Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 25, 2015 ~Pictures

Jax East Zone

The baptism boar (by the way, that's my new home haha)

We went to Chipotle for lunch today!

May 25, 2015 ~ Week 66 (Week 12 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Dear family & friends...

You won't believe it, because I can't either....but I am being transferred!  I have no idea where yet because the conference call is
tonight, but you will know next week.  Both Sister Kloefper and I are being transferred out of Mandarin and there will no longer be Sister Training Coordinators.  With the down sizing of missionaries coming in, especially Sisters, there is no need for Sister Training Coordinators any longer.  There will still be Sister Training Leaders though! So this transfer call is going to be one of the most shocking yet for the entire mission.  22 are going home and 14 are coming in I believe.

Actually, I just received a phone call from President Craig to serve as a Sister a Training Leader in Whitehouse Ward in the Jax West Zone.  What is neat about this is that I went to that area a couple times just for a day when I was a trainee over 14 months ago.  I also found out some of my responsibilities as well.  Not only will I be going on 7 trade offs with the Sisters in the Jax West, but Sister Sandberg and I will be training all of the new Sister Training Leaders in the zones plus going on trade offs with a set of them per transfer. Great changes and new opportunities.

It has been probably the best three months of my mission serving with my best friend Sister Kloepfer.  What made it the best was having fun in the work.  We didn't go a day without laughing and working hard.  Numerous times a week we would receive compliments of how wonderful it is to see two best friends doing missionary work together.  Yes, the members can tell if you get along with a companion or not.  We are the companionship who rejoices in miracles.  I appreciate the love that Sister Kloepfer has for the Book of Mormon.  She is bold and talks with everyone.

Yesterday was an enjoyable Sabbath Day as I focused on loving the Ward as much as possible since I knew this would be my last Sunday there.  They have no idea that we are leaving yet. Sister Kloepfer and I were standing at the front expecting two women that we found to show up.  The parking in the front was full so we ran around to the back.  When we got there, a returning member that we have been working with surprised us by coming to Church and it consciously coming on her own every week!  Not only that but as we got up to sing in the choir, Sister Kloepfer pointed out a family that we had found about a month ago, just showed up on their own! They were sitting in the back.  It was a father named Aelidon and his two daughters named Angel and Anieza. They stayed for all three hours and they did not want to leave.

During Sunday school, we studied faith in Jesus Christ.  We learned from reading the Gospel Principles book that faith is indeed not just simply a belief, but a principle of action and power.  It means that even if we cannot see the end results of something, that we still walk in paths we cannot see with the help of Jesus Christ.  Aelidon shared his recent story of when he was taking his family to the United States and basically starting over with everything.  He did not know what was going to happen nor the struggles along the way, but he knew that he wanted to give his family a better future and that gave him the fire for desire.  He acted in faith and now he was sitting here in Church.  During these times before leaving Albania, his friend gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon.  He read all the way up to Alma 55.  He loves the book of Alma.  And shared his testimony, "I know that it is true because I am filled with peace and it gives me faith in Jesus Christ."

I too can add my testimony of the Book of Mormon.  Sister Kloepfer and I have enjoyed finding people throughout our time together, using the Book of Mormon.  There is something special about the Book of Mormon.  It is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ and brings out a shining countenance to all who feast upon its words.  I love the Book of Mormon.  It changes me daily and the things I study are an answer to someone else's prayer or question everyday.  Read it and share it.

Love, Sister McCook

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 18, 2015 ~ Pictures

Finally after 15 months, I receive a name tag with a little c in the McCook :)

May 18, 2015 ~ Week 65 (Week 11 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Hello Family & Friends!

I will say, every week is miraculous, I have never seen miracles quite like the ones in Mandarin. We are known as the companionship that rejoices over miracles.  They all come from Golden hours.  So we do at least two a day because finding---tracting and talking with everyone---is my favorite thing to do!  And the more finding, the more miracles! :)  I'll share with you miracles....

