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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

well. this feels very unreal...

dear family and friends,
i just can't believe it. this is the weirdest thing that i'm writing my last email right now. in fact, it doesn't really feel real. it just feels like another p-day. :) that's the cool thing about missions... you don't stop being a missionary until the morning you leave. you do regular missionary work every day and every hour, til you come home at 9 pm the night before--none of this "time to prepare to go home" stuff. in fact, george asked me last night if i was busy packing... he was very surprised when i told him i haven't even started yet. haha. :) so i don't think it will really hit me til i actually see your faces.
speaking of george. you all will not believe this. :) heavenly father is incredibly... giving. loving. mindful. i know it wouldn't have mattered whether or not i was here when george got baptized, so long as he did--even if it took him a few more months. but we had a miracle last night. i wrote last week that george was really struggling with the word of wisdom and probably wouldn't go through with his baptism this last saturday. well, he didn't. and we were heart broken. but between friday night and monday night... there were many of the ward members that had him to dinner, took him to a concert, and just spent time with him discussing his concerns. we weren't even there for any of those things. and last night, when we had another lesson, something had changed... george was at peace. we watched the testaments with him, and then discussed how he was feeling... we really weren't expecting him to all of a sudden be ready for baptism, but that's where the spirit turned the conversation. he was telling us that amidst all of his investigating and confusion, a friend had told him to stop worrying about joining the mormon church and to come to church with him instead. but george just straight up told him that he felt like this is where he felt like he needed to be. :) so... we basically just asked him if he still wanted to be baptized, and he said yes."it must a good thing, because for some reason my objections to losing tea have slowly faded." we explained how that was heavenly father blessing him with comfort and strength to overcome that trial. he then went on to say... "it's interesting. the navy seals called me back to work, and i was supposed to start today, but for some reason my paperwork got mixed up and they told me not to come in til next week... i kind of wonder if that's a sign from god that there's something important that i'm supposed to do before then." :) :) :) :) :) :) :) HE COMMITTED TO BE BAPTIZED THIS THURSDAY NIGHT. two days before i leave! :) :) i've never experienced such an incredible tender mercy like this... i couldn't believe my ears. i can't express my gratitude for all of the prayers that i KNOW have come from you and all of the members in our ward on his behalf. many of them even took a weekday to participate in a special fast for him with us. if it weren't for our combined efforts, this wouldn't have happened. george has a safety net of like 50 different people that just wouldn't let him fall. THIS WORK IS REAL, and i KNOW there are many powerful influences on the other side of the veil that are working together to combat the adversary and bring about the salvation of souls! and i cannot WAIT to watch geroge be baptized this week.
in fact, there were a multitude of tender mercies yesterday. i think that yesterday heavenly father was giving me one last perfect day (seeing as the next 3 days are full of meetings and such)... it was like he wrapped it up in a perfect little package with a sparkly bow and said, "here you go, my sweet daughter, thank you for serving a mission for me." :) all of the people we planned to see were home, and we had 4 great spiritual experiences... first off, i got to go to lunch with my companion at this incredibly delicious restaurant, which started the day off great... and then we had this appointment with a lady named nancy who is a born-again-christian. however, she's not argumentative--she's incredibly intelligent, and sincerely loves talking about the things of god. i LOVE--love, love, love. cannot explain how much i love--teaching and discussing the gospel with intelligent people. nancy just GETS it. her faith is real, and though she's off on a few things, she's susceptible to the spirit. oh my gosh. i loved every minute of our visit. THIS IS WHAT I WILL MISS THE MOST. teaching. teaching, teaching, teaching. explaining, proving, describing, analyzing, sharing, showing, TESTIFYING... and then watching the spirit work its way into people's hearts. heavenly father let me have one more great experience with that, which is SO bitter sweet, because i had to leave knowing that i wouldn't be there for our return appointment next week. i just don't want to leave people like nancy behind! but it'll be okay.
next, we went to a potential investigator's house. we ran into her about four weeks ago... she explained that she had been investigating years ago, but it ended badly, even though she really loved attending the LDS church. she then explained that she had found a new church and she was happy there. but WE explained that it wasn't a coincidence that she was placed in our path... and she ended up giving us her phone number and said she would think about it. well... we called and texted a few times over the last couple weeks with no luck. so we just decided to show up again. as soon as she saw us, she said, "i'm sorry i never returned your calls... i've just been fighting with myself. i'm really happy with my church. but every time i look at your texts, there's something inside me that really wants to meet with you again." :) :) :) she is SO prepared. we told her that was definitely an influence from above... she said, "okay. i guess i should. but i can't right now... and i don't know when." to which we responded, "this is what we do 24/7. you tell us the time, and we'll be here." so, i was struck with another heart wrenching moment when sister brown set up a return appointment with her for friday (during which time i will be at departures). how badly i wish i could be here to watch naomi's progress. but how sweet the joy of seeing that miracle in her yesterday! this is what i have been a part of for 18 months!!!
i don't have time to keep describing this perfect day in such great detail, but we then had three more lessons with george, a less active family that totally welcomed us in and missed us dearly, and another investigator who was in tears when we told her how much god loves her and that he has a plan for her. every minute was full of the spirit, and full of the joy of sharing the gospel with others and helping heavenly father's lost sheep.

