Wednesday, 30 October 2013

life after the 50th anniversary...

It's been a lot more low key this week. No general authorities... what? It has taken awhile to get back into the swing of things to be honest. The jail has been slowing down almost exponentially. I took 0 tours yesterday. Not one. In six hours. I got lots of study time though.

This last week has been a miracle! I can't remember if I wrote about Sherry last week. She is by far the most golden person I have ever met on my mission. She is so prepared. Her fiance had attended church in Kearney for awhile and they both came to church on Sunday. She has read over 40 pages in the Book of Mormon so far! I don't even ready 40 pages in one day of the Book of Mormon. It is amazing how you can create an instant friendship with people and that is what we feel with J.R. and Sherry. I am so excited to see how they progress and grow in the gospel.

In other news Tracy is getting baptized this weekend. I am so grateful for the chance I have had to teach her. I have literally watched the Lord change her heart. In the past 4 months she has gone from not answering the door, to setting but cancelling every appointment, to not reading and praying, to a complete change of heart. She loves coming to church. She loves the sacrament. She quit smoking virtually on her own... she threw out her own coffee pot. Now she is teaching her kids about the gospel and encouraging them to strengthen their testimonies. She has literally changed, her whole countenance and demeanor. She relies on God and is happier because of it. It is a huge blessing to have been here from start to finish. That isn't always the case as missionaries. I'm so excited for Saturday

Transfers are coming up in 2 weeks... right along with my birthday. I know it's still a ways ahead but I am almost positive I'm being transferred. I don't want to go though! My whole mission is going so quickly. 

This quiet time has given me lots of opportunity to reflect on how I've grown, especially as I prepare to leave the Liberty Jail. It's kind of fun because by the time I leave I'll have been at the Jail 4 1/2 months. Just a little bit longer than the prophet Joseph. I hope that by the time I leave I'll have grown in smaller, but similar ways. I've learned a lot about opposition and the atonement. It is so necessary. It is actually vital for us to go through difficult experiences. Even from the beginning of the world. Growth and progression only stemmed from opposition, that is where our choices come from. We are in control of who we become and what we accomplish. I've learned that more on my mission than at any other point in my life. Trials and tribulation help us understand the Atonement, and when we look at it with that lens we become empowered. I think about how miserable each tour would be if Joseph hadn't relied on the Atonement. It would be terrible, downright depressing. It would be about how cold and smelly and miserable that place would have been. That was the story of probably hundreds of other prisoners held in the jail during its 25 year lifespan. But Joseph's story is different, the Spirit that we feel in the jail is different, because he relied on the Atonement. I know the Atonement is real. It is powerful. I am grateful for my trials that have helped me put it all to the test so that I can know for myself that the Savior of the World is who He says that He is. 

So there is my very pensive email. It's been rainy/foggy/gloomy for the past few days, which always calls for some contemplation.

Love you all! More "fun" updates next week.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

this week may have topped last week.

Ok. I am trying to organize my thoughts in terms of most awesome to least awesome, but there is so much to talk about. Let's start with the General Authorities.

On Friday 30 mission presidents, their wives, a number of members of the Quorum of Seventy, AND Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles came to the jail. Yes. To our jail... and what I often think of as my jail. They were all here for a mission president's seminar and wanted to have a little field trip to some of the church history sights. They were supposed to arrive at 5 and we got off shift at 5... so you can imagine how I was scrambling to find some reason to stay around because it would be really convenient if we just happened to be there... right? So it worked out. Our dinner was supposed to pick us up at 5:30 giving us just enough time to meet and greet and hopefully get a handshake from Elder Christofferson. Problem was I ended up being on a presentation RIGHT before they came in (it really wasn't a problem because it was an awesome group and I was glad to do it, PLUS my friend Ryan Ogden was part of that group... happy day!). So I missed the entrance procession and the handshake opportunity. But I held out faith that there might be one more chance, especially because our dinner pick up was running a little late. 

