Sister Mckenzie Madsen
California San Diego Mission
7404 Armstrong Place
San Diego, CA 92111

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The temple, The Spirit (Week #10)

Dear loved ones,

Guess where I just got back from?? The San Diego temple. I FINALLY got to do a session. I know you're all super jealous right now, as you should be, because it was amazing!! Don't complain if I have to drag you all down here for my wedding, kay? :) Every time I go to the temple I am so grateful for the perspective it gives me, and especially for the spirit I feel so strongly. It was such a blessing to be there today... I feel bad for missionaries that don't get to go to the temple on their missions! (Heavenly Father must have sent me here because He knew I'd need it now and then. ;) )
I had an extra amazing day last week. Here's my journal entry from that day:

Today was probably one of the best days I've had on my mission so far, if not the best! We had an amazing companionship study about prayer that was full of the spirit and made me excited about sharing the gospel! Sister Ortez and I grew a lot closer just in those two short hours. I love her so much! I'm so glad she's my companion and that Heavenly Father gave me the opportunity to strengthen my relationship with her today.
Then we went to the battalion it was just a nice, relaxing shift. And the spirit is always there; it just feels like home. Plus, the spirit from my studying carried right over and kept me in a good mood, which affected my interactions with people in turn... I just had a good time talking with people!! (...including the other sisters I serve with).
Lastly, we had a great day in our area! All of our plans actually went through today, which doesn't happen very often. The miracle of the day, though, was Mario. He was a referral from the zone leaders... we decided we should just show up at his house. We met this cute little branch member at our church building--he's about to head on his mission so he signed up to come out and teach with us--and he said he'd follow us to Mario's house. Little did we realize, it was forever far away! As we drove farther and farther we just prayed that he would be home so we wouldn't be wasting this poor kid's gas and time... And he was! We got to have a quick little doorstep lesson with him, and he said we could come back! We got to add him as an investigator!! :) He's super smart and seems like he'll actually give us the time of day, too. So we were very grateful and excited.
Then we had a great lesson with Jonmikel and Kasey, and Lily came too. We ended up talking about many of the things we had studied this morning about prayer--even though the whole time we thought we had been receiving revelation for another investigator! And Lily gave a great testimony. She is so solid! I love her to death.
After that we got to stay at the church for a bit and chat with a few more people and be with the branch. It always feels so good to be around them, they're just full of so much love! Heavenly Father put me in the greatest place ever. I seriously feel so blessed.
I just felt good all day. The spirit stayed with me, I felt tons of love, and I was finally able to see why missionary work is so fun and exciting. I am SO LUCKY to be here! And so thankful! I want every day to be like this. I know that probably won't happen right away, but THIS is what I'm working toward--this kind of spirit to be in my life every day of my mission. I LOVE THIS!!!

:) It was a wonderful day. And Lily got BAPTIZED on Saturday! It turned out so well. Our ward mission leader is incredible and pretty much organized the whole thing, so it took a huge load off us poor missionaries. :P I was so grateful for him. There were a good 40 or 50 people there, too, including her non-member family who came to support! And Lily was glowing. So was her friend, Josh, who performed the baptism--he was the one who introduced her to the church in the first place, and it was the first live baptism he'd ever performed! I'm so happy for both of them. President Fisler described it perfectly when he stood at the end and talked about the parable of the sower. He described the hard soil, the thorny soil, the seeds that fall by the wayside... "and then there's Lily," he said. She was definitely the rich, fertile soil that soaked up the seed and watched it bloom right away! She was so ready! Lily gave her testimony, too, and she described it as finding her "focal point," the thing that every ballerina needs to keep from getting dizzy as they spin. Life is just dizziness until we focus on the gospel of Jesus Christ. :) She's incredible! I'm so excited to see how the Lord is going to use her to bring others unto Him.
Heavenly Father also blessed me with two opportunities to follow a prompting this week, and I was rewarded each time I did. We went on exchanges this week, so for one day I was in my area WITHOUT my companion, and Sister Stirling didn't know anything about it--so I was leading out all by myself! It was scary. And right before we were about to take off, I had no idea where we were going to go. I had a few options laid out, but I just kept going back and forth and back and forth. Finally, I just went with my gut instinct (aka the spirit) and who would have known... we showed up at a referral's house and he let us in. Oh, and he listened to us. Oh, and he said we could come back. ?? :) So we added another investigator (Vinod) and I didn't even have my companion. Was that all Heavenly Father? YES!
The second time I had a prompting was to visit someone who had skipped out on our appointment the day before and didn't call us back all night... I was really reluctant to bug him again the next day (since someone who skips an appointment seems like they don't want to listen anyway) but for some reason I felt like we should. And, of course, it turned out great. :) He actually answered the phone and said we could come over, and apologized for missing the appointment. We had a great lesson with him, too! Heavenly Father is so good. Always follow promptings, everyone!
Guess who came into the battalion?? 3 of my deaf friends from back home!! I'm sending a pic with them. :) It was SO GOOD TO SEE THEM! It made my entire night. And I got to interpret the tour for them (even though I did horrible--I can't believe how rusty my signing is already). But I love it. It felt so good to sign again.
And just for fun--a man from Denmark also came in yesterday. As soon as he saw my name tag he says "That's a very Danish name!" :) I told him that my ancestors were from Denmark and my grandpa served his mission there. It was cool to make a connection with him... and we had a pretty intense gospel discussion afterward and he accepted a Book of Mormon! He also gave me his email so we could keep in touch and I could see what he thought about it. I think he'll like it.

