Monday, April 27, 2015

There's No Where Else I'd Rather Be!

This last week I came to the conclusion that I really, really love my mission.  I cannot sum up in a short email pressed for time the emotion and love I feel for this sacred work. Nothing can compare, and nothing can trump the pure joy I feel each day as I lose myself a little more in this beautiful work. This last week was one of the best weeks of my mission and it was a good reminder to me of why this work is so vital.

The week started with a wonderful lesson with our investigators, the Smith family. I haven't shared much of their story and I will just briefly explain the miracles we have seen with this beautiful family.  We were out walking one day and walked right past their house. Sister Ure commented to me "maybe we should try that house." I told her that I definitely felt like we should as well. So we turned around and make our way back to their house. We knocked on their door and talked to the husband for awhile about the Book of Mormon. We set up a time to come back and teach them together. During that first lesson we learned that just a week prior the wife had been praying for direction, and for truth and then lo and behold who came a knockin' on the door? The missionaries! That first lesson, as we taught about the restoration of Christ's church and the reality of God's love, was powerful. We invited the Smith family to pray and ask if Joseph Smith was truly one our Heavenly Father's chosen prophets. We also invited them to ask God if this was the true and living church.  We went back for our next lesson and followed up on how their praying had been going. Sister Smith began to get emotional and said immediately after they had prayed together and asked the question about Joseph Smith, they felt "overwhelming joy and peace." I know our Heavenly Father answers prayers and I know it is through those fruits of the spirit we can seek spiritual confirmation. The Smith family has read all of first Nephi and has jumped right into Second Nephi. They came to church on Sunday and commented after that "we will definitely be back." I adore this family already. Sister Ure and I were laughing yesterday as we calculated that we have only known them for 13 days but we feel like we have known them forever!

We had interviews with President and Sister Daines this last week. Can I just say how inspired and how needed Mission Presidents are. Ray and Cindy, I am so excited for you to be such an inspiration and a beacon to your young missionaries. You will excel and make such an impact on your missionaries. I know my mission President and his sweet wife have made such a lasting impact on me. I have been praying and debating for some time now what to do about school and the end of my mission. I get home from my mission just days before school starts and have been a bit stressed about what to do. I have thought about going home mid-transfer to have a week more to prepare for school in the fall. As I met with President Daines, I felt the spirit confirm to me that I needed to stay until the very end. I told him I had never been one to quit a race before the last lap. He then told me "and if you know running techniques, you know you are supposed to run through the finish line. Not just to the finish line." He then with tears in his eyes promised me that I would feel such peace in my decision and the Lord world bless me tremendously for finishing the race I had entered to the fullest.  I felt so much comfort and somehow knew that everything will work out when that time comes and until then I don't have to worry about it anymore!

I cannot even express to you guys how amazing little Dakota's baptism was. It was the most spiritual baptism I have ever been to, and it was for a 10 year old kid. He was beaming. This whole last week he had been counting down the days until his special day where his life would change forever. When the day finally came he was grinning from ear to ear. He invited anyone and everyone he saw to his baptism and was such a powerful missionary. One of the most tender parts of the whole baptismal service was watching Dakota look up at Bishop with adorning eyes as the Bishop recited the baptismal prayer in the font. You could see in Dakota's eyes how important his baptism was to him. He did not treat it lightly but understood the promise he was making with his Father in Heaven.  After his baptism we had a chance to ask him how he felt. He said with all the excitement of a ten year old boy, "I feel so much better!" His mom and Grammy gave beautiful talks and the spirit was ever present the entire meeting.  I feel so privileged to be a part of this family's life and to have had the sacred opportunity to work with Dakota. As Sister Ure and I have taught him I have learned more about my Savior. I think that it's little wonder the Savior spent so much time with the little children. Dakota has taught me more then anyone about my Savior and his love for me. They have been such examples to me and I can't imagine my life not knowing them.

We had an North American/ North East conference yesterday. It was a broadcast and we were delighted to hear from Neil L. Anderson along with other righteous leaders. One thing Elder Anderson said that I loved was, "We should not be afraid to share those things that have helped us to become who we are."

Shall we not go on in so great a cause?


Love, Sister Mathis

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Light, Life and Hope of this missionary

An Empty Mailbox: Hint, hint
Hi guys! I can't believe another week has flown by. Time is the strangest thing as a missionary. The days feel like weeks, and the weeks fly on by like days. I am grateful for each precious day in the Lord's service, in this amazingly beautiful and sacred work.