So the group finishes their address with Elder Brenchley and starts heading out of the history room and there are a few sisters gathered in the hall.  Naturally we assumed Elder Brenchley would take them into the rotunda, but Elder Brenchley assumed a sister missionary would take them into the rotunda, so then we hear down the hall... "So which of the sisters will be giving us the presentation?" 
In that moment I knew it was going to be me because I am the senior sister at the jail... I have on record from reputable bystanders that my first words were "oh crap"-- as I grabbed my stomach! (obviously I need a bit more refining on my mission). Down the hall Elder Brenchley confirmed my feelings... "Sister Call, where is Sister Call? You are up!".. and then I went into panic mode. I grabbed my clicker and scriptures and said a prayer while running around (literally), with people telling me that I didn't have time, while Elder Brenchley is giving me very specific instructions-- "DO NOT ask them questions... they don't want to hear your questions". AHHHH. Of course I enter the rotunda masking the fact that my heart is going to pound out of my chest... with a few lame jokes and some stuttering in the beginning we are on our way. Honestly the presentation turned out really well. It was as near of an out of body experience as I'll probably ever have. I was not the one teaching those presidents. I opened my mouth and it was filled. I knew what to say. It was eloquent and concise and very professional. I was able at the end to bear my testimony of the atonement and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was able to testify of Joseph Smith and his experience here. It was amazing! I got to bear MY testimony... my personal knowledge and feelings of the gospel to an Apostle of the Lord... And 30 mission presidents.  Afterward, Sister White said, "Wow you've added some new material to your presentations... that was the best one I've seen!" That's because it wasn't my presentation. 

After the presentation we were able to linger around for awhile and meet Elder Christofferson. He was so kind. We got to shake his hand and I said, "Well, that may have been the most nerve wracking presentation I've ever given..." and then he patted my neck! It was sweet. What was even better is that Meredith, our investigator who was going to be baptized the next day, ran in because she had to use the bathroom. She and I found ourselves in the hall with Elder Christofferson. He shook her hand and I told him that she was being baptized tomorrow. He was excited and wished her well. Then she and I walked in the bathroom and I told her that she just shook hands with an apostle... she freaked out. It was the best pre-baptism present. The whole evening worked out perfectly and it was amazing to see how the Lord allowed for these great experiences for both Meredith and I. 

So that was Friday. I am still freaking out that that ACTUALLY happened. To me. On my mission. I feel pretty darn blessed.

Saturday Michael and Meredith were baptized. That was amazing as well. Really those two are such miracles. Both of them have overcome so much in the past few months and have really taken hold of the gospel. They read scriptures as a family every night, go to youth activities, and Meredith said she even wants to go on a mission! I just can't believe what a miracle it was to find and teach them. Michael is really a miracle because up until a few weeks ago he wasn't even taking the lessons. We kept inviting him to join and finally realized that the Elders need to stop by... Duh! So they did and here he is 3 weeks later with a strong testimony of the gospel and ready for baptism. He is so excited about the Priesthood and being a part of the church. Michael and Meredith were both baptized on the 19th. It was so special to see Brother and Sister Jensen's joy as their grandchildren became members of the church. I have come to love that family so much and I know we will be friends forever.

So here is a picture from the mormonnewsroom article about the 50th anniversary last week...

I am famous... ok, not really but you can see me in the picture at the back standing up by the door. That was my post :) Here is link to another article about the 50th Anniversary... A Prison Temple

M. Russell Ballard at the Historic Liberty Jail. (I am standing by the door on the left)

We have had so many other miracles this week that I don't even have time to talk about. SOO many. I am so grateful to be serving here. I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY. It is the best.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Elder Ballard and the Ultimate HLJ Birthday Party!

This was the week! Elder Ballard came to the HLJ and we celebrated the 50th Anniversary. In my humble opinion we really outdid ourselves. The whole weekend was marvelous and stressful and wonderful and spiritual and everything in between. Soooo I suppose we will start at the beginning. I literally don't even know where to begin. 