Sorry for the long email, but I just HAD to tell you all the great things. I love you all. Life is good. :) :)
Sister Madsen

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

1st Zone Conference :)

Dear family and friends,
For those of you who don't know, missionaries are given a special missionary planner that's made just for us by the church, and we get a new one every transfer (they only hold enough pages for six weeks). I usually tend to write the month/date on the top of each page a few days in advance. Well... I was flipping through writing the dates a couple days ago and all the sudden the pages ran out! ...?!?!! It really freaked me out for a second. :) Ha. Can't believe transfers are just about here again--as in next week!
This was a pretty crazy week as we experienced the tragedy of losing our most valuable possession: Sister Burden finished her mission on Saturday and flew home! You never realize how much you love someone til they're not around anymore... or how much you depend on them! Sister Burden had been in the area for 3 months longer than Sister Ortez and I, so she was like our superhero and we were her sidekicks. It's almost amusing how scrambled and lost we are without her. :P The good news is that the members of our branch still love us and help us and are looking out for us. WE HAVE THE MOST AMAZING SINGLES BRANCH IN THE WHOLE CHURCH. (Okay, besides the EB3 ward when it existed.) So even though it takes us 30 minutes to read the map and get to a house that's only around the corner (I LOATHE street names--why can't the whole world just use numbers like Provo?), we're still breathing and surviving and doing our best. ;) We sure miss her though! She's so loving and funny and fun to be around... it's not nearly as great of a party without her! I love her to death!
I had my first zone conference this week. Zone conferences are 6 hours long. :) Sounds like fun, right? Ha. It was actually really great. President Clayton gave us an awesome lesson about evidences that scholars have found in the Book of Mormon that proves its true origin, and how there's NO WAY Joseph Smith could have written it. It was crazy!! I wish I could tell you all the awesome things they've discovered about it and studies they've done. But the funny thing was what he said at the end... He told us specifically not to share these things with our investigators. Why? Because a testimony of the Book of Mormon does not come from scholarly evidence. Facts and things can help assure someone of its truthfulness, but the root of someone's knowledge of its divine origin has to come by the spirit. Thank heavens, too! We don't have to prove ourselves to anyone! The spirit does it for us. :) Missionary work is SO COOL!
Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is learning how to love people. (Maybe I've mentioned this before, I don't remember.) Missionaries HAVE to learn to love people right off the bat! People are so much more willing to listen if you're speaking out of love, and not just doing it because it's your job. Not only that, but it becomes much more enjoyable for the missionary too--when we do things out of pure love for others, it's desirable! The thing is, I'm not very good at this yet. (I mean, I love people, but it's hard to love complete strangers right away.) I'm praying a lot for the ability to see people how God sees them. I want others to feel like I really love them and want the best for them. After all, if we have not charity, we are nothing.
LILY IS GETTING BAPTIZED THIS SATURDAY! My very first baptism. :) So excited. And, miracle of all miracles, we had another lesson with Moises and Reuben yesterday, and they said that if they get an answer that it's true, they'll be baptized on September 29th. We actually committed them to a date! On our second meeting! PLEASE, please pray for their hearts to be softened enough to receive an answer.
I love you all. Thank you so much for your love and prayers for me!
Until next week,
Sister Madsen

