Tuesday, July 28, 2015

La Vida Real: dig in and never quit!

Dear Family,
I can't say this past week was super productive in terms of teaching. We did a lot of street contacting, had a lot of laughs and learned a lot of lessons. One of my favorite lessons I learned this past week was at the famous La Vida Real. Sister Ednis Smith is always a hoot and a half. I love her. This week we did some service for her by working in her garden and planting a hydrangea bush. It wasn't easy. California soil is definitely not the best. It was difficult to find a spot that was soft and not covered by roots of other plants; she has a lot of them. We finally found a pretty good one with some shade. I was given the shovel for some strange reason and went to work. I'm pretty sure I would've made you proud, Dad, with the physical labor I performed; skills you taught me! Anyway, this spot was hard to dig--super rocky, and still a lot of tough roots. I was about five minutes into digging when the lovely Sister Smith said "I think you should just quit." No statement has ever struck me so hard. Not necessarily just because she wanted me to quit digging, but thinking also about life generally. She wanted me not to work so hard, but let me tell you, I've never felt more motivated to dig a hole in the ground. I turned to her, smiled and said "Don't worry: I've got this."
With the help of my companion we did get it. Even though we dug into a PVC pipe in the ground, that didn't stop us. We started the hole farther away, cutting roots, digging out rocks, making the soil softer. And we did it. Don't ask us how long it took but perseverance and determination goes a long way. The best part was probably our sweat and the compliments that came after. Sister Smith was really pleased and impressed with our persistence. I think we have gained her trust. :) I left there so happy and so uplifted. Service does a lot for the soul and it allows you to learn many lessons. Do it. Today! Never quit. You'll come out a better person because of it.
We also did some weeding for a less active member. Just to shorten the story, there were a LOT of weeds and the temps were in the upper 90s. But it was the BEST! The look of satisfaction on that woman's face and her appreciation was worth all that hard work. I love it! Service rocks.
On a more humorous note, we were contacting a lot of potential investigators and less actives this week. Most of the time people weren't' interested and never answered the door. At one particular visit, the results were similar. No one answered. In order to get into the complex, we had to punch a code into a gate. We had the code and did this with ease. Apparently, however, the only way out is in a car. We did not have our car, because the visitor parking lot is outside the gated area. So we were kind of stuck. No cars were coming, no one was outside, and no one was leaving. We were surrounded by walls and there was no way out.
What was the lesson I just learned? Never quit! So I decided to climb that brick wall that stood in our way. I did. I climbed a brick wall and as I was climbing it and my companion was laughing at me, someone came out with a key. I awkwardly waved and smiled kindly as I dropped down from the brick wall, punched in the code, and opened the gate for my companion. 
We all had a good laugh and once again I learned to never quit. There is always a solution with God's help. It was also again confirmed to me how important modesty is. You never know when you might have to climb a brick wall in a dress. I was very grateful for my long dress. Modesty ROCKS.
One of our investigators, Elijah, who is a cousin to our recent convert has a baptismal date of August 15th! This 12 year old is even more prepared than his cousin Arthur was. He's reading, praying, loves the Young Men's organization, and he's even reading the picture book version of the Book of Mormon to his little cousins. He's soooooooooo cool. God is so amazing and prepares the best people! What amazes me even more is though he has a lot of distractions around him with family members that aren't super great examples to him, he focuses. He's an amazing kid and I feel blessed to be able to teach him. I can't believe I've been able to witness so many miracles in a short amount of time at the beginning of my mission! All of this success is making me want to work harder and I feel like it's preparing me for the times when it won't be so successful and we won't meet a lot of people. I'm prepared to work hard and effectively no matter the circumstances. I will try to improve EVERYDAY. I would encourage everyone to do this.
One last lesson. I continue to work on my humility. I was studying with my companion one morning and we were discussing pride and how we don't want the approval of men, but we want the approval of God. We talked about learning to ignore judgments of man and just continue on doing God's will. And our gift will be eternal life. ETERNAL LIFE!! How cool is that? When you think about it, it's not that hard to do the will of God, and the prize is SO much larger than our efforts. Especially when we have someone like the Savior to catch us when we fall. I'm so grateful for the Savior. To know that while he was feeling everyone's pains and sins and illnesses, at point during that intense suffering it was specifically for me. Sister Whitcomb. He thought of me and thought about how much he loved me. I can never deny that love he has for me. I need to help others feel that love as well. The Savior has changed me and I never want to go back.
I LOVE YOU ALL SOOOOOOO MUCH! Thank you for everything you do for me. All of you really don't feel that far away--you're all in my heart. I love all of you!
Sister Whitcomb

The pictures are from last week. They include most of my district and zone. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

not enough water, SO MUCH Love!

