Monday, July 20, 2015

July 20, 2015 ~ Week 74 ~ (Week 8 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear Family and Friends,

Since day one of this transfer I have been asking myself and verbally expressing, "I just don't understand why all of this is happening!"  That would be because the miracles are abounding here.  Every day is something new and miraculous that I just can't explain adequately.

We had the most powerful lesson with our investigator James.  We had a member come with us because they are so valuable when they come to lessons.  At the end we had him give the closing prayer and invited him to pray about Joseph Smith being a prophet.  We invited him as well to sit quietly for 30 seconds at the end so that he can receive his answer by the Holy Ghost.  It was the most sincere, heartfelt prayer.  My confirmation of the prophet came, but not only that, he sat there for 5 minutes.  He was soaking up the Spirit.  We quietly waited for him to receive his answer.  When he looked up he had tears in his eyes.  We asked him what his experience was like and he said it was very touching, and he felt joy. So powerful.

We were also at a member's home teaching her a lesson and we asked her if she knew anyone that we could go and teach.  She gets right up and goes to talk with her friend in the kitchen and asks if he wants to learn about the gospel.  He comes right out and says, "I know who you are! When my car was broken down some Elders came and helped me and invited me to come to Church!  They gave me this card!"  Then he shows us the card and sure enough it had the Elders hand writing on it.  Then the member asks us for a Book of Mormon and she took it and gave it right to him.  I had never experienced something like this before!  So now he will be joining us when we come teach her the lessons.  Not only that but there is this 95 year old elderly lady who is being taken care of there and she can make anyone laugh just by talking and telling her stories.

Amelia's family is doing well!  It's amazing to see when a family embraces the gospel, the amount of changes for the better they experience.  We rejoiced as we discussed this last night. Amelia's parents talked about each other and all the amazing changes that have taken place within them.  It's a beautiful sight.

I find myself consistently studying for the Sisters in the Jax West Zone because I'm on trade offs for half the week every week and so I have about four days of studying for them.  I came across this verse as I was reading.  "And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things."  It is a simple yet marvelous scripture that when I read it, I thought, wow.  As often as I pray in my designated place is as often I will receive direction from God.  How reassuring that we do having a Heavenly Father that listens to every prayer.  And answers it according to His own time.

Love, Sister McCook

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

July 13, 2015 ~ Week 73 (Week 7 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear Family & Friends,

I learned a lot about what it means to create vision and establish vision for the area we are working in right now.  As inspired by Sister Anderson, who is one of the Sister Training Leaders that I go on tradeoffs with, she wanted to focus on establishing a vision for her area and so I had the opportunity to make that my goal as well in order to help her.  I studied on this focus for two days and found some beautiful insight that really clicked for both her and me.  A vision is the ability to think and plan for the future with wisdom.  In this case, wisdom coming from God.  I studied two Visions that prophets had and are recorded in the scriptures.  The first is Lehi's Vision recorded in the Book of Mormon and the second is Joseph Smith's First Vision. 

Joseph Smith had established vision from the time he set a goal to receive an answer to his question of which Church to join.  His plans were to study out each Church and then ask God through prayer.  He was only expecting an answer to his prayer when indeed Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him not only giving him his answer, but later on called him to be the Prophet to bring back the fullness of Jesus Christ's gospel and Church that had been lost for hundreds of years.  Not only that but he received the responsibility to translate the Book of Mormon.  A young boy asking a simple question, looking for a simple answer, had his vision expanded much more than he expected after he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Remarkable.

If you study 1 Nephi 8 you will see that the principles of establishing vision are similar to what Joseph Smith experienced.

Sister Anderson and I talked about trusting in the goals and plans that we have set and act in faith.  When we do that, our vision will be expanded because it is the implementation of those plans that make it an exercise of faith.

A neat miracle that we had yesterday during golden hour was that we were knocking doors and there was a hidden corner that we went down where there were 5 more houses.  We knocked on the first one and this man named John opened the door.  He wasn't open at first, but we shared a scripture with him and the Spirit testified to him because he completely changed.  He asked what the Book of Mormon was about and we told him and shared what it meant to us.  We then invited him to be baptized and after asking, he just stood there with his eyes glued on the Book of Mormon.  Scanning it for about 30 seconds of the longest silence, he looked up and said if he came to know if was true he would.  I know that he felt the power and worth of the Book of Mormon in those 30 seconds.  I had never seen that before.  We will be meeting with him on Friday.

As far as my new companion, Sister Clay is from Washington State and she has done a little bit of schooling at BYU Idaho.  She has been out on her mission for just under a year.  I have seen her grow in the mission since she has been 4 1/2 months out.  She works hard, and is determined to share her testimony of Jesus Christ wherever she goes.  It will be a great last transfer ending with her!

Love, Sister McCook

Monday, July 13, 2015

July 6, 2015 ~ Week 72 Pictures

Sister Linton and I before fireworks

My district 

July 6, 2015 ~ Week 72 Pictures



July 6, 2015 ~ Week 72 (Week 6 Whitehouse Ward)


Dear Family & Friends,

I began my week on Monday night after the work was finished for the day with a phone call from President Craig saying that we will be going on an open-ended trade off with a companionship in Orange Park.  So there we went, packing my bags like the speed of lightening and off we were.  It was a nice 30 minute drive into the Orange Park area.

