Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27, 2015 ~ Week 62 (Week 8 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Dear Family & Friends,

I have been having great studies in the Book of Mormon lately and thought I would share an "aha" moment with you!  I can never get tired of the Book of Mormon because it is like an exploded fire hydrant of revelation for my life and the lives of people I currently have stewardship over.

It was during a tradeoff I had in Lake Butler on Friday.  I happened to be in 3 Nephi 11.  I had some of the greatest aha moments as I read but my favorite one comes from 3 Nephi 11:3-5.  This chapter is the crowning event in the Book of Mormon and what is happening within these few first verses is that the announcement of the resurrected Lord about to appear to them is happening.  The people can hear a voice, they cannot understand it but they can powerfully feel it in their hearts.  They hear it a second time, but still cannot understand it.  The third time they "did open their ears to hear it..." I think that more often when we approach people and talk with them about the restored gospel, they don't understand our message when we explain and bear testimony about it time and time again, but they understand what they feel and know it is coming from God.  They soon come to an understanding of it.  I know that this happens to each and every one of us.  We have to listen to something over and over again until it finally clicks and all of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.  I love the Book of Mormon and I know the power and truth of it cannot be denied.

During a tradeoff I had with Sister Montgomery who is serving in the Gainesville Young Singles Adult ward, we stayed in my area. We had so much fun talking with everyone about the restored gospel but most of the time we did not find the part of success in people allowing us to teach them more.  The next day it was about two hours before we had to drive back to Gainesville, and all I wanted was for this trade off to be a miraculous experience for this Sister and that we would be granted with miracles to teach people who will listen and keep commitments.  We felt prompted to go try a woman named Erica who Sister Kloepfer and I actually met at the gas station about two weeks back.  She let us right in and let us teach her the Restoration.  She was crying when we were talking about the Book of Mormon and specifically when Jesus Christ comes to America.  She thinks that is the neatest thing ever and cannot get enough about hearing and reading this account in the scriptures.

 On our way back home to quickly grab some lunch and run out the door to drive to Gainesville, we pulled in and saw Tony, who is actually a man that Sister Kloepfer and I found in between the Saturday General Conference sessions.  We taught him about the Book of Mormon and as he read the last two paragraphs of the Introduction, he said, "Whoa that is an awesome promise."  I can't exactly remember what he said when we asked him what stuck out to him as he read that, but I do remember how much his eyes beamed as he shared what he learned.  We are going back to teach him and his wife tonight.

We have just started a youth activity that happens every other week.  We have volleyball and the purpose of it is to encourage the youth to take missionary moments and invite their friends to come.  This past Thursday, two of the youth came up to us and said, this is our friend Andrea. She has a Book of Mormon and wants to know how to read it.  Miracle!  She is so great!  It would be fun to teach her the lessons, but she totally lives in a different area.  She had a great time at volleyball and there were quite a few unfamiliar faces there so it was fun to interact with everyone.  I will attach a picture.  It is quite a bit blurry, but it makes me laugh every time I look at it.

This month is "Expect Mighty Miracle May".  Where each companionship in the mission is going to have a baptism in May.  Sister Kloepfer and I are doing everything we can to find someone to be baptized in May or whenever they are ready.  It seems like every truthfully seeking person we find doesn't live in our area.  Will you pray that we will find someone who is ready to be baptized on May 24th?

Love, Sister McCook

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 20, 2015 ~ Week 61 ( Week 7 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Dear Family & Friends,

I will go through the days this week because it was very eventful!

Tuesday: We had a lesson with our family that we found in Walmart just the week before.  Heidi, Sokol & their two children.  I shared the experience with my dad for how we found them so I will share it will you to get you updated.  In Wal-Mart, we were just shopping along and we were in the yogurt, milk, eggs section of the store.  There was this family that we walked past and I smiled a friendly smile at the father of the family and he smiled back.  (We learned from Elder Kopischke about a month ago that when a person smiles at you, they will receive you).  But I kept on walking.  I cannot even begin to tell you what was going on within my soul as I walked past this family who just received us and I did not talk with them.  The Spirit said very softly as if it was almost faint, you need to go back.  As I kept on walking I was fight in my mind that it would be so awkward to go back because I had just smiled at them and walked away.  I was given one more chance, this struck me so much.  "Sister McCook, you are going to regret it if you do not turn around."  So I said to Sister Kloepfer that we needed to turn around.  I walked quickly to the opposite side of this aisle in hopes to talk to this friendly family that the angels had prepared for me to talk with.  We showed them a picture of Jesus and shared our pure and simple testimonies of the Book of Mormon.  Sokol who is from Albania said that he has 2 copies of the Book of Mormon at home (An Albania and English) and the Book of Mormon app downloaded on his phone and is about to begin reading it.  Turns out they just moved from Ohio and are living in the same apartment complex that we are living in.