I love you all so much!! Still loving life and living everyday to the fullest! It's been hot, but there has also been rain which is a huge blessing. And there was a thunderstorm. I LOVED IT! Felt like home.
So last week, after our p-day was done we went to a youth activity that Sister Stewart and I planned. We wanted to get to know the youth better, so we planned a "Meet the Mormons" movie night. We held it at the YW's president's home. It's beautiful. They projected the movie on their house. It was funny to see the Californians get cold in 60 degree weather. But nine non-members showed up! We weren't even sure how many youth were going to show, so it was awesome! We played some games and got to know each other for an hour and then they started the movie and we left to do some of our missionary work. It was really cool because Arthur, our recent convert since Saturday, and his cousin (our other investigator) Elijah were there. I think they loved it. They fit right in.
Arthur was baptized on Saturday. It was awesome. Slightly embarrassing for my companion and I because we didn't fill the font all the way up.  Good thing we can laugh. So the water went up to the middle of his calf. It took him three times to go under. MAN! I was praying so hard for him to go under! Arthur's cousin wants to get baptized as well. Even after the water thing. So many miracles in El Cajon! I LOVE IT!
(Water SHORTage)
News on mission technology: Paper planners are no more.  The Area Book Planner is now an app; no more paper. So we've been putting aside an hour each day to put records/contacts onto the app. We had to take some training, and now it will probably be MTC training. I wouldn't be surprised if an iPad was on future missionaries' packing lists.
El Cajon is full of trailer parks. We generally aren't liked in the trailer parks. One of the managers almost ran us over with his car. He wasn't happy to see us. But I was happy to see him! I can't help but love him and smile and say "Have a good day!" as he drives away. Missions work miracles on everyone. We have recently added a man named Michael. His whole trailer is a jungle, full of plants. I'm sure Mimi would approve. He has been taught before but never made the step to baptism. I really like him. After we taught our lesson we asked him to pray. He didn't want to, but then a member that went with us lovingly nudged him and walked him through it. That was one of the most powerful, sincere prayers I've ever heard. Members can do amazing things. GO OUT WITH THE MISSIONARIES! You could change someone's life.
We also had interviews with our Mission president and since I'm a sister I got to have a one on one with Sister Schmitt. Let me tell you, they LOVE all their missionaries so much, you can see it in their faces and hear it in their words and I am so honored to be a missionary serving under them. President Schmitt is filled with wisdom and Sister Schmitt is as well. Their presence is so powerful. They are young. They brought four kids with them--the oldest is 16 and the youngest is 7. Such outgoing kids, totally remind me of the now previous mission president's kids in Boston. I'm lucky I'll have the same mission president the whole time I'm here.
Sunday was possibly one of the best days ever. It was a mission president's fireside. It included a missionary choir, missionary musical numbers, and testimonies given by recent converts. We were given permission to sing in the choir because we live near the stake for which it was being performed. I LOVE singing as a missionary and with other missionaries. There were probably like 50 missionaries singing. (Twenty were sisters! WOOT WOOT!!) The senior Sister who directs the choir is a hoot. So outgoing and makes us sound beautiful! To start the fireside the missionaries (that's me!) lined up in two lines in the back and when the music started we walked down the aisles singing "Called to Serve." So powerful! I couldn't hep but smile the whole time. It must have been incredible for the audience. At the end we left walking down the aisles singing "I'll go where you want me to go." Incredibly powerful and I loved being a part of it. Can't wait for the next one! We also sang "We thank thee O God for a Prophet" and "Come, Come Ye Saints." When we were being introduced to the music for the program, the first verse of "CCYS" said "solo." I turned to my comp and her trainer and asked "Who's singing the solo?" They unanimously said "YOU!"
Hah! Very funny. I told them there was NO way. Then as we start, the director looks into the crowd of missionaries and points to my comp, her trainer and ME! I was like WHAT?!? So we sang a little trio at the fireside for that hymn. Thank goodness I can carry a tune. Thank goodness I didn't have to sing SOLO!
The El Cajon fireside is going to be in October. I hope they ask Taylor to speak at that one! She is SO amazing. I love the testimonies of converts--so sweet, so simple and so heartfelt. I am MADLY IN LOVE with this church! It is truth. I feel so lucky to be able to serve as a missionary. It's such an honor and I am so humbled.

