Monday, July 27, 2015

All is well, All is well.

So the funniest thing happened this week. A few weeks ago we met the Bell family. This family is hilarious, the father is always working hard doing something. The father is especially interested in learning more about the gospel. He has lots of questions and he told us that his heart is open to the LDS religion. About a week ago we tried to go over to teach the father. Instead the younger son answered the door. He said his parents were in Florida with his brother because his older brother was participating in a Nike photo shoot. With my Nike roots I proceeded to ask questions about this photo shoot. In a few brief moments we came to find out that his older brother is a starting running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His name is Laveon Bell. (I probably spelled that wrong). After making that sweet connection we proceeded to teach the brother about the gospel. We invited him to watch the "because He lives" video. He later texted our phone and told us how much he appreciated the video and the power it had to inspire and uplift him. Just yesterday we went back to visit the family... Turns out Laveon was here in Pickerington just the day before!! We were a day away from teaching an NFL just about killed me haha. Who knows what will happen  but we will continue to go over and teach the family and maybe one day Mr. Laveon Bell will hear the message of the restored gospel. I just secretly wish that day was two days ago. It would have been epic! 

We had the coolest and one of the most spiritual experiences with the Kamara family, our sweet family who moved here from Liberia. We had a lesson with them on Friday night. The lesson began and the mother was the only one who was in the room ready to listen. As we prayed and invited the Spirit and began to testify of our Savior Jesus Christ, she paused us and said, "My kids need to be in here for this. Let me go get them." Our group had gone from one person to three. Then there was a knock at the door. It was Sister Kamara's sister who came to join us for the lesson. As we taught about Heavenly Father's plan of happiness, I was amazed at the words that filled my mouth. Recently I have been reflecting on the scripture that says "open you mouth and it shall be filled." I believe that God will keep His promises to us but I somewhat struggled with this scripture. I have been fasting and praying to see the fulfillment of this promise in my missionary efforts. Not every time I talk do I feel like my mouth is being filled with the words to say. In fact a lot of times I feel like I'm waiting and waiting for the perfect words to come and they don't, but during this particular lesson I felt like everything I said and relayed to them came straight from their Heavenly Father. By the end of the lesson their father had joined us and we were teaching the whole family! What a beautiful thing it was to testify of eternal families to them. At the end of the lesson they could not adequately express how they felt but they just kept saying how beautiful the plan was. The Spirit worked with them, hearts were touched and we were amazed at how much they understood. They have all grown up in church but they felt as if something was missing and finally the puzzle pieces were fitting together. Sister Rogers and I have high hopes for this family. I told President Daines in my interview this week that this was the African family I have been searching for my whole mission! 

With that little story being said, I know of the power prayer has in our lives. Recently I have tried to change my prayers and make them more heartfelt. I love in the book of Enos when his soul hungers and he kneels down before His maker and cries unto Him all the day long. When I read his words I reflected on my own prayers, my personal communication with the Father and questioned if I really have this spiritual hunger to talk to Him and seek guidance and answers. 

President Uchtdorf in a recent talk titled "the gift of Grace" addressed this topic and said, "When we kneel to pray, is it to replay the greatest hits of our own righteousness, or is it to confess our faults, plead for God’s mercy, and shed tears of gratitude for the amazing plan of redemption?"

I love being able to talk to my Father in Heaven, and that the omnipotent Creator of the universe delights in hearing from us, His beloved children. 

Bella's Baptism
Lastly Bella's baptism was absolutely wonderful. As I sat there and watched her participate in such a sacred and beautiful ordinance I reflected on my Savior Jesus Christ and the immense gratitude I have for Him and the perfect example He set. He has showed us the way, He being Holy was baptized to fulfill ALL righteousness. How close we can feel to Him when those sacred ordinances take place. As Nathan offered the words of the baptismal prayer, the Spirit was incredibly moving. It was a very neat service.

I am so humbled and grateful for this precious time I have to serve. Sitting there watching Bella take a big step toward her Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ made me feel such a love for this sacred work. I have reflected with great fondness on this wonderful mission experience. There is nothing more sacred then watching those you love come to know their Savior.  As Oliver Cowdery said, "these are days never to be forgotten." I love love love being a missionary. 

Love Sister Mathis

Monday, July 20, 2015

Shall We Not Go On In So Great A Cause?