if i didn't love you all so much, i probably would never come home. :) this has truly been the most sacred time of my life. i can't possibly describe all of the lessons i've learned out here. i can't describe how much my perspective has changed about what REALLY matters. i can't describe how much more fully i understand the gospel now. i can't describe how cool it is to be so intimately involved in this incomprehensible, all-encompassing... movement of the lord's work unto his children. i can't describe the feelings of my heart when i think about leaving it behind. (mostly i've been avoiding those as much as possible.) i can't imagine NOT having served a mission, and sharing in the immense love that i've felt from the lord and from the others i'm surrounded by and that i teach and care for. i don't know how i could have made my life what i want it to be without this experience.
i know this is just a lot of words, and i know i'll get to tell you all about it when i come home, but i still want to tell you anyway...
i know with all my heart that this is the work of god. i KNOW that joseph smith restored the gospel, that he truly was visited by the father and the son, and oh, how GLORIOUS that must have been!! how glorious and full of light our lives can be when we are surrounded by the spirit and LIVING the gospel that our savior has so mercifully provided us through his prophets... and by his atoning sacrifice! I KNOW HE LIVES! and i know that he loves me, even though i still have SO MANY weaknesses to overcome. i know he will continue to help me to change little by little, until every fiber of my being is solely concerned about doing his will.
there is nothing that brings me more joy than watching those that i love progress in the gospel. so please, please, i'm speaking to YOU, those that i love the very most: never let go of your faith! never let go of your testimony! never give up on him! keep growing, onward and upward, and keeping participating the work of salvation! the lord is infinitely more powerful than any being who will try to convince you that it's too hard! he suffered for you so that you can be HAPPY! so please, please, keep doing the things that bring REAL happiness. :) :)
i love being a missionary. and i love you each of you SO MUCH. i will see you very, very soon. until then...


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"it's autumn time, it's autumn time, the leaves are falling down...." la la la...