Today we were able to attend the Temple for p-day. It's SO BEAUTIFUL! I got so excited walking in--so breath-taking. I can't wait to go again! It's so peaceful there; I didn't have a care in the world. I felt so safe, so loved and the spirit was so strong. The Arabic Elders and my comp and I went to Five Guys after. Living it up! I LOVE THE TEMPLE! I love the mission. AND I LOVE ALL OF YOU!
Keep pressing forward my family and friends. Remember: God loves you. He's always looking out for you. I know he has for me and he wouldn't do any different for you! I can promise that you'll feel his love even more when you obey and follow him and his son, Jesus.
Sister Whitcomb

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

How I miss you and think and pray for you everyday. Is everyone alive and well? Life here could not be greater. Filled with lots of laughs, sweat and leftovers. (our members are the best!)
But let me just tell you that I see a lot of homeless people, families with hard situations, families that are not supportive--it's hard to see. It allows me to reflect on my life and to be grateful for the people I have and the love and support they have for me. And I can feel it every week! You guys are the BEST! Thanks for everything you do.
Onto the week: And you know my week wouldn't be complete if I didn't visit the retirement home, La Vida Real! We stopped by Ednis Smith's again--I love her. She feeds us and then puts us to work. She can't move around a lot so we clean and organize and decorate her house. This lady is crafty. I now realize how heavy a frame can be when you're standing on a ladder holding it up and moving it back and forth one or two inches for a good 15 minutes. We all know how tiny my arm muscles are! But another thing I love to do while I am there is drive her motorized wheelchair. I feel so cool! It goes pretty fast--watch out! I love that lady. She shows me how faithful I want to be when I'm that old. She's constantly providing missionary opportunities and she's not afraid to show the world who she is! I love her.
This week has been faith building. On Wednesday night we went to teach Taylor's cousin, who we've been meeting with for quite a bit. We taught a pretty good lesson but you could tell something was off. At the end, she dropped us. She does not want us to come by anymore. It stung. It then made me realize how much I love her and how much I want her to have this happiness. So sad. But my companion is so good to me and counseled me tat we just need to focus on the people who are ready and to never give up and constantly invite. So I knew I had to work my hardest to find those results so I went right back to work. The next day we went to teach Taylor's younger siblings. They have baptismal dates. Taylor was supposed to be there but she was up at her Aunt's and said she would be down shortly. We taught the lesson to her siblings and their Mom was sitting in the corner. She didn't want to sit in. And again, something was off in the lesson--they weren't talking and didn't seem as comfortable as they used to be. So we wrapped up their lesson and said our goodbyes and then the Mom wanted to talk to us outside. She said she didn't want us to meet with her kids anymore.
That hurt even more.
I love those kids! They are like MY siblings. Hard to see the ones you love not want something that you know will bring them eternal happiness. After that my companion and I were a little bummed and we were worried about Taylor. We drove to another person's house we had planned to visit, but as soon as we got there we got a call from Taylor. In tears. So we drove back right away. I knew at that moment that I wasn't just a missionary, but I was also Taylor's friend and I knew I wanted to do anything in my power to make her feel better.
We left her with some thoughts and scriptures and reminded her that the Savior is with her always, and that when she is going through hard times, the Savior is with her holding her hand.
Earlier that morning I put the Footprints poem with a picture of Christ that Bentley had given me before my mission in my iPad case. I didn't even know why I put it in there, but I did. While we were talking to Taylor I had the strongest impression to read it to her and then to give it to her. I'm so glad that I did, and I hope that down the road when she is having a hard time she'll be able to find that poem and remember the Savior and find comfort in him. By the end of our visit we were all laughing and I knew without a doubt that Taylor was going to be okay.
We had a wonderful experience with her on Saturday when we were able to go to the Temple to do baptisms with her. Since it was her first time, we were given permission from our Mission President to go. I love the temple, and I haven't been able to do baptisms for a really long time. I really enjoyed that. Being on a mission I have a new love for baptisms; seeing the joy that it can bring people and being able to do that for many people in heaven was an honor. We talked to Taylor afterward about how she felt and she basically felt so privileged and humbled to be able to bring this ordinance into someone's life and bring that joy to someone. What  a sweetheart she is! She told us she had been preparing all week. I want to be like Taylor. She is trying to be like the Savior. I'm trying to be like him everyday. I know that my efforts will add up. 
Also on Saturday my comp and I were able to teach the Restoration at two baptisms; one for a convert in The Fuerte Ward (it used to be The Avocado Ward for anyone that knows El Cajon--the boundaries have been switched alot) named Lynn. She is an older woman, and I can tell you that just from seeing Lynn I love her. She is very unique and makes me smile. For her baptism instead of sitting at the front she sat in the back. It was cute. We also went to the baptism of an eight year old. I love baptisms. Such a spirit, and I feel so privileged to be able to attend.
No crashes this week, and Tiwi didn't yell at me!
Saturday was also known as free slurpee day! And YES--we did partake. A nice cool drink on a nice hot day. Free food is something missionaries come to enjoy and appreciate. 
I almost forgot some of the most exciting news! Arthur, who I told you about last week, has been meeting with us everyday to try to attain his goal of a baptism for July 18th. He is so ready. I have faith that he will be strong and keep growing. He has a desire, and a goal now to receive the Priesthood. I'm pumped for next Saturday!
See the little "Future Missionary" tag on this guy? He's the best! He loves to shake our hands on Sundays.
There is no way that I could write down how many times I see the Lord's hand in my life. I bet some of the time I don't even see it. But I try. I love being a disciple of Christ and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Thanks for the prayers. I feel them everyday. Remember--I'm cheering for you!
Keep pressing forward.
Sister Whitcomb