I was able to serve with Sister Linton who was just finishing up her training.  I enjoyed that opportunity to serve with her and train her the final week.  I was with her all the way up until Saturday morning.  One of my favorite miracles that we had was on Friday.  We walked out of a member's home and noticed a woman watering her plants.  We found her name was Ida and we asked her if she has ever had an opportunity to learn about the Book of Mormon.  She said that she had but the interesting part is that she just moved from New York where she was given a Book of Mormon.  When she made the move, she couldn't find her Book of Mormon and has been searching for one ever since.  We had the member, Alice, standing there across the way share her testimony of the Book of Mormon with her neighbor friend Ida and Ida was very excited to ask questions to Alice as well as learn the restored gospel from us.  After this beautiful teaching moment, we talked with Alice and she mentioned that she couldn't believe that someone right across from her has been looking for a Book of Mormon for that long and she hadn't talked with her. That was an eye opener for me as well.  I wonder how many people that I lived by in Arizona were searching for the Book of Mormon and I just didn't talk with them.  I am looking forward to meeting them :)

I have gained a greater appreciation for technology this week as Sister Sandberg and I had to prepare a Mission Leadership Council training over the phone because we were on this long trade off.

Sister Sandberg and I were jumping for joy when we finally were able to be together again on the 4th of July.  What a happy day!  We spent the day teaching, doing service, finding people, and knocking doors. There really are a lot of wonderful people out here in the world that have their own story, and great beliefs and values of the gospel.

We had a ward activity that was suppose to be at the lake, but we were rained out so we enjoyed a BBQ inside the Church and afterwards when the rain calmed, we were able to enjoy fireworks.

I had a great insight in the Book of Mormon on Sunday reading in 1 Nephi 10 with the focus on helping others to repent.  As I read a verse towards the end, it talks about how "no unclean thing can dwell with God" who is our Father in Heaven.  I pondered and I thought about my relationship with my dad.  Both my parents are my inspirations and I love them.  I thought about what it would be like to not live with my dad again; it was a very sad feeling.  Now in context with the scripture, if we aren't repenting daily-choosing to change and become, then we cannot live with our Heavenly Father who created us.  That thought, too made me sad, but how grateful I am for a Savior who understands and will help us to change when we fall short.  It's one of Heavenly Father's expressions of love towards us His children.

Well, as you know tomorrow is transfers and I am sad to say that Sister Sandberg is leaving me to go be a trainer in the St. Johns Rivers area in Southern Jax.  We had so much fun together these past six weeks.  I learned a lot from her.  She relies on the Spirit for creativity, she establishes her purpose and invites EVERYONE to be baptized, she knows how to love others like the Savior, and she always, always puts others in front of herself.

I do know who my new companion is because I've been on two tradeoffs with her!  It is Sister Clay!! :) She will be my 10th and final companion in the mission field.
What a great 6 weeks to look forward to!

Love, Sister McCook

June 29, 2015 ~ Week 71 (Week 5 Whitehouse Ward)

Dear family & friends,

I wasn't in my area for the majority of the week, as I spent 2 days in the Timuquana area and 2 days in the Orange Park 2nd area.

But for the time that I did spend in my area, yesterday was a fantastic day as usual.  Amelia's family came to Church yesterday.  Amelia and her sister Fiona wanted me to sit in between them.  They were so reverent during sacrament meeting I was very impressed.  I was
simplifying the talks for Amelia so that she could understand them and Fiona, who is 7, was reading 1 Nephi 18 in the Book of Mormon.  All of the primary children got up to sing their two songs about their Daddy's for Father's Day.  Amelia and Fiona went up there as well and
sang the songs and did the expressions perfectly--the primary music leader told their mom what they were and they practiced and practiced at home.  It looked like they have known them for months.  They were adorable.

We also had a lesson in one of our member's home with Francesca who recently got baptized in May.  She just graduated and the lesson that we had coming from the Book of Mormon was so fun because it was a normal discussion with just us three young women talking about the gospel and insights we have while reading the Book of Mormon together.  Francesca also shared with us an analogy that she came up with while she was at youth conference, that I would like to share with you:
At youth conference, there were these lights that had a bowl shaped covering on them.  She noticed that there were a lot of bugs inside the bowl because they were attracted to the light. Very soon they figured out that the light was too hot. When they tried to crawl out, they
would slide back down only to try harder to climb up again in hopes to get out.  Sometimes a few would get to the top and then fly out.  She likened that to all of us as God's children and the influence of temptation that Satan has on us.  It's so true.  Sister Sandberg pointed out that the light bulb is false light (meaning it's not natural).  Once he tempts us and we give in, it's hard to get out.  But the happy part is that we all have the light of Christ, which allows us to know
good and evil.  We can choose our destiny.  What a blessing it is that we have that influence of knowing good and evil instead of blindly walking through life.  I thought this was neat.

I began reading the Book of Mormon again from the very beginning.  I was studying for a family we are teaching with the question in mind, 'What does the restored gospel do for my family?' to help them obtain a perspective.  I read the very first verse of 1 Nephi chapter 1.  I am going to put my parents in the spotlight for this one, as I did for the lesson that evening, but as I read what Nephi wrote, I began reflecting that my father and mother are my greatest teachers (physically present) in my life.  Because of the love and concern they felt for me, I have respected them and knew the high standards of living in the way of the gospel came from God. I had a desire to be
exactly obedient and honor them even if I fell short a few times.  They never forced me to do anything, or live a certain way, but rather showed me by their example that the greatest happiness that I can find in my life is by living the restore gospel.  And that is why I honor
them because now I see from living 2000 miles away on my own that the things they taught me from the beginning of my life have been written in my own heart.  Thank you mom and dad.

Love, Sister McCook

The quality of the picture is not too great, but that's Amelia's family!