Sister Moon, my sister leader partner in crime, and I spent 100 hours last week (ok. maybe more like 10) getting the schedules all drawn up for the sisters. Let me tell you, those things were a work of art, color coordinated, etc. I think UPS should hire me because I have logistics down, returning sisters, companions, cars, all had to get figured out. But by Friday night it was done and we could rest easy. I don't know how I got to be so lucky to be able to play a part in the organization and creation of this great weekend. 

Saturday Alex Baugh, Susan Easton Black, and Daniel Peterson, professors from BYU came. They gave lectures about the history of the Liberty Jail IN the Liberty Jail. How cool is that?! It was really neat to see so many members from all over come to learn and celebrate. We had far more people come than we thought would. There wasn't even enough room in the rotunda. I had the privilege of being part of the musical number for the readers theater. They had Smith family descendants read portions of the letters from Liberty Jail and we sang, what is now one of my favorite songs, My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee. It is all about Joseph's revelations in the Liberty Jail. The best.
 To top off the day, between all the guests and lectures and craziness, we have an unscheduled bus tour of 25 Japanese members show up... who don't speak any English! I entertained them (through a translator) for a half hour and then we went into the rotunda, which was nuts with all the lecture stragglers. I kept thinking about what would make their experience really special, in the 5 minutes we had to show them the jail. So we sang to them. We sang I Am a Child of God and then they sang it back to us! It was so special and really made the day perfect-- because what birthday party isn't complete without a Japanese bus tour?!

Sunday was AWESOME. I don't even know what to say. It was just too good. Sunday afternoon there was a reception at the jail for community leaders and old time members of the church in Liberty, Missouri and Elder Ballard of course. I was lucky enough to be stationed near the front to greet people. Awesome. I got thrown into some photo ops with community leaders... kind of awkward when I have no idea who these men are, but I know they are important. But hey, I could make it on mormonnewsroom or the Church News! Keep an eye out. Elder Ballard spoke to everyone at the VIP Reception. I was really surprised when he just threw down Lesson One. We were all watching and he taught about the Savior's earthly ministry, then the great apostasy, the restoration, then the Book of Mormon. I got to see an Apostle of the Lord teach a number of community leaders about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the best! It made me want to be so much more bold when I am speaking with people. He taught it as fact, because it is a fact. It really happened. But there was no beating around the bush. 

Elder Ballard at the Historic Liberty Jail

After the VIP we scarfed down some of the leftover reception food and literally raced over to the stake center to practice our song for the fireside. Melba, and Tracy, and Tracy's boys, and another returning member all came to the fireside! It was a miracle, but then again it's pretty easy to talk up an Apostle. We got to sit on the stand in the choir seats right behind Elder Ballard. Whoohoo! The fireside was the best. President Keyes, Elder Gaye of the Seventy, and a historian all spoke. Every single one of them talked about the Liberty Jail and missionary work. My two favorite things! It was a dream. They all encouraged the members to get out there and do missionary work. Ok here are my highlights:
- I feel such a greater appreciation and reverence for what happened in the Liberty Jail. Elder Ballard spent a lot of time wondering what Joseph Smith would want to say to the Liberty Stake. I need to do that... be thinking about what Joseph would want me to teach, and remember that this was a place that came to be sacred because of great sacrifice. I am SO grateful to serve here. 
- There was a huge sense of urgency... we are in a HURRY to share the gospel. We need to be constantly praying and asking for missionary experience. There isn't enough time... that's what Elder Ballard said, and I believe him. 
- I realized that we are literally working and serving to establish the kingdom of God.... that's a literal thing. I love that. 

Mostly I just felt the deep urgency and importance of the work that I am doing. I am really grateful for this recharge of my spiritual batteries before the last 2.5 transfers of my mission. I know it's not a countdown, but I've always been the type to look forward to what is coming up. I love my mission. I love the Liberty Jail. I will be eternally grateful to have been here during this historic time. To serve in the very place, within feet of the very stones Joseph knelt on and offered up the feelings of his heart. This place where the Savior came and taught the prophet the depths of the atonement. This was a place crucial to the restoration of the gospel. I have the opportunity to teach and testify and serve Heavenly Father's children in this very sacred place. These are days never to be forgotten.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

transfers but not transferred.