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fireworks? No... we celebrated with a BAPTISM!

Life in El Cajon is grand. Hotter than you would think, since it's on the way to the desert. I already have a nice tan on my feet. It's actually rained quite a bit; not enough to get out of the drought but still, it did rain. My companion hated it. I LOVED it! Reminded me of home, and it cooled things down a bit.

Miracles have been happening everyday in my life. It reminds me of a Prince of Egypt song we listen to in the car. It goes " There can be miracles if you believe." How true is that? Miracles can be small, can be answers to a prayer. I'm grateful to be able to recognize miracles everyday as a missionary, and sometimes it just might be someone opening their door. But miracles require WORK, not just sitting around--WORK. And I've learned that as well.

Our ward held a 4th of July BBQ on July 2nd. It was AWESOME. Taylor and her family were able to come and literally it felt like there were 15 or 20 nonmembers and less actives there. I felt like I was street contacting. We got introduced to so many people and we got pulled aside a lot because everyone wanted us to meet everyone there! Now that is what a Ward activity should be like. And it helped that the food was TERRIFIC... we were able to take home some leftovers that are still in our fridge. SCORE! Leftovers are the best thing for missionaries.

I'm pretty sure that I mentioned in my last letter that we were planning on taking Taylor and her family to the Mormon Battalion. We did! It was SO fun and I was the driver.
California highways are WAY different than what I am used to; and then I had someone following me. No pressure. But no worries. Tiwi didn't even yell at me once! It was a good day. The Battalion site is amazing, high tech and everyone should go to San Diego just for that. 
It was awesome. Taylor and her family really enjoyed it. We were also able to "pan for gold." Good times.
We then went and got dinner in what is called Old Town and I got a California burrito. SO good. Get one. It's hard to explain how good the experience is. I know I have done a terrible job but the Mormon Battalion were saints of true faith. Their stories amaze me. Look up their story.