The View from Ohio: Sometimes it seems very close to Heaven
Reflecting on the beginning of my mission I distinctly remember having this view of the missionary I wanted to be. I wanted to be this perfect, fearless, Aaron or Ammon missionary. Let me let you in on a little secret. I'm not perfect. Sometimes I fall. Sometimes I even struggle to get back up. Sometimes I'm nervous or scared to talk to people. I've faced doubts and I've had questions. And on occasion I've had feelings of inadequacy and wonder why Heavenly Father allowed me to be one of His servants. But the other day I realized something.  I didn't come out here on a mission to become the person I am supposed to be. I came here to learn who I am supposed to be. Let me explain what I mean by that. Conversion doesn't happen overnight nor does it happen fully or completely during my 18 month portal. I haven't become some godly person during this time I have been away, but I have changed step by step by small and simple means and will continue to change and give anything and everything to become more like my precious Heavenly Father. Progression in the gospel is a lifetime pursuit and how grateful I am for that simple principle. I came on a mission to learn to be the person I was meant to be and to plant the seeds within myself to become that person. I am laying the foundation for my future and each day I am molded by His hands as I work to change myself in a way that will align myself with my older Brother. I feel closer to the Spirit, to my Heavenly Father, and my older Brother and Savior Jesus Christ than I ever have. I have changed in many ways and it has been the most beautiful process of becoming. I know the gospel is true. I feel it with everything I have and everything I am but mark my words, my progression is not yet finished and neither is yours! What a beautiful continuous journey called life our Heavenly Father allows us to embark on. 

President Ezra Taft Benson said, "we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike that we do not become discouraged and lose hope. Becoming Christ-like is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow almost imperceptible. The scriptures record dramatically in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin give confidence that the atonement can reach even those deepest in despair. But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a Godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service and commitment...The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him. Though we may see that we have far to go on the road to perfection, we must not give up hope." Keep on, hope on and continually strive day by day to become more like our loving Heavenly Father.

With that being said in one of my last emails I invited you to share your conversion stories with me. I'd like to take this time to share mine with you. For me my conversion story has been a process. It's hard to pinpoint a specific time when my "conversion" took place. 

Growing up I never really remember questioning the gospel and the many principles found within it. I had many wonderful spiritual experiences however that allowed my testimony to grow in the principles of the gospel and that allowed me to become more converted to it. I have always had a love for the gospel and a desire to become more like my Savior. Being my stubborn self however, I knew that I could only coast off of borrowed light for so long and realized I needed to understand more fully what I was claiming to believe so I took action to strengthen my faith in the gospel teachings. 

I grew up in a home where gospel principles were stressed and encouraged. I felt the love of my parents and also very often the love of my Heavenly Father. I sang songs at a young age that testified of who I was and of the reality of my Heavenly Father. One of my favorite children's songs is "I am a Child of God." The words to a part of the song read, "I am a child of God and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday." I remember knowing even as a young girl that I could pray to my Heavenly Father for love, help, and guidance and that my ultimate goal was to make it back home to Him. How fortunate I was for parents who set the example for me and helped me to know and understand that I had a Heavenly Father who loved me, who loved me enough to send me and all of you His only begotten Son.

When I was around 15 I had the opportunity to go to Nauvoo, IL, a well-known church historical sight. It was there that I had the opportunity to finish the Book Of Mormon for the first time on my own. It was there that I prayed with my whole heart and soul to know if this precious book was true. I hungered for an answer. I had believed it was true, but had never fully sought that confirmation for myself. As I sat in front of the temple and read the last few verses In Moroni I remember opening my heart to my Heavenly Father and asking Him if the Book of Mormon was true. I looked at the temple and at a statue of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his beloved brother Hyrum as they were mounted on horses and preparing to take their last fateful steps toward Cathage. I remember an overwhelming feeling of peace and admiration for the Prophet come over me. I knew in that moment more fully than I had before that Joseph Smith was a chosen Prophet of the Lord and that through Him the Book Of Mormon was brought forth. I realized that what I was holding in my hands truly was another testament of Jesus Christ and it contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel. How lucky I felt to hold a copy of such a divine book in my hands, and not only hold it but feel and know of its truthfulness. 

