Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 23, 2015 ~ Week 53 (Week 8 Arlington)

Week 8 Arlington
Hello Family & Friends!!

Can you believe that it is the last week of February?!  I cannot.  As well as that, it is the final week before transfers.  I am most likely staying here in Arlington (YAY!!), but we shall see next Tuesday.

It has been quite the week.  As far as updates on those being baptized: Karen will be baptized on March 15 now instead of February!  She had such a wonderful time at our Relief Society activity on Thursday. She said that she felt so loved and welcomed into this wonderful women group.  The theme of this activity was Visiting Teaching and it was called "A trip to Hawaii".  Karen also began her family history research on familysearch.org.  She was suppose to be working on it for just an hour, but she loved it so much that she kept going for just under two hours.  Doing her family history research will allow her to be prepared to enter into the temple after she is baptized and help her ancestors with their work since they did not have the opportunity here on Earth.  Karen is so great!  And so ready to be baptized next month.

Marc is now going to be baptized in June!  He was debating on whether he wanted to go to church or not yesterday.  It was his first time. After talking with him about his purpose of attending and the blessings that would come from it, Marc acted in faith and came to church for the very first time.  He loved it, and even asked his ride to church to pick him up every Sunday so he could continue to attend all three hours. Miracle!

On Thursday afternoon, we went over to Orange Park, Florida. (Close to Fleming Island) to have a mission wide conference with Elder W. Craig Zwick of the Seventy and Michael Hemmingway who is over all of the proselyting that goes on in missionary work for the entire world.  The focus was iPad's and Facebook.  How to use them effectively, wisely, and be safe in our work.  But the administrative part of it wasn't the bulk of the meeting.  Something that Elder Zwick really focused on was a very profound phrase and question that each of us can really take something from.  "Are you on a spiritual trajectory?"  What a "spiritual trajectory" is, is a pathway of spiritual progression that increases by our righteous decisions and faithful actions. It is the process by which we are constantly 'becoming' and fulfill our true potentials through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  We brainstormed ways on how we can "Preserve our spiritual projectory".  You can add anything that you want to my list: 

1. Always seek for what brings light
2. Exact Obedience in even the little things
3. Lock your heart unto the Savior
4. Don't let the world slip into your heart
5. Remember the covenants you have made
6. Genuinely love God and others

The Lord knows what each of us are capable of doing and becoming.  We cannot become who we want to or who He wants us to be without Him.  He also will not force to become something that we do not want to become. Remember this promise: "I ought not to harrow up in my desires the firm decree of a just God, for I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire, whether it be unto death or unto life..."
(Alma 29:4)

Pure desire, Eternal Life.

Love, Sister McCook

February 23, 2015 ~ Pictures

At a Relief Society activity.  Thelma on the left,
Veronica in the middle, and Karen is next to me! :)

The Jax East Zone!

Thelma came to a lesson with us while Sister Blatter was here in
Arlington for a day.  Thelma is amazing.  She is a recent convert who just got baptized in August.  We taught her about Enduring to the End and when she came with us to teach, she taught exactly what she learned along with personal experiences!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

February 16, 2015 ~ Week 52 (Week 7 Arlington)

Week 7 Arlington
Dear Family & Friends.

How were the holidays?!  I love holidays as a missionary, because it literally becomes the best day ever.  It seems like everything is
 happy, and serving one another, we get to be with the members, it's just all in all wonderful.  Valentine’s Day was the best day ever.

There were so many miracles this week.  I will share my two favorite ones.  We were driving into this apartment complex to go visit a family that had been on our minds.  I was in the driver's seat, Sister Murray in the passenger's seat.  In this apartment complex, I waved to a young
man in his 20s riding on his bike.  Went to park, and Sister Murray began to pray.  While she was praying, I hear a tapping on my window.  It was the young man.  I rolled down my window and he asked if we needed to talk to him.  I said no, we were just waving.  He noticed we were Sister Missionaries and said that a Sister previous to us use to come teach him months ago, but he could never get a hold of them again.  He said that he felt the Spirit whenever they came to teach him.  We said we would be happy to continue to teach him.  His name is Marc.  He asked if we could come back and teach him.  Sure enough, we had one free hour left in the evening and said we could come back at 8.  He agreed.  We went back and he had his family of 7 of there too! Even though they would not listen, they were very friendly and after seeing the example of their son, they will soon listen.  We taught him the first lesson and invited him to be baptized on March 14.  He offered to say the closing prayer at the end of the lesson and even told Heavenly
Father how excited he was to be baptized in March.  God is so aware of His children.
I have been waving and smiling at people for an entire year hoping that one day, that one person would stop and ask why, because you would be surprised not very many people go out of their
way to wave and say hello to every person they see.  I love what President Monson says about showing love towards others: "Love is expressed in many recognizable ways: a smile, a wave, a kind comment, a compliment.  Other expressions may be more subtle, such as showing interest in another’s activities, teaching a principle with kindness and patience, visiting one who is ill or homebound.  These words and actions and many others can communicate love."
Love—the Essence of the Gospel  .......Wave to everyone :)

