WA Week 80 - The Miracle of a Mission

Hello everyone! I've got lots of crazy mixed feelings right now but I'm going to start by reviewing our week.

I forgot to mention this last week, but last Saturday our zone volunteered at the Special Olympics, and Brooks shoe company donated 13,000 pairs of shoes, so each person in our zone got a free pair of $100+ shoes! We were styling on P-Day.

Also on P-Day, Sister Heffernan broke her right wrist playing soccer, and she's right handed, so it's been a rough week for her.

The beginning of the week was pretty slow. A lot of our people cancelled on us, but luckily we've been able to reschedule with most of them. We tracted a lot this week and found a couple people that seem pretty solid.

It's been weird saying goodbye to people, but really it's felt like I'm just getting transferred. It hasn't really set in yet.

Thank goodness for technology so that I can still stay in touch with these people!


The Olsons 

Last district council

Morning bball squad!
This afternoon Wayne and Mary Lewis (the members I lived with in Castlerock) will drive me down to the mission home, where I'll spend the night, and then I leave bright and early for AZ.

A few weeks ago, my brother, Trent, asked me to write about why I'm a missionary, what I've learned, and what it's meant to me. I figured I would just include that here, as a way to wrap up my mission experience...

"Why are you a missionary?"

This is a tough question for me to answer. I feel like any answer I could give would be totally inadequate and do an injustice in explaining the things I've felt, learned, and experienced over the past 18 months, but I'll do my best.

I think my motive for serving a mission has slowly evolved over time. Initially, it was something I've always wanted to do. I knew that a mission would teach me things and give me experiences that I would never be able to learn or experience any other way. In the years leading up to it, I was pretty nervous, especially when so many people I know returned home early from their missions. I didn't want that to happen to me. If I were to start a mission I wanted to be sure I could finish it. Looking back now, I think I really became set on serving a mission when my older brother got home. I was so impressed by how much he had grown and how much his mission meant to him. I wanted to have that. There were other things that factored into my decision, like how I really did want to serve other people and lend myself to the Lord's work, but I think my initial, driving motivation for serving a mission was the desire to be changed the way that I saw my brother was.

At the beginning of my mission, I remember watching a talk by Elder Holland where he says something like, "My mission means everything to me. Every good thing that ever happened to me came from my mission." I wanted to be able to say that. At the end of my mission, I knew that I would want no regrets. I determined at the very beginning to give everything I had to the work so that I, too, could say that my mission meant everything to me. I quickly learned that the key to reaching that goal was exact obedience and serving with my whole heart. I learned that it's only when you give Heavenly Father your whole heart that He can change you.

A theme that has carried throughout my mission is the principle of "becoming." It's a topic my mission president loved talking about in meetings and something I've thought a lot about as I've gone through different experiences. Before my mission, I think I kind of had the mindset that I could become whoever I wanted to be. One of my favorite talks, "The Fourth Missionary" by Lawrence E. Corbridge, explains perfectly one of the main lessons I learned: "[Heavenly Father] will make of you immeasurably more than what you will ever, ever in all eternity, make of yourself. He will create of you a masterpiece. You will create of you only a smudge." I believe that. God's vision of who we can become is so much better and grander than anything we have in mind. Every trial and opposition we face is meant to refine us into who we're supposed to be, and we can only let ourselves be refined if we trust Heavenly Father.

I definitely experienced refining opposition on my mission. The best way that I can describe a mission is by comparing it to an uphill climb, where if you stop moving you start sliding downhill. You have to keep moving to progress or you'll regress. The mission demands so much of you emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally, but like Elder Holland puts it: "Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience."

Opposition for me came in different forms. I had a lot of different companions, and many of them struggled with the demands of the mission. It was difficult for me to find the balance between making sure that they were okay and making sure that we were fulfilling our callings as missionaries. I wanted to just go and work, and there were times where I felt like there was so much we could do for our area that we weren't doing because my companions had things they needed to take care of. Those moments helped me learn about love and patience.

I also learned a lot as I've worked to find people to teach. I think I actually learned more on my mission when we were finding than when we were working with investigators. Most of my time as a missionary I've been in areas with a small teaching pool where we've spent most of our time finding. In my mission, baptisms don't come easily, but they happen every once in awhile. I think the fact that I knew baptisms were within reach helped me to stretch myself and caused me to constantly evaluate what was keeping us from baptizing. I feel like my mind has been brainstorming and problem solving ways to be more effective 24/7. The cool thing about that is that I've been able to receive a lot of revelation about what does and does not work. I've thrown myself out of my comfort zone and tried new things. I've learned about the power of faith and the importance of goal setting, planning, and accountability. 

From these experiences, I've come to better understand why Heavenly Father chooses to send missionaries. He does it because we are also part of His work. If He wanted to, He could do it all Himself, but He chooses to use us. I know that He chooses to send out missionaries because He wants us to have experiences that strengthen our own testimonies and prepare us for the rest of our lives.

My motive for serving a mission at the beginning was focused on myself. I've felt my motive change recently as I've come to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ more through study and experience. As I've worked to become more like my Savior, I've realized that Jesus Christ's motive for doing everything was His love for His Father. He didn't perform miracles, serve others, or atone for us because He wanted to exalt Himself. He did it because He loved Heavenly Father, and wanted to assist Him in bringing about His work and His glory -- the immortality and eternal life of man. I've worked to make this my motive. Sometimes I'm selfish and do things for the wrong reasons, but I've been trying to forget myself more and to say to Heavenly Father, as Christ did, "not my will, but thine." This mindset has been the biggest change in me that's come from my mission.