As a junior in high school I remember receiving a painful text at a Friday night football game from my mother that said "you and your brother need to come over to grandma and grandpas. It may be the last time you'll see grandpa." I remember cherishing those last moments with my papa and telling him how much I loved him. My sweet Grandpa, Papa Dave, passed away early the next morning with a smile on his face. It was the first time someone I really knew and loved passed away. As I reflected on the plan of Salvation, the plan of happiness, I discovered great comfort in knowing that families are forever and that if strive to do everything I can in this life, then I can see my Grandpa again. I gained an unwavering testimony of the Spirit World and how important this preparatory state is. These verses in Alma 40 in the Book of Mormon gained new meaning for me as I experienced his loss:

11 Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection--Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.

12 And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.

 I understood the importance of the resurrection and how one day my grandpa along with all of us will be given a perfect body.

When I went away to college I learned more about the pure love of God. I remember a specific time feeling quite lost and alone. I was away from family during a hard time and I felt there was no one I could turn to. Instantly I resorted to prayer. I felt the loving arms of my Heavenly Father embrace me as I prayed. I knew so distinctly in that moment that on this journey we never walk alone. That our Heavenly Father hears every desperate plea and knows every desire of our hearts. I know That "we love Him because He first loved us." I also remember a strengthening time when I felt the love of God In great abundance. My mom shared scripture verses with me found in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 50 at a time when I desperately needed to feel God's love.

40 Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

41 Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me;

42 And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.

As a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I have come to know of the reality of the infinite and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It can and will carry us. It will link us to the Savior and to our Father. It will provide forgiveness for our sins, our weaknesses, and shortcomings. It will provide the power and the strength to do His sacred work. 

Elder Holland has said, "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,” 11 then little wonder that salvation is not an 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.
When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out, you are standing with the best life this world has ever known, the only pure and perfect life ever lived. You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him—the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
I love my Savior. Words can not adequately describe how grateful I am for the atonement and how much I have learned about it especially these last 18 months. I have come to learn of the potential I can have only through Him. I am grateful for the amount of courage it took for Him to leave His royal courts above and dwell in the most humble of circumstances. To be despised and rejected, to be spat upon and cast out, rejected and betrayed. I cannot wait for that day when I will kneel before His face with tears rushing down my face and gratitude in my heart. I think I will truly be amazed with how familiar He feels to me, with the very scars He acquired for me. I look forward to that day and strive to live in a way that I can hear those uttered words "Well done thy good and faithful servant....thy faith hath made the whole."
Wherever you are on your road to conversion, may you press forward with courage and great faith. Do not get discouraged. "Live like you believe. Live like you know. There's one sure way your faith will grow."
I absolutely love being a missionary. Nothing brings me greater and more pure joy than being able to share what I love with others. 
The last Ohio Columbus Mission Fireside for Sister Mathis
I love you guys!
Sister Mathis

Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Transfers!

Hi friends! 

Happy transfers! We had transfers last week and guess what? Sister Rogers and I both get to stay in Pickerington! We are extremely excited for this next transfer ahead of us! 

Last night we drove home to close the day in an intense Midwest rain storm. In less than a half hour I could not believe how much water was on the ground. I felt like we were driving through a lake. It was quite difficult to see where we were going.  The winds were strong and the rain was continuously falling in great amounts as to allow a .5 second window for us to see clearly. When we pulled into our parking lot we discovered the beautiful pond next to us was overflowing onto the road. We stepped out of out car into what felt like a Great Lake. I always thought Lake Erie was further north. Turns out it's right in our parking lot. Upon safely entering our top floor apartment we received a text from the zone leaders "Congratulations! We baptized all of Columbus." We found that quite humorous as the Noah's ark story came alive to us. 

Another humorous event of the week. We were leaving an appointment and running to our car when suddenly we heard a young man probably close to our age yell out "hey can I get your number?" My first instinct was "creeper alert! Run away" but then I decided that everyone is a Child of God and why not contact this guy. I turned around to face him and said "as a matter of fact, yes you can. We're missionaries and we love to teach people about their Savior Jesus Christ." He was sorely disappointed when he heard the word missionary. Oh well at least we tried and who knows, maybe we planted a seed?!

There is an incredible talk in the Ensign for this month titled "The Coming Forth of the Book Of Mormon." What is even cooler about it is that I was at the MTC when it was given by Elder Holland's son. I remember loving it when I heard it the first time in person but to go back and read it allowed the Spirit to come in just as strong as I reflected on my own testimony of the Book Of Mormon. There was a quote that I loved at the very end of the talk that said "You have a Brother who watches over you, ready to rescue you and advance your service with arms far stronger than your arms--far stronger, in fact, than all other arms of the flesh combined. Those arms are there to sustain and bless you, “in every time of trouble” (D&C 3:8), no matter how alone and discouraged you may feel. Therefore, as you move forward with your life, trust in those arms and “be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid … for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Joseph discovered this and changed the world. You can too." 