Lauren, Ellen and Sister Ure
We had a neat experience this week with Ellen. We knew in order for us to accompany her to the temple we had to help her find a family file name she could take to the temple. We had done a little bit of her family history together and miraculously found that many of the members of her family have had their temple work done already. This created a slight challenge in helping her find a name she could take to the temple.  I am no family history expert, and if you want the honest truth I really have no idea what I'm doing, but the following day we went over to help her find a name. I prayed that Heavenly Father would guide my fingers as I searched on the computer for one of her ancestors who had been waiting for her work to be done.  Within moments we found a great great great grandmother named Mary and when we came across her name the Spirit completely filled the room. It was as if sweet Mary was there with us, and saying reverently to us, "I have been waiting for you." Ellen was able to take her name to the temple and provide the sacred ordinance of baptism for her deceased ancestor.

I love the temple. There is nothing like it. It is where earth and Heaven meet and we are able to feel a portion of what Heaven is like. It is full of peace and purity, it truly is the House of the Lord. We were so fortunate to have 4 recent converts from the Newark ward together in the temple. Seeing them dressed in white and glowing brought so much joy to my soul and I can't even imagine how happy our Heavenly Father, and also their ancestors must have felt in that moment for them. Two of the recent converts commented after the temple that being there was the best night of their lives. If you have not been to the temple I would strongly recommend that you set goals to get there. Allow the atonement to come into your life and do everything you can to be temple worthy. There are so many blessings that come from going to the temple.

Dakota is doing so so well. The other day we went over for a lesson and he was outside playing with a neighborhood friend. He went up and tapped his friend on the shoulder and then stood there and paused shyly for a minute. He then said with all the excitement of a 10 year old boy..."ummm this Saturday the 25th I'm getting baptized, and you're invited. Will you come?" He continues to teach me how easy and simple it can be to share the gospel. He was eager to pay his tithing on Sunday after our tithing lesson and is a true follower of Jesus Christ. I love him and the strides his family is making together.
The Newark Temple Group

I had the opportunity to finish the Book of Mormon again this last week and finish the challenge we had as a mission to read the Book of Mormon and highlight names and personal pronouns in reference to the Savior. Our Savior Jesus Christ, and His titles and personal pronouns appear over 5,000 times in the Book of Mormon. I believe not just because of this literal evidence, but because of the spiritual evidence I have received that the Book Of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. The Savior and His teaching fill literally almost every page. I have read this divine book 8 times on my mission. I do not say that to boast or to brag I say that because each and every time I have read it, I have desperately needed it. Each time I have read it, I have felt one step closer to my Savior and my Heavenly Father. They know us, they love us, and they are willing to do anything for us if we will only allow them to come into our lives and follow their council.  There is nothing more powerful in missionary work then your testimony of the Book of Mormon and Jesus Christ combined with the Spirit.

My understanding of the atonement as I read it this time around deepened. I have recognized how enabling it is as I have prayed and allowed Christ's beautiful sacrifice to come into my life. I realized the atonement doesn't just cover sin, it covers any imperfection or shortcoming. It covers anger, frustration, or even pain. It covers heartache, disappointment or loneliness. It covers what I feel at the end of a long day when I question if I have done enough. Often times as I was reading and highlighting His words I felt as if He was talking directly to me. Our loving Savior emulatesplain humility. He was prepared and willing for the great and daunting task. He was and is a leader full of light, love, intelligence, grace, and perfect faith. He is meek, courageous, and obedient. He listened and continues to listen to the will of the Father and was diligent in following all of His commandments. He demonstrated in the most humble of ways great power and strength. He is honest, pure, a true leader, teacher, minister, brother, and example. He is beautiful and glorious and His radiant countenance "smiles" upon the righteous. He is constant, never changing, full of promise and perfect faith. He rose above all temptation and became a determined conqueror of truth. He is clothed in a white robe, and on His palms we are engraved never to be removed. I cannot fully express the deep and abiding love I have for my older brother.  I add my testimony to that of the apostles,We bear testimony, as His duly ordained Apostles—that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.
Sister Ure's Birthday

My invitation for all of you remains the same, continue to find Him, to truly come  to know Him, to discover how personal His atonement and His teaching can be to you. I promise you it will bring everlasting happiness.