We brought a member along and it was a wonderful lesson!  Heidi is very into the Book of Mormon and when we followed up with her in a couple days, she had been reading it!  Sokol understands our message very well and his only concern is that he won't be able to do some of the things he loves if he joins the Church.  He thought one of them might be Permaculture which is a very interesting gardening technique and healthy way of living.  The neat thing about this is that I actually did Permaculture with Sister Murray about 2 months ago and so it was neat to make the connection.  When a person understands the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, they understand that there are so many more things we can do because not only are the blessings in store for here on Earth, but the amount of blessings that are available in Heaven because of this gospel, cannot be comprehended.

Later on that day we welcomed in 14 new incoming missionaries straight off the airplane from the MTC.  They were so sweet.  I met a Sister Saxton and I asked her where her relatives are from because I have Saxton's in my family and she said Idaho and Utah so Saxton's, I don't know but you might be related to her!  Also, the first missionary from Tucson, Arizona besides me arrived.  He is from the Sahuarita area and so I asked if he knew some my family and he said he didn't.  It was interesting being here in President Craig's home.  I felt like I was just walking in their shoes a day ago.  It was nice being there.  These missionaries were very scared, just afraid of the unknown.  As we would talk with them they would ask if I ever felt like them or if I was ever scared.  When I would let them know that I felt exactly like them, they wouldn't believe me. They would ask, "Are you sure you felt like this?  Because it couldn't possibly look like you ever did because you're so confident”.  Repeatedly they would ask and so I invited them to ask President Craig what my first few months in the mission field were like and that I gave him permission to let them know.  It's okay to be afraid, it's normal.  This is a marvelous work and honor to be in the service of the Savior and all we want to do is the right thing.  We had a very powerful devotional in the which we listened to all of these missionaries bear their testimonies of the gospel.  They are all great devoted Elders and Sisters.

Wednesday: Sister Blotter (who is a Sister who just went home on Friday) joined Sister Kloepfer and I for the day.  What a blast talking with everyone!  We went out teaching, knocking doors, teaching people through the car windows, it was just the best day ever.  We loved being in a trio and didn't want it to end!  We found a couple that let us right in and listened to our message. They wanted time to read from the Book of Mormon before we came back.  We had two Sisters going home, stay the night with us.

Friday:  We went on a trade off!  I went to the Hendricks Ave. area with Sister Gillman.  We witnessed TONS of miracles but my favorite one was the first one we had.  We had a teaching appointment with this woman named Taleka.  We walked up to her door at the same time another woman was walking up to her door.  We talked with her and found out her name was Kevena. Taleka shouted out from her upstairs window that she couldn't meet with us today.  So we invited Kevena to learn more about our message.  She took us over to her home.  She is a very sweet mother of 3.  As we shared our message, she asked us, "what is this feeling I have?  It is so strong I have never felt it this strong before."  It was the Spirit of God.  And yes, she was right, the Spirit was powerful in this lesson and it reconfirmed to me the truths of the things we were teaching.  As we shared about Joseph Smith's experience with seeing Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we sat there for a second and she said, "Say it again!  Say it again!  I really want to hear it again."  There were tears in this lesson.  She desires to be baptized on May 23.  We received a phone call from the Hendricks Sisters today saying that Kevena is progressing very well.  Oh how my heart is filled with so much joy!

Saturday:  As we did Golden hour, there were a lot of people who were short with us, but that is okay.  We moved forward with faith and decided to go follow up with John about the Book of Mormon.  He said that he had read a few pages but there were some things holding him back. We had a very great discussion about the Priesthood.  What a blessing that the Priesthood has been restored to the Earth and that our living prophet holds the keys of the Priesthood.  He had a few questions about the Priesthood and when we talked about the Priesthood being able to seal marriages for time and all eternity, he said, when can you come back this week?  He really wanted to learn more.

Sunday:  I love the Sabbath and being able to attend Church!  Later on that day, we had dinner with a family.  The wife is a member, but her husband and three children are not.  We taught them about the true Church of Jesus Christ being restored to the Earth and about the Book of Mormon and all of them wanted their own copy.  One of the daughters even jumped up and said, "I want to be baptized."  And continued by saying that she wanted us to come back every Sunday.