I also read another talk titled "Matthew Cowley’s Mission to New Zealand." In this talk I loved what this young missionary said on his mission. Elder Cowley said "With all this work before me … you can expect me home sometime during the millennium.” I thought it was a very fitting statement for the current position I'm in.

At the Columbus Temple with Bella
On Saturday we had the opportunity to go to the temple with Bella! We walked around the grounds and even went inside the front entry so she could peek in and feel the instant spirit that comes from entering the house of the Lord. What was also very spiritual was at the exact time we were there, there was a wedding going on so Bella was able to see this bride in her beautiful gown step inside the temple as she prepared to be sealed to her husband for time and all eternity. I hope it allowed Bella to see the importance of setting our sight on the temple and preparing for a temple marriage. It was the first lesson I had ever had with someone at the temple and it was a neat opportunity to testify of the blessings in my life that have come from going to the temple. Bella is so excited to be baptized on the 25th! She is wonderful and each time we meet with her I am blown away by how much she has grown. 

Recently I've been reflecting a lot on a question. It's a common question that we generally ask many that we come in contact with. The question is how do you feel God's love? 

I have really come to know my Savior this week, and the love my Heavenly Father has not only for me but for those around me. It's hard to pinpoint God's love because it exists all around me. It existed when Sister Rogers and I felt inspired to try a lady that was not even on our plans but suddenly we felt great urgency to go and see her. She opened the door looking warn and distressed and an immediate look of relief and joy crossed her face when she saw two missionaries standing in front of her. She said to us "I was going to call you today, how did you know that I needed you?" We were shocked by that response especially because she wasn't really one we visited often. We responded, We had no idea, but Heavenly Father did." We testified to her of the great power of the Atonement and there it was again. I felt God's love in great abundance. I felt His love during this last week as it filled me and allowed me to reach out to my companion during a couple of hard days. I felt His love as I read about the Saul Paul conversion, about who Saul was and who he became as Paul. I thought about my own life and how prior to my mission I was Lauren and have now become Sister Mathis, a full time ambassador, a missionary called to proclaim to truth to my Brothers and Sisters. I felt His love as I was exhausted and He carried me. I felt His love when I was discouraged and no one  wanted to listen to me. I felt his love as I looked around at this beautiful world He created for me. I felt His love when I recited the words of the first vision, or when I read His words from the scriptures. I felt it so strong when I saw someone else smile because of the message of hope and joy we gave to them. I felt His love at the end of a long day when I knew I had given all I could to Him. And yesterday I felt His love as I partook of the sacrament and contemplated the great amount of love and courage it took for Him to send down His only begotten Son to redeem and save us all.  His love is all around me and if I am open to it I can feel and notice it everyday. 

There's a quote I just want to end with by President Uchtdorf that says, “Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely. …

“What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us [see D&C 88:63].”

Your Heavenly Father loves you. He has given us an older brother, a perfect example, a friend, a Savior. "God be thanked for His matchless gift of His divine Son." 

I love you! This work is true. As we seek out to find the lost sheep I can promise you we come to know our Heavenly Father better and will feel His love in greater depths. 

Love, Sister Mathis

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

17 Months Down-1 Transfer Remaining!

Zone Conference

I feel really humbled and grateful for the many experiences we face throughout this mortal journey. I am so grateful for this beautiful thing called life, this beautiful opportunity we have to learn so much about who we are and who our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ are. I have learned a great deal about my Savior Jesus Christ and about the Spirit in the last few days especially. 