The highlight of this week is: TAYLOR GOT BAPTIZED!!!
Man. Best baptism I have ever been to and it was so fun to be involved in the behind-the-scenes as well. It was on July 4th. We filled up the font and set up the chairs. We practiced our little intermission lesson about the Restoration. I was playing the piano waiting for everyone to get there, and then I saw Taylor walk in. I got so excited!! Her family came with her as well. Such great support. I guess I never really told the full story of how Taylor met the missionaries. She was contacted on the street a year ago by two Elders. She wasn't interested at the time, and several missionaries tried to go back and visit them afterward. Then sister missionaries came into the area. Sister Stewart (my current companion) got a prompting to go visit this family, and the rest is history. When they went by, Taylor's little sister Chelsea let them in and they taught the Restoration and Taylor was interested. She's awesome. So prepared and seeks out answers for herself. The Elder who originally contacted Taylor was able to baptize her. Pretty cool. The talks at the baptism were amazing as well and there was a beautiful musical number I was able to accompany on the piano. (Thanks for making me learn piano, Mom! I love sharing my talent!) My favorite part was when Taylor shared her testimony at the end. She shared her conversion story and how she wants to go out on the streets and tell everyone with a megaphone how wonderful the gospel is. She will totally be a missionary some day. I love her. Another cool thing is that Evanelle (the girl who has been coming to Taylor's lessons with us) put a box at the back of the room for people to write down their favorite scripture for Taylor. There was also a Book of Mormon for everyone to sign. It was really sweet. Evanelle also got a cake and organized a luncheon. She's AWESOME. She is working on her mission papers and I can't wait to hear where she is gonna change the world. Taylor's little sister Chelsea is eight, and we've also set her with a baptismal date. At the baptism she kept asking "So at my baptism are we going to have cake? Is my name going to be on it? So cute. I'm excited for her baptism as well. The next day in church Taylor not only was confirmed and received the Holy Ghost, but she got her temple recommend! There will be a youth temple trip and she will go. We are working with her to get some family names. It just amazes me that the day after her baptism she gets a temple recommend. Then a week later she will go to the temple! Since it will be her first time, our mission president has given us permission to go with her!! I'm PUMPED!

We had four investigators attend church this week. So awesome. It was Fast and Testimony meeting. The spirit was really strong, and I know that helped our visitors a lot. This month I was fasting for my companion and I to find new people to teach. I prayed a lot about it. And I can tell you that I've never really had a strong testimony of fasting, but I got one on Sunday. It was the end of the second hour of church and we get tapped on the shoulders. It's a sister in our ward. She says to us, "Hi Sisters! This is my nephew Arthur and he's been coming to church for a while and he would really like to start taking the discussions."
WHAT?!? I couldn't believe it. Of course we said yes... We set up an appointment for later that day. We went over to his house, taught the restoration to this 18 year old and when we asked him if he would like to be baptized he said "Yes, I would really like to. When is the soonest I can be baptized?"
Um WHAT?! Did that just happen? Yep, it did. So we set a date for two weeks later, July 18th. We are teaching him again this week, and probably a couple more times before next Sunday. He is ready to start over and come closer unto Christ. He jsut needs to make sure he has a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I'm excited for what's in store for him and I feel blessed to be a part of his experience. God is truly amazing and he prepares so many people, and they are right under our noses! Fasting works. Always do the full 24 hours, and do it with a sincere heart, not with a hungry heart.
Member referrals are the best. We taught at the Stake President's house last night and he invited over a newly wed couple. We taught them and set up another appointment. Give the missionaries referrals! You never know who God is preparing.

Transfers. No worries! I'm staying with my companion in this amazing area. Not gonna lie: I was scared something was going to happen, but all is well.
Never forget how much Heavenly Father loves you and is looking out for you. Always know I love you all and pray for you everyday!
Love you!
Sister Whitcomb

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A text for Mom

"Hi Sister Whitcomb,
What a joy your daughter is! I watch her in action as a missionary and have to remind myself she is so new. She is full of testimony, love and humility... and she has a wonderful ability to teach. She just shines! Happy Day...
Jeanette Hixson"