Monday, August 4, 2014

Last letter "All is Well"

Dad’s Note:  This is sadly the last letter from Lauren on her mission.  We leave tomorrow morning to pick her up and will return Friday night.  She will be speaking about her mission in our church meeting this Sunday, 12:30 p.m.  If you are receiving this letter, I am sure she would love to see you then.  The address is 655 Old Orchard Drive Danville, CA.  All are welcome.  I received a call yesterday from a woman who had just had a tour of the Winter Quarter Trail Center from Lauren.  The way Lauren gave the tour and what she shared touched this woman (and her husband) so much that they asked Lauren if she would give them her parents phone number so they could call us.  In that call, this dear woman just wept and her voice was hoarse from crying previously.  She said, “It was a privilege to be taught by an angel.  My husband and I both commented, that should either of us die, we would want a sweet assuring voice like hers to usher us from this world to the next.  We imagined she was a nurse....  She's simply has the hands and the heart and healers art.”  After the tour, and their thanking Lauren, Lauren asked if she could share a secret with them.  She then told them that “you were the last tour of my mission.”  I think that touched them.  They were in the parking lot when Lauren walked out for the last time and went to their car.  They told me they could tell it was weighing heavy on her.  They thanked me many times for Lauren and I thanked them for sharing that precious last moment of her mission with us.  

Letter written 8/4/14:

My heart is full of gratitude today, as i have thought about the many blessings the Lord has poured out upon me. The tears of joy have been flowing for the past 3 days ha, and i couldn't be happier. God is good, He is oh so good. I am so indebted to Him, and pray that i will always do His will.

I feel a bit like the pioneers did as they were here at Winter Quarters. They had just crossed the plains of Iowa for 4 longs months, and by the time they arrived here, they were exhausted. They experienced much hardship during this time - many of the Saints buried loved ones; many were terribly sick; all of them had very little food; they were ridiculed and beguiled because of their faith; they had to learn how to make the best of the situation they were in; they experienced harsh weather. But even amid all of their trials and hurt, they were the most faithful people that have ever walked this earth. They saw miracles every day. They praised their God every moment that they lived. They walked with angels. They were healed, and ALWAYS had enough to get by. The Lord loved His people, and looked after them every single moment of their journey. They sang; they danced; the served each other. They lived "after the manner of happiness".

The words to what is now my favorite hymn keep echoing through my mind, as now i too, like the pioneers have to leave all behind, once again, and go west. I pray that my faith can continue to be like theirs as they sang:

We'll find the place, which God for us prepared.
Far away, in the West
Where none shall come, to hurt or make afraid
With the just, we shall dwell.
We'll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our Lord and King
Above the rest, these words we'll tell
All is well, All is well.

My mission has healed me. I have seen miracles every day. i have walked beside angels, both on this earth and on the other side of the veil. I have laughed, sung, danced, and rejoiced in my King every single day. I have cried many tears, and even asked God, as Amy Porter did, "oh, how shall i ever go on?". But like Priscilla Evans, i "thought it was a beautiful way to go to Zion" and i wouldn't change one thing. I can testify with every thing that i am, that God lives. He lives! His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, IS our Savior and Redeemer! I owe everything to Him and know that He will continue to strengthen me through out the rest of my life. I know that this is HIS church, and ONLY true church on the face of the earth today. I know that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God and that he in fact restored Christ's church, along with bringing forth the Book of Mormon as another testament of our Savior. I know that the Book of Mormon is more than just the word of God; it is our life line. It is the road map to returning back to live with God again. I know that God has a plan for each of us - and that He loves us unconditionally. I pray that my life will be a gift to Him.

I have learned to love being obedient. I know that sacrifice truly does "bring forth the blessings of heaven". Charity NEVER faileth, and faith truly does bring about miracles.

Today i was reading the talk "Grateful in Any Circumstance" by Dieter F. Uchtdorf. I truly feel that my mission has taught me to be grateful ALWAYS. I hope that you all know how grateful i am for YOU, for blessing my life with prayers, thoughts, testimonies, and love. I can't thank you enough. But all my gratitude goes to my Heavenly Father, who has lifted me higher than i have ever been. I have felt His love more deeply and real then ever before in my life these past 18 months, and for that i am so thankful.

As i read President Uchtdorf's talk this morning, i was touched as well by his testimony about how we are eternal beings:

"In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face
the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.
Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of 
the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.
The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in 
mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the 
How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only 
everlasting beginnings."

I know that this mission has just helped me see who i truly am, a daughter of God, and an heir to His kingdom. I know now that the true beginning starts: a beginning to return to live with Him again.