we had a crazy week this week. we hardly got any teaching in cause we had a lot of shifts, service projects, and a lot of meetings. one of the meetings was called MTE, missionary training exchange. this is where we have a 3 hour gathering with about a third of the missionaries in our mission... i just realized i've probably explained this before. ha. but anyway, after the meeting where we learn a whole bunch of stuff, each companionship goes out with a "coach"--another missionary that's usually been out for a while--and then you spend the rest of the day applying what you learned together. they asked me to be a coach for one of the mandarin companionships at the battalion (sister miller's companionship! yay!). mandarin! ha. it was fun. i learned how to say three things in mandarin: "chein fu" (completely wrong spelling) means heavenly father, "yesu gido" means jesus christ, and "wo i nee" means i love you. :) and we had a cool miracle. one of the topics we discussed at MTE's was creative finding ideas.... one of those ideas being to offer church tours to people on the street. so when our plans cancelled, that's what we did! we drove around to 3 different churches... there were no people to be found ANYWHERE. so at the 4th church, we decided we'd just wait on the corner with a sign that said "church tours." ha. :) well, before we went out to the corner, we went inside the church to make sure all was well, that we could get into the building, etc. right after we walked in, we ran into a maintenance guy. we said hello and chatted for a little bit... we quickly came to learn that he wasn't a member. this man had been doing maintenance on all the church buildings in san diego for years, but had never been to a service. so. turns out our person that we needed to take on a tour was already inside the building!! haha it was crazy. we took him to the chapel and let him feel the spirit there. he kept talking about how much he is always impressed by member of our church whenever he interacts with them.... especially missionaries. turns out he's pretty strong in his own faith.... however, he did agree to have missionaries sent to his house. :) super cool! allen will probably take a little while to get to the right path, but heavenly father has EVER so slowly been preparing him over the years... and this is another small step on his journey.
at the end of MTE's--when we come back together and follow up for a couple hours the next day--they make all of the departing missionaries stand up and bear their testimonies. bleh. can i just say that no matter how often i bear my testimony in lessons, to people on the street, etc, doing it in front of a crowd doesn't ever get less intimidating. :P 
one of the other awesome "meetings" we had this week was my last mission president's fireside! oh my goodness it was so great. so powerful and so full of the spirit. sister riggs, miller, davies, rasmussen, oneill and i did a special musical number called "when he comes for me." (these are all of the sisters that i came out with and that i'm going home with, and they are very close to my heart.) the whole experience was absolutely incredible. we stood at the mic together and locked fingers and just poured our hearts out in song together as a departing testimony of this work. i couldn't stop smiling the whole time we were singing... and let's just say, these sisters got TALENT. we sounded GOOD. :) each of us also sang a two line solo for the verses... even me. holy moly. i was so nervous. there were probably 400 people there. but heavenly father really helped me out cause i was able to get through my lines without my voice cracking or fainting or anything... and then as soon as i finished, my lips starting shaking like crazy! haha. my prayers worked. :) anyway. that will always be one of the most memorable experiences of the end of my mission. it felt so wonderful to bear my witness of the savior through song with my BEST friends.
also, another miracle: one of my former investigators from santee, who totally fell off the face of the earth, showed up to the fireside with his old fellowshipper!!! i was sitting up on the stand with the choir, and about 30 minutes into it he wandered in from the back... and when i realized it was him i gasped. i about died i was so happy to see him there. i don't know if you remember me talking about joe and his little son named freddy, but he was SO PREPARED. and then didn't go through with his baptism. i got to talk to him for a quick minute afterward... i don't know where he's at still as far as investigating, but he was THERE. and that means SOME progress. and now i kinda understand how the father of the prodigal's son story must have felt. :) gosh i love these people!!! i can't believe how much love we have the capacity to feel for the sheep that heavenly father puts in our care.
i had a cool experience at the battalion this week as well. i took a few people on tour... by where they were from, the way they were dressed, how they talked, etc, i assumed they were all nonmembers. two of them were a 40-ish year old mother and her daughter. at the end of the tour, they were the last ones to leave. we were out in the courtyard panning for gold and just chatting. i didn't think anything was going to come from our conversation... usually you can feel when you need to keep people talking so you can invite them to learn from missionaries. but the as the conversation went on and we started talking about her children and places she'd lived, etc, it came out that this woman was actually a completely inactive member of the church. i was totally shocked. but i kept my surprise hidden. :) (they didn't even know there was a mormon museum in old town, they were just down there to play around and wandered in.) suddenly she got kind of quiet... i could tell she was debating internally on what she was about to ask. she then explained that she'd recently been divorced... and that her ex husband had not been approving of the church at all... but now that he wasn't around, she kind of wanted to get back into it. "i just have no idea how to start," she said. :) :) :) boy, were those the magic words. "i can help with that," i said. :) i got her address and told her i would be sending the missionaries. AH! so cool. "dear to the heart of the shepherd, dear are the sheep of his fold... send us out into the desert, seeking thy wandering sheep!!!" I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!
so. now that i've told you all the good news... i have heartbreaking (well--heartbreaking for us) news as well. george is really, really struggling with the word of wisdom. and not even because he's addicted--he's been off of tea and coffee for two weeks now and has been totally fine. but because of the social, cultural aspect of it all. he's filipeno, and he's grown up with tea--it's a big part of their culture. he considers it a part of his identity and doesn't want to let it go... which leads to him questioning if it's really a commandment since it's not even in the bible... which leads to him second-guessing the witnesses he's had that joseph smith is a prophet... :( :( STUPID SATAN. he works the hardest on those that are the most prepared. so... george was supposed to get baptized this saturday, but there's a good chance that he won't. :( however, he is still meeting with us, and he loves being around our ward, so there is hope! we are doing our best to have faith. and even if he doesn't get baptized before i leave... i will be sad, but i know he'll get there eventually. and i know it's not about me. it's about him. and heavenly father will help him get to baptism whenever it is his will. so it will be okay. but still--PRAY FOR GEORGE. please.

i'm sure you've all heard about the phillipines... :( so sad. please keep the missionaries--and the whole country--in your prayers as well.
i love you all! :) keep growing in the gospel and strengthening your testimony, and the testimonies of others as well!
sister madsen

halloween can't be over already...