Last Sunday it was Sister Kloepfer's turn to pick an area and my turn to pick a street.  She said that she felt strongly we needed to go to Bartram Park.  All of our appointments were on the opposite side of the area and it was a P-Day, so I was sort of hesitant and questioning that but she said it was the Spirit, so turned my doubt into faith and picked a street.  Our appointment the next day cancelled so it opened up our evening to do that golden hour and while we were at Wal-Mart, a woman comes up behind us in the checkout line.  We talk with her and notice on her watch she had the state of Texas on it.  We asked her if that was where she was from and she said no, a friend had given her that watch and she just wears it.  So we continue talking with her, though not interested it was neat that she studies from the Bible every morning.  Now it is time for golden hour.  We get to the street, ‘Ginnie Springs’ and begin to knock.  It seemed like every home was stone cold hearted.  So we stopped and I said, let's see where the Spirit wants us to go. I am a scanner, so I scanned every home and picked one, Sister Kloepfer picks one and though they were not interested, they listened.  THEN, get this, the home right next to mine has a big metal state of Texas sign in the front yard and we said to each other, "are you thinking what I am thinking?"  This man behind the door was super elect.  He has been studying every religion but has never studied ours and asked if we could teach him everything about it.  He does an hour and a half of study in the Bible every morning.  We taught him the Restoration and he committed himself to read from the Book of Mormon.  We didn't even have to invite him. We are super excited to continue to teach him.

Miracles like that happen multiple times a day I would say, in Mandarin, just the only problem is that they never progress past the first lesson.  So what do we do?  We just keep on finding and planting seeds.

When Elder Munns from the Seventy came to our ward, he gave us counsel.  That there should be a focus on the basic principles of the gospel.  Specifically---1. Making Sacrament meeting a more spiritually uplifting experience by preparing beforehand.  2. More fully keeping the Sabbath Day Holy.  3. Keeping all of the principles of the law of the Fast.  What do these all have in common?  You can answer for yourself, but for me, they are all spiritually edifying and filling as well as you receive promise blessings from keeping them.  Our ward's focus for awhile now is going to be those three aspects.

I was studying the law of Fasting yesterday.
The principles of the law of the Fast are--
1. Go without 2 consecutive and water. (This is between you and the Lord)
2. Prayer...specific and sacred
3. Bear testimony
4. Contribute a generous fast offering

When we fast from these meals, beginning with fervent prayer, we are promised that we are more receptive to receiving answers to our prayers.  I know that this is true!  It's not just about going without food and water.
The promised blessings that come from contributing to fast offerings, which are distributed to those within the Church who are in need, are that you retain a remission from your sins.

There is a scripture in the book of Omni that stood out to me yesterday as I was studying about the law of the Fast:
"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption.  Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved." Omni 1:26

To "offer your whole souls" means living every principle of a commandment.  In this case, fasting.  When we live all of the principles of fasting, we are offering our whole souls to the Savior.  When we live a portion of the principles of fasting, we are only offering a portion of our souls to the Savior.

From studying this principle and reading the scripture that went along with it, I was struck powerfully with a desire to live every principle of fasting (and of every commandment) so that I can more fully offer my whole soul to the Savior.  For all that He has done for me, I can show my love for Him by keeping this commandment with all of my heart.  There are some things that I need to improve on, as fasting is not easy for me, but I know that the blessings are far more richer when I do.  Will you commit to living all of the principles to the law of the Fast on each first Sunday of the month?  I promise that you will be given sufficient spiritual strength to do so and will receive divine help for answers to your prayers that you are seeking for.

Transfers are next week, but my PDay is on Monday!