Monday:  Even today Sister Kloepfer and I set a goal and prayerfully took it to Heavenly Father saying that we wanted to find someone in the paper towel aisle of Wal-Mart and invite them to be baptized.  Well, we went to do our shopping and found ourselves down that aisle talking with everyone.  We found many wonderful people who loved their Savior, but did not find the person to invite to baptism.  We came out of that aisle and straight ahead was Jarvis.  He is a man that we gave a Book of Mormon to about a month ago.  We followed up with him and said that he wanted us to meet with him and his family to share our message.  We then invited him to be baptized and he said yes!  Miracles upon miracles.  God answers prayers and knows the desires of each and every one of His children's hearts.

I love being a missionary.

-Sister McCook

April 13, 2015 ~ Week 60 Pictures (Week 6 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Sister Crawford and I at the end of our trade off! This is in Starke, FL.

 Sister Murray and I on a trade off and then Sister Malm joined in
with us for the day!

I surprised and treated them all to ice cream! :)
we found an elect family while doing this!

 We were in Arlington picking up our bikes because they're closing
that area down and I realized I never got pictures for you mom of that apartment.  So it might be a little messy, but here it is!  It was a two bedroom two bathroom.  Nicest apartment in the mission.

Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13, 2015 ~ Week 60 (Week 6 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Dear Family & Friends,

Transfer calls are tonight but I already know that Sister Kloepfer and I are staying together. What a huge blessing I get to serve with my best friend for 6 more weeks!  If this description gives you an idea for how much fun we have every day it would be this, "The companionship that rejoices in miracles."  We find joy in doing the work of the Lord daily.  And if I can feel this joyful daily by sharing the gospel, I am totally going to apply it back in Arizona.

It was a very busy week as we had three tradeoffs with Sister Training Leaders.  So we drove all the way down to Gainesville, Hendricks Ave., and Whitehouse.  I can't adequately express how grateful one of the assignments to this calling I have is to work with all the Sister Training Leaders in the mission.  These Sisters are sharp.  They came prepared with amazing goals to work on.  I was with Sister Crawford from Gainesville and we stayed here in Mandarin.  What's neat about this is that about 8 months ago, she was serving as my Sister Training Leader in Whitehouse and we went on a trade off together.  Now we can see the transformation that has taken place in each of us.  We learned how to fully exert ourselves as missionaries with using the Spirit in every aspect of the work.  What it means to be focused on the Spirit from what we learned is to be disciplined.  Every thought, word, and action is devoted to inviting others to come unto Christ.  Not risking of thinking of anything else besides P-Day hours, but that is it.
The trade off with Hendricks was so fun because I stayed here in Mandarin again and Sister Murray, my previous companion joined me!  Her goal was to focus on teaching the Atonement in finding and teaching situations.  This was fun to learn that with talking about the Atonement, the teaching and testifying doesn't have to be anything big or long drawn out, even the shortest and simplest testimony of the Atonement will bring the sweetest Spirit into the room.  It was powerful. I went to Whitehouse with Sister Sorensen and she wanted to focus on becoming a consecrated missionary which is what I have been focusing on.  I feel like all of the tradeoffs this week led up to me doing this one.  Focusing on the Spirit and using the Atonement allow for a good missionary to become a better missionary and disciple of Jesus Christ. 

I am looking forward to another transfer full of learning opportunities from these Sister Training Leaders.  Tomorrow is a beautiful day because we get to welcome the new missionaries into the mission by having a devotional and dinner at President Craig's home.

Best miracle of the mission. Are you ready?
About 3 Fridays ago, Sister Kloepfer and I were prayerfully pondering on how we can get referrals.  Referrals from members are huge because this is one very crucial way for how a Ward grows.  We so badly desired to have a solid media referral because we just want to witness baptisms happen here in Mandarin and we just wanted a media referral miracle.  So we prayed mightily and faithfully for this desire.  Weeks go by and we received a phone call from our Bishop on Thursday with a miracle for us.  He was giving us a referral from the media.  A 15 year old girl named Ashley who has been waiting for missionaries to come to her door.  We had her first lesson on Saturday and she has committed to be baptized and confirmed on May 9 & 10. This is her story for finding the Church.  She was watching a movie with Mormons in it and the entire time she just thought about how kind and happy Mormons are.  It led her to googling Mormons and what a blessing it is that she was led to  She began talking with missionaries online who are actually serving in the California Oakland temple visitor’s center. They then sent her information over to us and we have been teaching her!  She absolutely was excited for Church and LOVED it.  She loved young women's.  And one of the best parts, her mom is completely supportive for whatever she chooses.  Best miracle ever.  And tonight, we are going over to President Craig's home for Family Home Evening with Ashley!  We are so happy!