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Investigator, A "Bishop Larsen Moment"

Dear everyone,
AAAHHH! I only have 17 months in the field and one of them is already gone?? You've got to be joking.
Time is such a weird thing. I'm glad that after we die we won't have to worry about weird things like linear time. :) I've been thinking a lot about how I've used my time for the first part of my mission and if the Lord has approved of how I've chosen to use it. I'm sure that He is proud of many of the things that I've done, but I'm sure there's also room for improvement. I know I've written about this before, but time is so precious out here and I really don't want to waste it--yet sometimes I still do! So one of the things I'm working on is recognizing when I'm wasting time worrying about myself... and then focusing.
HEADLINE OF THE WEEK: we finally, FINALLY added a new investigator yesterday!!! :) :) :) His name is Moises. He is a very strong Christian (he goes to some community christian church). We're actually teaching both him and his brother (who is only 17--not technically part of our ward since we're YSA) and they both know the Bible cover to cover. It created a few problems for us as we were teaching them--they were whipping out scriptures like I've never seen and explaining why they believe that God and Jesus Christ are the same person. It was pretty tricky! But in the end we just explained that regardless of our differing beliefs, we weren't there to convince them of anything... we were there simply to invite them to read the Book of Mormon and ask God if it's true. We also taught them about personal revelation and how they could go to God Himself with their question about whether or not God and Christ are the same person--they don't have to take our word for it. They committed to read the fist chapter of the Book of Mormon and to pray and ask if it's true, and then they said we could come back and teach them more. :) :) :) Rewarding?? YES. Pray for Moises and Reuben to have their hearts softened as they read the Book of Mormon--we need them to be open-minded!
Another great thing that happened this week was a lesson with one of our less actives... one that actually ended up being for ME. We read a talk with him by Elder Bednar about the atonement. In it, he explains that the journey of life is to put off the natural man and to go from bad to good, and then good to better. Most members of the church understand the healing and cleansing power of the atonement--this is what helps us go from bad to good. But many church members don't understand another part of the atonement: the strengthening and enabling power that helps us go from good to better. After we have completed the first principles/ordinances of the gospel, we have to keep progressing from "good" to "better"... oftentimes we try to do it on our own by setting goals, recognizing our weaknesses and improving them, etc... We are not supposed to do it on our own! In fact, we can't. And eventually we'll realize that. Well. I realized it this week. :P We are supposed to continually use the atonement to strengthen us as we keep progressing and keep getting better. How are we supposed to get closer to perfection without the help of the only perfect person who has ever existed? Why do we try to do so?? I don't know if I'm making sense, Elder Bednar says it a lot better. Read it. :) But it hit me really hard as we were teaching him, cause I feel like I'm having trouble progressing, yet I haven't asked for the help I need from the enabling power of the atonement. So that's another thing I'm gonna work on. Cool principle, huh?? The gospel is incredible.
Also, I had a Bishop Larsen moment this week. :) For those of you who attended the EB3 ward, you know that every time he would teach us, he started with the plan of salvation. Why? Because we all need that perspective. :) We taught a lesson about the plan of salvation this week, and it was just so refreshing and exciting! As we talked about each step of the plan and really felt the spirit, I just realized how GREAT it's going to be when if we can just endure to the end!! This earth life is such a short time, and all we have to do is get through it and do our best to enjoy it and follow Christ... and we're rewarded with eternal happiness and glory!! I'm so excited for that time. :)
That's about all the time I have this week. I love you all!! Thanks for your prayers that I know are being sent my way!
Sister Madsen