This last week I caught some sort of bug. I felt incredibly weak, had little to no appetite, was battling hot flashes and cold chills, and felt like my strength was gone. I knew we had a full busy day ahead of us and tearfully expressed to my Heavenly Father that I didn't know how we'd be able to accomplish it with me being so sick. There was no time to be sick! I plead with him to give me strength to go out and do His work. As 10 am came around and it was time to set out for the day I didn't feel much better. In fact I think I was progressively getting worse. Now I know exactly what my doctor dad is thinking reading this. "You need to take care of your body before you set out to work." Well me being a bit on the stubborn side I decided to tough it out and get to work knowing that the salvation of others rested in my hands and then the most incredible thing happened. As I was talking to people and in the midst of lessons I didn't even notice how sick I felt, but the instant we got out of a lesson all the symptoms came back. We even did service on a farm where we raked up big piles of hay and put them into buckets to then carry them to a different location. I know for a fact that the Spirit is what carried me. Exhausted and frail, the Spirit is what allowed me to go on and accomplish the work and not just any work, Hard backbreaking work. As I was anxiously engaged in His work...He carried me. It was a couple of the hardest days of my mission but I realized much like Ammon "as to my strength I am weak therefore I will not boast of myself but I will boast of my God for in his strength I CAN DO ALL THINGS!" How grateful I am for the confidence and strength the Holy Ghost can provide especially in moments of weakness. This experience also reminded me of the first presidency talk in the Ensign for this month titled "All is well." As I read this talk and reflected on my little experience, I grew an even deeper appreciation for the pioneers. President Uchtdorf said of the pioneers, 

"I am very much aware that all was not well with these Saints. They were plagued by sickness, heat, fatigue, cold, fear, hunger, pain, doubt, and even death.

But despite having every reason to shout, “All is not well,” they cultivated an attitude we cannot help but admire today. They looked beyond their troubles to eternal blessings. They were grateful in their circumstances. Despite evidence to the contrary, they sang with all the conviction of their souls, “All is well!”'

I love those strong and determine pioneers and am striving to develop more of the "all is well" attitude in all that I do. 

This last week we also had the opportunity to teach a lady and her family the message of the restoration. We were able to teach this precious family from Africa in the home of a member. As we started to teach the simple doctrine that God is our loving Heavenly Father, the Spirit instantly illuminated the room. I love how this particular member explained the Spirit. At the beginning of the lesson he pointed out "the Spirit is so big right now!" I loved hearing it described as being "so big" as to encompass an entire room. As we testified to her I had the privilege of reciting the first vision. The instant I started to say those beautiful and sacred words, I felt the instant truthfulness of them reaffirmed to me. I know God and His son Jesus Christ did appear to the boy Joseph Smith. After the lesson with tears in both of our eyes Sister Rogers said to me "I haven't felt the spirit that strong in a long time." It was one of the absolute best and most spiritual moments of our mission. 

With the Salt Lake Temple Float
We got to participate as a ward in the annual Fourth of July parade. We had a float that had a pretty accurate replica of the Salt Lake temple and together as Saints and defenders of truth we marched. Sister Rogers and I had the banner at the front that said "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." What was neat and caught us somewhat off guard were all the young teenage girls not very modestly dressed who pointed out how much they liked our missionary outfits--Totally made our day because as a missionary you don't always feel the best dressed, sometimes you feel frumpy, but to see these young girls appreciate our modest outfits definitely helped us to remember the examples we can be even with something as simple as dressing modestly. The members of our ward marched alongside the float and handed out countless copies of the Family Proclamation to the World to the large crowds. 

Something neat that Sister Rogers and I realized this last week is that both Elder Packer and Elder Perry in the recent conference  (their last conference addresses in this mortal journal) talked about the importance of marriage and family. I know the prophet and his apostles are so divinely inspired. I know how inspired their messages were especially after the great attack we have seen on the family recently. I am so grateful that with all that is uncertain in this world I am able to put my trust in inspired leaders who seek clear and direct revelation for our day. What a neat opportunity the other day it was to teach a lady about our belief in a modern day prophet.  She felt complete comfort when she heard that truth. 

There's a quote that I love from sweet Elder Packer that I would like to share in memory of him.

“It had become critically important,” he remembered, “to establish this intention between me and the Lord so that I knew that He knew which way I had committed my agency. I went before Him and said, ‘I’m not neutral, and you can do with me what you want. If you need my vote, it’s there. I don’t care what you do with me and you don’t have to take anything from me because I give it to you—everything, all I own, all I am.’"
I too am striving to give everything I own and everything I am to Him who first loved me. A man asked me the other day how long I had been out on my mission. I panicked for a minute as I realized that very day I had been out on my mission for 17 months. It makes me feel sick that my precious days in the full time service of the Lord are winding down. I was emotional as I told him in all honesty that this experience has been the best experience of my life. There are not adequate words to describe this experience. I never want it to end. Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Courage!
I love you guys! 
Love Sister Mathis