I went to Dunn Ave. for a day this week as I was on a trade off with a Sister.  These two Sisters made such inspired plans for their evening.  They picked a street in their area where we could do one hour of inspired finding.  After knocking on quite a few doors with no success, we saw this beautiful, lit up home right across the street.  We decided to go over there and knock on the door. This couple opened the door and said come on in!  We were surprised as we walked in only later to find out that he is a member of the Church and she was not.  But we had no idea who they were.  We asked what ward they attend and they said Arlington Ward.  We had never seen each other before even though I had been there for 6 weeks.  Their names are Robert and Amanda. I was so thrilled to meet them.  It was interesting because Amanda and I just connected instantly. She said that I looked to familiar to her and the same...she looked so familiar to me.  Yet we had never seen each other before. The only thing that is holding her back from being baptized
is marriage.  We had a very powerful lesson about Eternal Marriage. This couple is now praying for a date to be married.  We shared personal experiences about our families and the temple that made her cry.  Mine was this: I can just remember when I was a young girl.  It seemed like monthly, but it was every so often they would pack all the kids up in car if there was no baby sitter, and take us to the temple.  While one of my parents would be in the temple, the other would take us in the visitor’s center.  We would also walk around the beautiful white Mesa temple.  But the one thing I will always remember is the example that my parents lead.  In taking me to the temple often when I was young, to let me walk around the outside of it and feel the
Spirit.  Their example will continue to touch my life as now, I will be attending the temple frequently when I return.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is constantly on my mind; the aspect of the redeeming and enabling power of the Atonement.  The redeeming power of the Atonement turns the bad into the good (the sins we make, that are erased). The enabling power of the Atonement turns good people into better people.  I love the Savior. His Atonement is redeeming and enabling.  We can be transformed in the path of our own beautiful work in progress.  Come unto Christ, and you will find eternal life.

Love, Sister McCook

February 14, 2015 ~Permaculture Jax

On Valentines Day I was driving and I went the wrong way even though I felt that it was the right way.  I was weaving in and out of a neighborhood and came across these people who were doing this
ginormous service project in someone's front yard.  I kept driving and said, we are turning around!  Turned around, asked if they could use a few hands and they energetically said yes! (Funny story they told us,
before we came, they had actually discussed that they needed more women power to help and then five minutes later, we showed up..Divine intervention!) It turned out to be the best service project ever found
with more to come and we even had a teaching opportunity come from it.

Best Day ever.  Happy Valentines Day.  Look up Permaculture Jax on Facebook and you can learn all about it and what we did!  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

February 9, 2015 ~ Pictures

One year mark breakfast celebration! Waffles and ice cream.  That was a first.

Some boys decided to dress up as missionaries. One of them is now a new investigator being taught on Facebook. He read from the Book of Mormon after we challenged him!

February 9, 2015 ~ Week 51 (Week 6 Arlington)

Week 6 Arlington

Happy Valentine’s Day Family & Friends!
This week was one huge blur.  Everything just happened so fast and there was a lot of lack of sleep due to this special opportunity that I was a part of to share my testimony of the Book of Mormon to the people in Downtown Jacksonville going to the Book of Mormon musical.
This is how it went each night on Wednesday (super cold and rainy), Friday (bone chilly), and Saturday (COLD). Sunday, nice and Sunny :) was different; we could be outside all day and constantly be talking with someone. 12 missionaries packed into the "Missionary Van" to drive to downtown.  

We had a plan on where everyone was standing so that we wouldn't bombard people with pass along cards.  Usually if people had received a pass along card, I would share my simple testimony to them.  Everything was just so quick because people were moving and moving fast.  There were times where people would stop and listen.  I'll share experiences of that down later.  The show was starting at 7:30, so we arrived there about an hour early to hand out special pass along cards where people could download the Book of Mormon on their phone and read it while they are waiting for it to begin, as well as an opportunity to come to a huge church tour on Sunday evening.  At the 28 minute mark, we were sure that we were by the front because a good number of people walk out of the show due to vulgarity so we would give them a copy of the Book of Mormon and show them what it was really about.  A beautiful witness of Jesus Christ that has changed my life and I know can change others lives.  We would then go inside the Omni hotel and be there until intermission because there was absolutely no one outside.  We would do Facebook work.  After intermission, we go back inside and do more Facebook, until the end....Which was my favorite part!  We stuffed our bags and arms with as many copies of the Book of Mormon as we could carry, and when people came flooding out, my copies of the Book of Mormon were gone within minutes.  There were so many people who were curious.  It was so sad when I would run out of copies to give them, but that didn't stop any of us from sharing still!  We found a lot of people who wanted to learn more.  It was a great opportunity to find people to teach on Facebook as well.