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015 ~ Week 64 (Week 10 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Dear Family & Friends,

I feel like I have neglected to explain some very inspired, eternally important life lessons that I have been able to integrate into a part of my nature.  The General authorities including the 12 Apostles, quorum of the Seventy, and the Prophet and First Presidency have prayerfully pondered on how we can use technology with more of a purpose.  They call these tools, "Safeguards".  These Safeguards aren't just for missionaries that work with iPad’s.  When implemented, the purpose of them is to stick with us for the rest of our lives.  The purpose of them is to keep ourselves physically and spiritually safe.  There are five of them: Obedience (the White handbook in our case), be in tune with spiritual promptings, focus on your missionary purpose, be disciplined, and be one.  "Be one" with the Savior.  I will briefly explain the principles behind each one:

1. Obedience.  I choose to be obedient because I love my Heavenly Father and I love my Savior. When you think about it, iPad’s and Smartphone’s and other technology weren't just created for communication and social media purposes, but for the hastening of the work of the Lord.  For my calling as a missionary, I am completely consecrated to devoting all technology purposes towards sharing the gospel because that is what I am called to do.  But when I am not a missionary anymore, I can consecrate much of my time and focus to sharing the gospel on social media, while also using a phone for other purposes.  It's all about balance.

2. Be in tune with Spiritual Promptings.  Even the strongest filters cannot protect us all the time. The greatest filter that I have is my heart and my righteous desires.  Two special gifts God has given, that can help us is our agency (the ability to choose and act for ourselves) and the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Which will warn us of any danger before we choose for ourselves.  This is so important!  Because with every good thing comes opposition.  Satan will try to tempt us to use this amazing technology for evil, but think about it, when we are living worthy of the Spirit, and willing to act on spiritual promptings, we will always be safe. 

3. Focus on your missionary purpose.  Ask yourself, every time you press the "on" button on your phone or iPad is there a specific, fulfilling purpose?  If not, we might just be surfing mindlessly and end up wasting minutes or hours.  In the missionary atmosphere for me, whenever I turn on my iPad I ask myself, is what I'm doing going to help me to invite others to come unto Christ?  If it does, I proceed, if not then I get off of it and distract myself by doing something that does help me to fulfill my purpose.  I have tried to make it become a habit and it has taken time to think every time if an activity fulfills my purpose.  But it's so worth it!

4. Be disciplined.  I like how this one is described.  Is your iPad the master and you are its' servant?  Or are you the master of the iPad and it serves you?

5. Be one.  To 'be one' with the Savior means to follow Him and do as He does.  Jesus Christ was always looking for ways to teach and encourage others to come and see.  To follow Him.  All of us need each other to help one another use technology in the best way.  From a missionary's perspective, it's being "one" as companionships, districts, and zones.  From outside of that it's being "one" as marriages, families, and friends.  We can help each other be safe as we are one.  If there is something that needs to be addressed, we do it lovingly and approach them in a way that they may be unaware of what they are currently doing.  Then we work together to improve.

Just because we are living these safeguards, it does not mean that we aren't vulnerable or susceptible to temptation.  When we can acknowledge those feelings, choose to act, and learn & improve, we can feel the enabling power of the Atonement helping us to become stronger.  So I have created a plan that will help me to be successful at cutting off that vulnerability and susceptibility when it begins.  No one is immune to this.  The reason why we have been off of Facebook for over 2 1/2 months now is because we are learning how to apply these safeguards to fulfill our purposes in the best way, so that we can be safe.  The General authorities have a vision of how technology is suppose to be used and I honor and sustain their vision.  We are one of three missions that are learning these safeguards right now.  Heavenly Father knew that I needed to come on a mission to learn these safeguards for technology because I didn't always manage my time wisely when I had an iPhone back home.  I would waste countless hours of social media when I could have been doing other productive activities like talking with my family, studying the Book of Mormon, pay even greater attention in classes, the list goes on and on.  As my wonderful mother who knows best would lovingly put it, "Stop being stuck on your blue faces."  I finally see what she saw!  But I am eternally grateful for these safeguards and how they have changed me for the better!