 First. I didn't get transferred! I am still here at the HLJ! WHAHOOO! I'll get to shake Elder Ballard's hand.  Miracles really do happen.  Sister White was transferred to Kearney with Sister Ogletree, and my new companion is Sister Harding, who was just serving in Kearney. Crazy! They just switched places. I love Sister Harding. She was in the MTC with me during VC training. So we are reunited again. Our missions have been completely different-- she's been full proselyting almost her whole mission and I've been at the VC my whole mission. I realized I probably hold the standing record in the mission. 10 out of 12 transfers in a Visitors' Center... I'm not complaining. I love these places. Thursday was transfer day. Talk about crazy-town. Sister Wilson got transferred to the Visitors' Center, and Sister Moon is now the new sister leader up here. We have so many little details to work out for the 50th and that's been a bit hectic. I wish I could post the beautiful schedule we created. It's a work of art really, color coordinated, perfectly balanced schedule.
Kara in Kentucky

This week was truly a miracle week.
 Last Friday. Kara got baptized! Kara, from Kentucky that I have been teaching on the phone every week was baptized! I love this girl and I am so excited for her. She is so excited about the gospel and has grown so much since we "met" on chat a few months ago. I have been amazed to see Heavenly Father answer her prayers and to watch her relationship with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ grow. I feel so blessed to be a part of her conversion, even if she is many miles away.
Tuesday we were FINALLY able to go to the temple. We started out the week super bummed because Melba missed her interview and wasn't going to go and this was the last day we would be able to go before transfers. On Monday we had dinner with the Bishop and he was like, "well I'll just interview her in the morning..." MIRACLE. So we get it all worked out with Melba and she is good to go and we are SO stoked. Tuesday morning we get a text at 6:30 AM from Melba that says: I'm sick. I don't know what to do. BAHHHH. So I tell her to start praying and I start praying and I run around the Liberty house telling everyone to start praying because Melba needed to go to the temple! She decided to go to the interview and see how she felt. She got a blessing and decided to go! It was a miracle and so amazing. She had such a wonderful time and love, love, loved the temple. Favorite Melba quote from the day: I can just see them rippin out of there (as I was being baptized for those that had passed on... she was referring to the spirits rippin out of the spirit world). Hilarious. Sister White and I had a great time in the temple. I wish I could go back everyday. The feeling there is so peaceful and perfect, like time stands still. I love the House of the Lord.

Melba at the Temple
Friday we had a lesson with Meredith. This girl never ceases to amaze me. On Monday we watched the Joseph Smith movie and she loved it, of course. She loves everything. We invited her to pray to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. She said, "I don't have to, I already know! He is a prophet because he translated the Book of Mormon, where else would it come from?" I love that answer, so much faith, and it's true, it does make perfect sense! But I also knew that she needed that spiritual witness. So we invited her to pray to confirm what she knows and we promised her that if she prayed that evening she would be able to know by the power of the Holy Ghost. So Friday we followed up. She did pray. She did recieve an answer. She said that when she prayed that night she felt as though the whole room was warm, and as though she had a hand on her back. I wish you could see her because she is relating this experience in the very colorful language of a 13 year old. She is like "SO I was like well Heavenly Father, I get it, I get it! He is a prophet!" So funny. Another funny Meredith quote... "oh yeah, I'm almost 14."
"Well when is your birthday?"
"July... it's only 7 months away."
Haha. I love that girl.
Michael and Meredith

This weekend is going to be THE BEST! Elder Ballard is coming! Whahoo! He's going to be in my jail... well our jail. I think every sister that serves here has a sense of ownership over this place. All the sisters that were transferred will get to come back and everyone will be happy! Yay! I cannot wait. I am so so so grateful to serve here during this time and to have played a part in the orchestration of the events. What a blessing!