I love you guys!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good- We had a wonderful week. Here are a couple of highlights!
1)We are proud new drivers of a 2015 Subaru. We switched cars with the Elders because we have so many exchanges, we needed a car that would allow us to travel more miles. The Elders were pretty bummed to give up their new car. We were thrilled. 
2) I didn't get transferred!! I feel so blessed to be able to stay here in Newark with Sister Ure for at least one more transfer. What a tremendous miracle especially because I didn't want to miss sweet Dakota's baptism, and I know there is still work for me to do here and I am humbled and extremely grateful to continue to labor among the people here in Newark. 
3)Fasting is powerful. Yesterday it was a beautiful hot Ohio spring day. We decided to have a special fast as a companionship. Although we were feeling physically weary we were feeling spiritually strong and ready to share the gospel with the world. Sister Ure and I also decided that instead of driving to our appointments we would walk around town. We ended up spending quite a bit of time in a newly discovered neighborhood and seeing so many tender mercies as we tracted around there. We met some incredible people full of faith and willing to hear more. We met a mother with a brand new baby who has been searching for truth so that she can teach her children.  
4) The Elder's investigator George was baptized. It was a beautiful baptismal service. I love the spirit that can be felt instantly when you walk into a church building. Worries, concerns, and uncertainty are left at the door and instead peace, comfort and love can be felt. 
5)Instead of us teaching Ellen this last week, she taught us! She used preach my gospel, scriptures, and personal experiences to teach us about keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. I was moved by the spirit at her growth and as she taught, she taught with great power. You could easily see the tremendous and beautiful power of the spirit work directly through her. This week we have the divine opportunity to attend the temple with her and do work for her ancestors. I cannot tell you how excited I am to see her in the temple dressed in white, pure and beautiful, and doing what she can to hasten the work. 
5) Dakota and his parents all came to church on Sunday! I almost cried when I watched them all walk in looking so beautiful. Dakota was so excited to have them there with him. 

The Bad-
1) We moved out of our Taj Mahal of missionary apartments and into a new apartment. We had some cleaning to do, but have made our apartment a home. It's a bit of a change of scenery where we now live and a prime and perfect place to share the gospel
2) I now cannot leave the house without my SPF. The hot and humid Ohio summer is fast approaching. I acquired my first intense sunburn of the season #gingerprobs

The Ugly- I said goodbye to three of my previous companions as they finished their missionary service. It has been incredible to have served alongside them and I know I have grown from their faithful and diligent examples. Saying goodbye to them was like saying goodbye to my family all over again.  So proud of all of them and I know how proud our Heavenly Father is of them. This work goes by way too fast. My advice to all your future missionaries, make everyday count." One day you'll look back and wonder where all the time went. 
Saying Goodbye to Sister Wagstaff who we both had as a companion

As you can see the good always outweighs the bad. Everyday is a GREAT day in the life of a missionary! 

A scripture that I loved this week from the Book Of Mormon:
In third Nephi the Lord is teaching the Nephite people. I have always loved the scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants that reads,  "Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you." As I was reading in 3 Nephi however I came across the Lord's uplifting and hope filled words, "Return unto me and I will return unto you." Remember you are never too far from the Lord's help. His hand is continuously outstretched. Return to Him, do everything you can to draw closer to Him. Remember that one day a long time ago, you were already with Him. You lept for joy when He courageously volunteered to come to earth to redeem you and me from the fall, from our wordly inperfections. Return to Him, He is waiting for you.
I love you guys! Make this week great!
Love, Sister Mathis

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter!

What a beautiful warm, spiritual, and sunny Easter week it has been! Can I just say how much I have come to love this beautiful green Ohio land.  This last week especially as we drove on the rolling hills to Mount Vernon and through Danville I couldn't help but admire God's careful, well planned out, and magnificent creations. I love Ohio!

Okay now that I have bragged about this special place, I have to say Ohio is pretty well known for its road kill. In fact a little over a year ago when I first entered this magical place one of the first things I noticed was all the road-kill that decorated the streets. Well the other day I had the opportunity to go on an exchange in Mount Vernon. We were walking to a lesson and it was pouring rain. Fun fact when it rains here-- it pours! We were drenched and trying to walk as quickly as we could to our destination. I wasn't paying much attention to where I was stepping until suddenly I felt I should look down. My foot was in mid air ready to land back safely on the ground when I notice right beneath my foot was a rather large raccoon...only in Ohio would you almost step on a raccoon. That poor little guy.
Our Junior Companion for her Spring Break:  Emily Daines
Well this week was incredible. Here's a couple highlights of being a missionary. Because our exchange was in Mount Vernon we decided on the way home to Newark to take our lunch break and stop at a famous Amish bakery. What was even better about this bakery was that it is owned by an Amish family who joined the church close to three years ago. They are incredible examples and we loved every precious moment we had with them. We easily were touched by the faithful light they illuminated despite the intense trials and struggles they continue to face.  We sang with the children and prayed with them, and my testimony was strengthened tremendously by this beautiful family. And of course we couldn't leave the Bakery without tasting one of their homemade delicious treats. It was a tender moment that I will never forget as I spent it with faithful Latter-Day Saints who have sacrificed so much to be where they are.