"We do not doubt, our mothers knew it." (Alma 57)

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, May 4, 2015

May 4, 2015 ~ Week 63 (Week 9 Mandarin 1st Ward) Pictures

The zone!  A few sisters.

May 4, 2015 ~ Week 63 (Week 9 Mandarin 1st Ward)

Sister Kloepfer and I have been really thinking about Mormon 9:21 a lot lately in correlation with planning to expect mighty miracles. We have learned that we cannot change the will of God, but we can change our circumstances and destiny through prayer. "Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth." We have been very specific in our prayers and faithfully asking God for specific miracles. 
1. We specifically prayed for a solid media referral. 1 week later, we received a solid media referral.
2. We specifically prayed to find someone in the paper towel section of Walmart to be baptized, and we found someone who committed to be baptized when they knew our message is true.
3. We specifically prayed that someone would call us back after we had given them a card with our phone number on it. Three hours later someone called and we answered a variety of questions that they had and said they cannot stop thinking about our Church.
4. We specifically prayed that someone would come up to us and say they wanted to be baptized. We followed up with an investigator who asked us to come back in a month and as we taught him he said that he might even want to be baptized before we even talked about it or asked him. And he came to Church on his own for the first time on Sunday. Everyone was so kind in taking him in and helping him understand the Book of Mormon and showing him around the building. Pray for Jesse!
Specific prayers bring specific blessings.

I'll just do quick mighty miracles:
1. Monday. We ran into the same cute family in Walmart that we did a few weeks ago in the very same exact spot. We gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon and she said she would call us. Three hours later she called us and we taught her about the Atonement. She said that Mormonism has been on her mind a lot lately. She lives in Julington Creek
2. Tuesday. We went to the Church to complete portal training and there were lawn workers out putting sod in. We talked with five of them about the First Vision and Book of Mormon, but only one received us. He is excited to read from the Book of Mormon and is looking forward to taking the discussion. He lives in Arlington.
3. Wednesday. We knock on an investigator's door to follow up and her friend comes outside. She is best friends with a member's daughter in our Ward and has always wanted a Book of Mormon but never received one from her friend. She is excited to take the missionary discussions and wants to be baptized. She lives in Mandarin 2nd.
4. Thursday. We were pulling into the Church at 10:10 to attend district meeting and we receive a text from Elder Francom saying that he and his companion won't be there until 11 so the time for district meeting completely changed. Wow. So we had an extra 1/2 hour to whatever we want. We left to go try a potential. We knocked on her home and her cleaning woman opened up. She was so excited to hear about Christ coming to America's that she about took the Book of Mormon from us. We promised her blessings and then she said that her roommate is looking for a church to go to. We received a referral from her. She lives in Orange Park 2nd.

As you can tell, this entire week we found people who do not live in our Ward boundaries and so they were all handed over to other missionaries. It has been a wonderful learning experience to understand that no matter where they live, they need the gospel. I also learned that with Sister Kloepfer and I called to be Sister Training Coordinators, we are strictly here to help all missionaries to succeed in their purposes to invite others to come unto Christ, which helps us to fulfill our purpose.

Elder Munns of the Seventy came to our Mission Leadership Council yesterday. Wow. Is all I have to say. He talked about becoming a consecrated missionary and how to help others become consecrated missionaries. But I wanted touch on something interesting that he said about testimonies. There are two types of testimonies. 
1. Sudden impact
2. Gradual
He gave an example for the two in relation to the Book of Mormon. He said that people that have a sudden impact testimony, read the Book of Mormon and after praying about it the Spirit just overcomes them instantly when they are praying or after they're done so that they have an experience they will never forget. For those who are gaining a gradual testimony over time, they read and pray about the Book of Mormon and it's not as huge of an experience but over time with reading and reading over and over again, the testimony grows and grows. I feel like I have had experiences both ways with the Book of Mormon. I know that what Elder Munns said is true!

I love mighty miracle May.

-Sister McCook