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, April 6, 2015

April 6, 2015 ~ Week 59 ~ Pics (Week 5 Mandarin 1st Ward)

1. I did mom's General Conference tradition for Sunday and made crepes
early in the morning.

2. That is Sharra's family. The one that takes pictures of us and
sends them to you. They came all the way from Arlington just to eat
lunch with Sister Kloepfer and I. It was very nice of them to do that.
And she showed me the picture that the DeWitt's took of my door! So
crazy they were so close! Tell them I said hello!

3. Because He Lives

4. The famous 'blue wall' in Lake Butler

April 6, 2015 ~ Week 59 (Week 5 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Hello Family & Friends and...
Happy Easter!  185th anniversary of the Church of Jesus Christ being restored to the Earth.  What a special day.

I think I say that every week is the Best Week Ever.  This is one of the top best weeks.  Everything worked out in the way that it needed to.

We have a Mission Leadership Council once a month where missionary leaders from all over the mission come together and receive trainings from President Craig, Sister Craig, the Assistants to the President, and Sister Kloepfer & I.  Yes, we gave a training!  It was my very first time giving a training in front of all of these amazing leaders--actually, phenomenal.  The best of the mission.  But it was so much fun because they are all my best friends, so when you can look at it as giving a training to your best friends, the "nervous" or "scary" aspect before getting up there, goes away.  We gave a training on the 'Daily Planning Session'.  To sharpen up the skills of our planning so that we can have an intricate planning session that the Prophet and Apostles have directed us to.  I learned so much from preparing and giving this training.  How we plan and prepare for our day shows the Savior how much we love Him.  Because the surrounding focus of our plans throughout the day are, inviting others to come unto Christ by helping them receive His restored gospel and eventually into baptism. (Alma 37:37,41) Since everything in the mission life prepares us for post mission life, I will plan to find at least one person to share the gospel with everyday when I return home.  That is one way I can show my love towards the Savior and my friends.

I was also able to go on a tradeoff with Sister Anderson in the Lake Butler Ward area.  Oh how I loved being there for one whole day.  It's more of a country land with less stoplights than the fingers on my two hands.  It reminded me a lot about St. Johns where Great Grandma lives.  The people there are so friendly, every single one of them.  I walked into the Church during a night where there was Young Women's and a Book of Mormon class.  Every person there made me feel so welcomed.  I felt like I was on top of the world for a day because everyone wanted to know my name and make me feel so welcomed, but not only that, they wanted to know who I was, what is my life like.  The little children, youth, adults.  I had never felt like that before, so instantly.  I realized right then and there that this is how they were with every new face.  I witnessed it.  These people were radiating the light of Christ and you could tell they loved their Savior and honored their covenants because of the way they treated each other they did not know.  I am going to follow their example and bring that Spirit of love and welcome into the lives of people I don't know in my Church ward because it made ALL the difference.  This is also one of the fastest growing Wards in the mission.  I know it's because Heavenly Father trusts this Ward.

I could go on and on about General Conference this past weekend.  The Spirit I felt was incredible, the sessions flew by so quickly.  I had written down four questions and all of them were answered through the words that were spoken and the Spirit that I felt.  I thought it was so neat that Elder Wilford W. Andersen combined two of the personality traits that make me who I am.  The gospel and dance.  It was neat to be able to learn the gospel in my language of dance.  I like how he said, "The dance steps of the gospel are in the mind.  The music of the gospel is the joy felt in the heart."  In dance, knowing the dance combination is great!  We can practice and practice it and have it perfect....and never perform it.  But knowing it and sharing it shows how much you love it because you're communicating a message to others through this talent. Likewise, knowing the gospel is great!  But if we don't live it, then we won't ever grow in experience.  It is like we are hiding the light we have been given.  We won't understand our purpose as sons and daughters in the covenant trying to be like Jesus.

There are so many things I learned.  But this I know, that President Thomas S. Monson is the current Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  That Jesus Christ is at the head of this Church, who speaks to President Monson and leads him to help us in every step of the way.  I have been called by a prophet, and in the Savior's command to teach His restored gospel to the people here in Jacksonville.  I love it.

Have a great week!
Love, Sister McCook

1. I did mom's General Conference tradition for Sunday and made crepes
early in the morning.

2. That is Sharra's family.  They came all the way from Arlington just to eat
lunch with Sister Kloepfer and I. It was very nice of them to do that.

3. Because He Lives

4. The famous 'blue wall' in Lake Butler