Just a little extra flour never hurts anything
We had two super fun lessons this last week. One of which was with Ellen. We taught the importance of the commandments and how they are set in place to lead us to a happier life. As we taught each commandment we added an ingredient to our desired cake. Needless to say a recipe for a happier and safer life, a life that will lead us directly to the Savior of the world is to follow the commandments and remember our covenants we have made with the Father. The outcome of the cake was far sweeter than we even intended. I testify that is exactly how the outcome of our future can be if we put our trust in the One who knows us perfectly.  We also had a lesson with cute little Dakota and taught him the importance of missionary work. We made him his own missionary badge and gave him some pass-along cards to hand out to friends or strangers who may need to know how much they are loved.  He is continuing to grow and become molded by the perfect hand of our divine Savior. He is continuously more and more excited for his special baptismal day!

Missionary in Training
We had an wonderful family join us for conference. We have recently started teaching them, and are excited for the steps they have already taken toward their Savior Jesus Christ. They have a two year old son who is adorable! We are grateful for this family and hope and pray they can see the importance of the gospel and the ability it has to bless anyone's life regardless of their background.

We had our monthly Mission Leadership Council Meeting at the mission home and while we were there I felt the spirit and the love our my Savior literally penetrate my heart the moment the meeting started. It was an answer to my prayers. During my mission I have struggled at times. I have felt that I am doing all I can to help others feel the love of Christ, but sometimes lack feeling it in my own life. I have seen the Savior's love illuminate those around me but sometimes I get so caught up and forget to notice it filling me.   We picked a different seat to sit in during this particular meeting, further back than normal and we began the meeting by singing "I Believe in Christ." As I looked to my right, hanging on the wall was a remarkable picture of the Savior. I couldn't  believe how realistic the picture was. I started to get emotional. I felt as if I was singing these words directly to Him.

Liz Lemon Swindle's beautiful portrait of the Savior
I believe in Christ; he is my King!
With all my heart to him I'll sing;
I'll raise my voice in praise and joy,
In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ; he is God's Son.
On earth to dwell his soul did come.
He healed the sick; the dead he raised.
Good works were his; his name be praised.

It was as if I was saying directly to Him in two simple words...thank you, and in the picture tears were also filling His loving eyes. I felt the reality of His sacrifice. I felt loved and important in His eyes even though at times I fall short. I was grateful to sing the words of that song and bear my humble testimony that I know He lives.

We had the opportunity to watch a session of conference with the other Sister training leaders at the mission home with President and Sister Daines. During the Saturday session of conference President joked with the missionaries and said "well there really should be no question about what you should do when you go home." Oh my goodness gracious we missionaries, with locked hearts, could not believe how many talks there were about marriage and family. Grateful for the importance of the family and how essential it is especially in God's plan but we somewhat had to laugh about the theme. One of my favorite take aways from conference was from Quentin L. Cook. He said with all the surety of his heart, "The Church has never been stronger!" Often times we wonder if our efforts are enough, we feel more people are going less active, and less people are joining the church. We worry about our leaders and the uncertainty of the world. How grateful I was for this comforting quote. The church has never been stronger. Let us all continue to fight for what's right and defend His sacred name. Let us do our part to strengthen our families and our friends! Our Heavenly Father needs you on His team today. It is a wonderful time to be a member of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I love my Savior. I love how merciful and loving He is. I have been reading in the Book Of Mormon in 3 Nephi about His ministry among the Nephities. I love picturing Him praying and weeping over these people whom He loves with His whole heart. I know everything He did was out of love. He would not have accomplished the atonement if it were not for His powerful and motivating, all encompassing amount of love.  
I love you all, and more importantly your Savior--your Brother and your friend loves you perfectly and infinitely.

Sister Mathis