 I will forever be in debt to Heavenly Father for blessing me with the experiences I've had and the people I've met the last 18 months. I've made a lot of mistakes and I've been far from perfect, but I gave it my all, and I can honestly say now that my mission has meant absolutely everything to me.

If anyone has the opportunity to serve a mission, I URGE you to do it. Make it happen! I have learned more about the world, myself, and who I want to be in the last 18 months than I did in 19 years. I wish more than anything that I could stay on my mission, but I know that I've done what Heavenly Father's wanted me to do, and I've got a lot more to do as a returned missionary. I'm determined to take the things I've learned and to remember and apply them in my life. I know that this is not going to be the spiritual highlight of my life. I'm going to keep progressing, and keep moving uphill.

Thank you so much for following my emails the past 18 months, for keeping me in your prayers, and for all the kind thoughts. I love you all, and I'll see you soon!

Sister Skousen

WA Week 79 - Out With a Bang

Good morning, everyone! I hope you're all having a great start to your week. This past week has been so good.

On P-Day, our district took a bus up to Leavenworth, a touristy little Bavarian village.

Can you believe that this is March?!

There are a lot of cool shops, but I got most excited when we went to this next one ...

We had some pretty amazing things happen this week. I talked a little bit about Karen last time. She's doing really well! She's been reading the Book of Mormon on her own and says that every time she reads it she gets something different out of it. We invited her to be baptized and come to church and they're both things that she wants to do. Yay!

Samantha has an aunt from Cambodia that's visiting so we weren't able to see her last week and we won't be able to see her this week. :( She still seems solid though.

We've also found a few other FAMILIES this week! It's been incredible. I've been praying to find families to teach my whole mission! I've mostly taught individuals, but I've always thought it would be so cool to find a family that could learn about the gospel together.

The first one we found when we were walking down the street and met this guy named Juan outside. He told us that he and his family just moved here from Yakima. They'd met with missionaries before, and he said we could come by his house sometime to talk to his family. We went by Monday night and met his wife, Sophia. She said that Juan told her we'd met him and she let us right in. We taught her the Restoration and she said we could come back! Woo!

Later in the week we tracted into a young mom of two named Alanna who's been looking for a church. She knows some members and said that she has actually always wanted to attend a Mormon church to see what it's like. We're going back to see her on Thursday.

Later that day we met this lady named Shelby from Mesa, Arizona (!!!) who has four kids and has been looking for a church with a good youth program. She has family members who are members and she's always thought they were really good people. We told her about our church services and taught her the Restoration so that she would know what we believe. She was super open minded and seems really interested. We're going back to teach her later this week and she's planning on coming to church this coming Sunday!

Miracles are happening! I've seen this pattern a lot in my mission, where we see miracles after a long, slow period where we just have to keep being diligent and having faith. I think, though, that Heavenly Father's blessing us with work in large part because of the ward members. The members have been so into missionary work lately. All of our ward council meetings and church services have been about missionary work and about how they should be more involved. Yesterday they even put a little insert in our ward bulletin about how the ward's been doing with the Ward Mission Plan. It's incredible to see!

Heavenly Father is blessing us. 

Welp, everyone. This is my last full week as a full-time missionary. It doesn't seem real yet. Words can't even begin to explain what my mission has meant to me. It's not over yet though! I know that this next week is probably going to be the most important week of my mission, so I'm determined to give every last ounce of energy I have. 

I hope that you have a great week! Love you all, and I'll talk to you next week.

Sister Skousen

WA Week 78 - The Gospel Changes People

The weeks are flying by. I feel like I just wrote! This week has been full of more walking and talking.

We've found two solid investigators so far through all the tracting we've been doing. One's this lady named Karen who's a bit older. She started reading the Book of Mormon on her own and was confused about the language and who all the people were. She's never even read the Bible before so she's not used to reading scriptures. We read it with her this week and it was incredible! We helped her understand how she can apply the scriptures to her own life. She's excited to continue reading the Book of Mormon. We have a lesson with her on Wednesday! Hopefully we see some progress there.

The other investigator we found is named Samantha! She's a young mom who has been going through some difficult things lately. She's kind of familiar with the church. She grew up in Malaysia and remembers missionaries coming and teaching her when she was little, and then when she moved to the United States she went to Girls Camp as a teenager. It's cool seeing how little positive experiences with the church help open people's hearts to hearing the gospel.

We also have a few more potentials that we're hopeful about. It's crazy because most of my areas have started out where we had few or no investigators. However, in my other areas, we at least had potentials and other people we could work with. Here, there were really no potentials, so we had to start from scratch. I'm grateful for it though because even though it would have been nice to teach a ton of lessons and baptize people my last transfer, I wouldn't have had to put in as much effort. I feel like this way, I'm really having to give every last ounce of energy I have to the work. Hopefully we'll see some more miracles happen from all the effort we're putting in!

On Wednesday we had zone conference!

It was all about faith and repentance. It's amazing how many times you can hear about simple principles like those and still learn something new every time. My understanding of faith and repentance is so much deeper than it was before I came on my mission. It's not only grown because I've been teaching it to others, but I've had to apply those principles every day in my own life.

I've had to constantly rely on the power of faith to guide me and cause things to happen in my missionary work, and I've had to constantly rely on the power of repentance to change myself so that I can access more of God's power in my life and in the work. It's been an incredible process of learning, being humbled, and becoming stronger. As I've gone through that process I feel like I've been coming closer and closer to the person Heavenly Father wants me to be. It's a beautiful thing. It's another testament to me of the power and truthfulness of the gospel. It really does change people, and I can testify to that!

I hope that you'll be able to ponder that this week. Ponder how the gospel's changed you, and if you feel like it hasn't, identify how you can live the gospel more so you can access that changing power.

Love you all! Have a great week!

Sister Skousen