I'll tell you about a few of the people that I found:
Mohammed--found sitting in his car.  Has read every single book from the different religions, EXCEPT for the Book of Mormon.  Miracle!  He wants the missionaries to come over and he wants us to check if there is a Book of Mormon in any of these languages-Persian, Arabic, Pastoon, Hindi, Sohily, Punjabi, Urdu. Pretty neat!
Sarah- I was on a tradeoff with Sister Pasko, one of the other Sisters who was also participating with us anyway!  We found these two sisters who were actually walking out of another orchestra going on in the same building.  They had left early and we got there in time to talk with them.  We told them about the Book of Mormon and I was prompted to say something to Sarah about the Book of Mormon helping me through high school and it turns out she was actually in high school and I had no idea!  She was excited to read it and I will be able to teach her on Facebook.
Dusti- We were on the corner of Pearl and Water Street across from the Towns hall.  Sister Murray was talking to people on one side of the sidewalk and I was talking with people on the other side.  I was looking around everywhere for people to talk with and I just happened to turn around and there was a woman walking behind me.  I caught her attention and walked up to her to invite her to learn about the Book of Mormon.  She said that she was actually looking for a tangible copy of the Book of Mormon. Although unable to meet with the missionaries until June due to her moving around a lot, I will be able to teach her on Facebook until then. Miracle!
I even met someone from Ohio who was just passing by.  He gave me all of his information for missionaries to come teach him.

There are so many more stories and experiences I could go on and on about the miracles, but along with the miracles, come the other side of missionary life as well.  We would be standing on the corner of a stop light, and groups of people would purposely cut corners to avoid Sister Murray and I.  Multiple times I would have to shout out, "It's a green light!" Because there were cars coming and they all would have gotten ran over.  They would stop in their path and I would run out and go get them anyway!  It was unbelievable to me.  Even the parents with children would rather get ran over then have to suffer standing next to a smiling Sister Missionary.  In addition, there was quite a bit of individual persecution that I received.  Some of the most powerful experiences that I had were standing up for my Savior.
All in all, it strengthened my testimony immensely of the power, conviction, and conversion that the Book of Mormon and the Spirit combined will give.  This Book is an instruction Book for families.  It shows us everything that we need to do and become to be happy and return to live with God.  It was translated by the gift and power of God through a humble, chosen prophet who just wanted to obey the Lord.  The fullness of Jesus Christ's gospel is contained in it.  It shows the miracles and experiences that we can have when we access the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I love the Book of Mormon.  I know it is true.
Love, Sister McCook

Our adventures made it into the newspaper:

February 4th- 8th 2015 Book of Mormon Experience

12 missionaries stuffed into a van
We love the Book of Mormon! 
Sister Murray, Sister Aure, me, and Sister Pasko
The evidence!
(Night 1)

(Night 3)

 (4th Day)

Stuffed as many copies of the Book of Mormon as we could into our bags
and as many as we could carry!
Sunday afternoon with beautiful sunny weather.

Our adventures made it into the newspaper:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February 2, 2015 ~ Week 50 Pictures

February 2, 2015 ~ Week 50 (5th week Arlington)

Week 5 Arlington
Family and Friends,
I don't know if you have seen on your Facebook, most likely not because this is something that has only been spread in Jacksonville and Utah, but we have done, "Discover the Book...again", all because the Book of Mormon Broadway Musical is coming to Jacksonville on February 3-8. We have been trying to get as many members to post their pictures with their testimonies of the Book of Mormon on Facebook for the past 3 days. It has been a great turnout with over a quarter of a million people invited to participate.
In addition to this Facebook event, 24 missionaries in our mission have been hand-selected to go on the streets of downtown Jacksonville right outside of where the Book of Mormon musical is playing, and declare their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and invite others to really find out for themselves by reading the tangible evidence, that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. I am completely honored and blessed to be one of those 24 hand-selected missionaries to go and defend my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ this week. I will be able to go with 11 other missionaries (two groups that switch off every other day) on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I am so excited. On some nights, we will be up until 12:00 midnight sharing our testimonies of the Book of Mormon. What a neat opportunity.
At Church yesterday, a return missionary's family came back with her to visit the Arlington ward, I met her younger sister, Miranda and we connected so quickly because she happens to be a dancer too! She went to Sweden for 5 months last year to study ballet there. So neat! She is still in high school, but she, like me was hesitant on serving a mission. Leaving behind a talent that became a part of my being. I thought long and hard about that as I was sitting in the third hour of church yesterday and decided to write her a note about when she would come to the time to prayerfully decide to serve a mission. A promised blessing came into my mind as I was writing her, Doctrine & Covenants 21:9 "For behold, I will bless all those who labor in my vineyard with a mighty blessing..." I have definitely felt that blessing as I have gone a whole entire year without taking a single dance class to keep myself in dance shape. Whenever we give our lives to the Lord, He blesses us tenfold.
This last experience was fun. I was going through our area book which is jam packed with potentials and even some with just phone numbers and no addresses. So I decided to call them all up while Sister Murray was driving, and this one woman Jojo answered the phone. She invited us over for lunch this past Tuesday. We went over and had the most solid Restoration lesson. She said that if she found the Book of Mormon to be true, that she would run over to the church and be baptized. The Spirit is the true converter, not us.

Love, Sister McCook