night.

7. Talking to anyone who will listen.

To sum it all up, it's been a pretty fantastic week. Probably the most effective week I've had in my whole mission, and I'm hoping it'll only go up from here.
Thanks for reading, and talk to you next week!
Sister Skousen