hope you all had a fabulous halloween and that you didn't get too spooked out by creepy things! :P mostly i'm just glad that as a missionary i get to avoid all the creepiness of halloween and just eat candy and study the scriptures. ha. :) our curfew on halloween is 7 pm, at which point we return to our apartments and study the assigned chapter from president clayton. this time it was D&C 84.... holy moly, can i just say i love learning new things in the scriptures that i've never read before?? i can't wait to come home and take all kinds of institute classes on the doctrines that i don't get to study all that often cause i just teach people the basics. :) anyway. there's a footnote in D&C 84 that leads to hebrews 7:11-16 that absolutely blew my mind. i love, love, love being taught by the spirit. read it. :) and don't worry, i still did SOMEthing festive... sister brown and i were each other for halloween. we wore each other's dresses and nametags (picture attached). (that's about as festive as you can get as a missionary.)
in other news... i about had a HEART ATTACK when a few certain visitors came to the battalion this week... aunt janette, ash and malloree TOTALLY SURPRISED ME!! haha, not fair. :) you all kept me in the dark! i totally knew the day uncle steve was coming, and i knew grandma was coming sometime, but holy moly, that was so unexpected! :) :) i was starting a tour in the middle of the introduction room with some other guests, and suddenly, three dark haired beauties were walking in from the lobby--i started to wave them in to join us, and then i realized who they were. let's just say i felt really bad for my guests that had to watch my reaction. they probably felt really awkward!! haha. but i was just so surprised and OVERJOYED to see them that i couldn't help it! i let my companion take over my tour while i tried to calm down my heart and the four of us sat down to chat for a little bit. :) it felt so surreal to be with them, but so great!! and then i got to take them on the tour! :) we had a fabulous time together. thanks so much for coming to see me, you three!! i REALLY really loved your visit! it made me so happy!! thanks for letting me share such a cherished part of my mission with you. :) I LOVE YOU!
we taught george the word of wisdom last week and guess what? :) he hasn't had a single cup of coffee since. it was so super hard for him to accept that he had to give it up... but he did it anyway! he also was given an incredible priesthood blessing from our ward mission leader after the lesson. george has so much faith. he is still battling satan though, who's trying hard to convince him of other reasons he shouldn't give up coffee, so continue to pray for him, please! we also taught him tithing this week, and he didn't even blink. he accepted it without question. :) SO COOL! george is easily one of the most faithful converts to the gospel that i've ever seen on my mission. all that's left to do is put him in the water! :)
we also did a service project this week for a woman from india. her name is gheeta. she randomly met one of our members at the store and they've kept in touch. gheeta recently decided to move apartments, and she's needed a lot of help, so our member asked us to come to her aid. i've learned quite a few lesson from this interaction: first, other cultures are SO FASCINATING. and sometimes, frustrating. the things that they value compared to the things that i value are just so radically different... it was kind of difficult for me to help her pack, when there's so many things that i would just throw away, and so many things i would just... handle differently. and honestly, i was trying to do what was best for her by relieving her of some of the stress caused by all the STUFF she has and just wants to keep... i was trying to teach her how to have a "house of order, a house of god." but guess what? indians believe in a different god. in fact, they believe in hundreds of gods. so to them, a house of god is one that's packed full of trinkets and rose petals and incense and golden images and candles and ivory elephants and bangles and jewelry and hair accessories and intricately designed clothing... on one hand, they really appreciate beauty. but on the other hand... heavenly father was just showing me how lost some of his children are. so i had to put my pride away and just put myself in her shoes--some people's beliefs are just so incredibly opposite of ours, and their beliefs are SO INGRAINED, that we can't even begin to teach them. we just have to love them. so that's what we did. and she was so sweet and so appreciative of our help... she left us with parting gifts and called us her angels and fed us spicy indian food. someday, i know that gheeta will learn that jesus christ is her savior. until then, i'm grateful to have lent a helping hand to one of heavenly father's beloved daughters.
i think the most humbling indicator that i really have been doing some good around here is the way the members of my ward are responding to my soon-to-be "death." :) many of them are asking for contact information so that we can keep in touch, and members that i've only interacted with a few times are requesting the last open slots on the dinner calendar so i can come visit their home once more. many of them tell us they're going to miss us when we leave, but they aren't just saying it to be nice--they're sincere. they really mean it. of course, i have been in this area over 5 months, which allows for stronger relationships... but i have seen such a huge change in the way that the leaders of our ward respond to our requests for help, and the way they talk about missionary work. i may not have had many progressing investigators or baptisms in this area, but i know that sister brown and i have made an impact on the ward, and the ward is where the REAL missionary work has to start. so, even if all i did was push the ball to get it rolling, that's enough for me.
think that's it for now! hope you're not too freezing in the SNOW! haha. i get three more weeks of sun. :)
sister madsen