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Temple Missionary

Hi again. :)
There were so many great things that happened this week! I'm starting to recognize more and more miracles--AND having more spiritual experiences--as my prayers have become more earnest and focused on the people we teach. :)
The first miracle of the week is Halden. He is a less active in our ward that we have been working with and has had a big smoking problem. A couple weeks ago we had an amazing meeting with him and challenged him to stop smoking. We came up with a plan and an exact date that he would drop smoking completely, as well as things he could fill his time with/things to help him stop. Last Monday, Halden was on his 3rd day without smoking... we hadn't seen him that day but I couldn't stop worrying about him. My companions and I were studying when I expressed my concern, and all three of us had the thought that we needed to pray for him right then. When we saw him a couple days later, he had stayed strong--he hadn't given in to smoking even once! Then, on Sunday, Halden came to church and bore his testimony in sacrament meeting. He was practically glowing. And, during his testimony, he talked about how "the Sisters" have changed his life. He said he's always believed in missionary work but didn't truly realize how powerful it could be until we came along. :) This story sounds so cheesy when I type it, but it really meant so much to me! I, Sister Madsen, have made an impact for the better on someone's life. ME. Heavenly Father has let me be a part of this change in Halden. He has shown me that even with all my imperfections and the long list of things I need to improve about myself before I'm a great missionary, He can use me to bring happiness to others. It is such a good feeling.
The second miracle of the week is Lily. Lily is currently our only progressing investigator with a baptism date. However, she's been taught for a few months now and has been procrastinating baptism... mostly because she wants to be sure she's in the habit of living all the commandments before she's baptized. But she's SO ready. She's practically a member. She's always at church, she goes to all the ward activities, and she reads her book of mormon and prays for the spirit to comfort her more than most members do. But she didn't want to be baptized til October 20th! We were really worried that by that time Satan would have gotten to her and convinced her otherwise. So, we fasted for Lily this Sunday to accept a sooner date. After church we met with her and explained why she was so ready! She's still really scared... but she committed to August 25th! A whole two months earlier! Heavenly Father truly heard our prayers and blessed our fast. :)
The third miracle is the miracle of the DVD player. :) We have another less active named Blase. During planning we figured out what we wanted to teach him during our lesson, and we decided on a video we wanted to show him. Sister Burden, bless her heart, is so scatter brained lately... I think because she's headed home next week. It's actually pretty amusing. :) She forgets everything! Our area is about 25 minutes away from where we live, too, so when we get out there, we don't go back again until night unless we have a really good reason. (We spend so much time driving... and gas money is precious. :( ) Anyway, Sister Burden said she'd get the things we needed for our lesson... she remembered the DVD but didn't bring our little portable DVD player. Since we often can't meet the people we teach at their homes (there's lots of rules with singles), we meet at the church... hence, we had no way to show Blase the video that we felt he really needed to see. So. We prayed. :) We asked Heavenly Father for a way to show him this video... and then we started checking doors. Even though they're almost ALWAYS locked, it just so happened that one of the Bishop's offices was open! So we started checking around the office. (Don't get upset dad--I know people aren't supposed to rummage around bishop's offices, but this was an emergency. ;) ) I randomly opened one of the closets and there on the shelf were about 15 or 20 keys... We decided that at least one of them just HAD to be a key to the library. So we ran down the hall, and wouldn't you know it, the third key we tried let us right into the TV room! Again, I know this sounds cheesy, but it was a miracle! :) When we watched the video with Blase that day the spirit was incredibly powerful. He clearly needed to see it, or else Heavenly Father wouldn't have provided a way.
I have the hardest time expecting Heavenly Father to bless me with what I ask for. I think it's because I never feel like I deserve it... like I don't do enough or put my heart in it enough to really have my prayers answered. I tend to just ask Him for things and hope for the best... I don't expect them. How can I?? Me, a lowly human being who is ALWAYS making mistakes, expecting GOD, the all powerful, perfect ruler of the universe, to give me what I say? The funny thing, though, is that I AM supposed to expect them. I'm supposed to have so much faith that I truly believe that He will answer those prayers with the specific things I ask for (that is, if the prayer is led by the spirit and is a righteous desire). All three of those miracles are examples of that! What a lesson to have learned this week.
I also did my first shift at the san diego temple this week. :) :) :) :) :) :) We were there for the whole afternoon/night standing outside of it talking to people about the gospel. There is NO BETTER PLACE to share the gospel with people who are unaware of it than at the temple! They are drawn to it. And the spirit there will touch them no matter what! And, as a bonus, I cannot help but feel happy, peaceful, and content when I'm at the temple... even just being on the grounds. It is so strengthening. I CANNOT wait to do a session there. I wish you all could see how gorgeous it is!!!
Well. That's all for this week. It was definitely the best week I've had so far... SO full of the spirit. I wish I could write about every time I feel it. :) Oh!! And Riley from your softball team came in to the Battalion, Hannah! I didn't get to see her but she left me a cute little note. :) So tell her thank you if you get the chance. Lyndsay Wygant came in, too! (For those of you who don't know, she went to high school with me.) I got to give her the tour and everything! She was officially the first person I know that I got to give a tour to. :)
I love you all so much! :) The gospel is the best thing EVER!
Sister Madsen