This week has been miraculous, and exactly what i needed. It truly has been one of the best weeks of my mission. We saw so many miracles, including our investigator Bruce coming to church and bearing his testimony, teaching Chris and Girly about the temple and eternal families, have over 200 people come watch 17 miracles at the Trail Center for the Summer Fireside Series, being able to sing for the Joseph Smith Family Reunion, seeing so many people that i have grown to love on my mission. It has been glorious. 

I love you all! I love Nebraska: it truly is the Heartland of America, and i am leaving my whole heart here. I know that i have served to the very best of my ability, and that i can hold my head high as i have represented the Lord Jesus Christ every single day for 18 months. I wouldn't trade this time for anything.

All is well,

Sister Peterson

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Letters from July 21st & 28th

Here are the last 2 weeks of Lauren's letters:

Letter from July 21st, titled "3" (I am assuming this means 3 more letters)

Hello  again from Omaha!
It is a nice humid and blistering hot day here, and i couldnt be happier!

 Life as a missionary is so awesome. I was reading in Helaman 5 today, and i thought the words describing Nephi and Lehi totally explain how i feel: "and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory." The joy of sharing the gospel IS fully of glory, and i feel so privileged that the Lord has sent me "to declare the tidings of the conditions of repentance, which bringeth unto the power of the Redeemer, unto the salvation of their souls." This is HIS work. and, the Book of Mormon is true.
It was a wonderful week. It flew by! It was one of those weeks that we weren't completely sure how much time we would actually have in our area, so i questioned if we could actually accomplish the goals we set. Such terrible faith. BUT the Lord forgave me for my doubt, and we were able to reach all of the goals we set by wednesday! ha can you believe that? the Lord consecrates our time as we are diligent and  obedient. I am so grateful for His guiding hand and for the miraculous moments He lets me witness every day.
The greatest miracle:
- The Summer Fireside Series started on Friday, and i don't know if i have ever been so nervous in my life! haha it felt like i was throwing a party and then had to wait anxiously, biting my nails to see if any of my "friends" would come! Sister B and i worked so hard to put it all together, so when the time came for the actual event, i was so excited/nervous. Sister Hanks and i were scheduled to be on shift that night at the Trail Center, so we actually weren't able to attend the fireside (i don't know why we scheduled ourselves on that day! ha what were we thinking.. oh well. ha). BUT. A family came in to the trail center around 6:40 (the fireside started at 7) and so i honestly missed all of the rush. i think Heavenly Father knew that i needed a tour to calm my nerves. As we walked around the gallery, i took the family into the memorial room that looks out over the cemetery and the temple. As we walked in there, i literally began to weep. I had been praying that we would have a good turn out for the fireside, and that at least 20 people would come! (once again, "oh ye of little faith!") But as we stood in the memorial room, i was able to look out and see the entire parking lot filled with cars, the entire STREET lined with cars, and tons of people walking in to the Trail Center. Members brought their friends, missionaries brought investigators, and we ended up having over 100 people in attendance. It was such a miracle and success, and i will never forget the feeling of gratitude that encompassed me as i stood in the memorial room. Thankfully i was able  to bear testimony to the family of the Lord's hand in our lives, and so they didn't think my tears were crazy haha. But i KNOW that the Lord lives, and i know that He loves each of us individually. I am so thankful to be here.
Other wonderful miracles:
- John Lawrence (our recent convert) blessed the sacrament last week and this week! Last week he had to repeat the prayer 3 times, so afterwards he was really discouraged. I prayed all day yesterday that he would nail it.. and he totally did! My heart once again was so full as i sat in the congregation, realizing what change has come about in his life, and how he has totally embraced the gospel. I am so proud of him, but more importantly i am so thankful that the Lord has been strengthening John so that he can continue in the faith.
- We had interviews with President Weston this week, and they went great. i love that man. i laugh every time i remember how scared i was of him at the beginning of my mission! haha. i have just come to realize how he shows his love, and have felt that love as he has continued to serve us in the mission. He talked a lot about how the mission is pushing to have ALL member present lessons - whether we are finding or teaching investigators/less actives. It got my super pumped. i am excited to work more closely with the members in our ward. I have seen SO much progress in our ward since i have been there, and love that their focus is now on hastening the work. It is FUN doing missionary work, and even helping the members catch the vision as well.
- Sister Hanks and i trained in Trail Center Training this week on asking inspired questions. We had very little time to prepare the training, so i know that the Lord helped us immensely, as it went over really well. Since the training i have been praying and trying a lot harder to ask more questions as i give tours, and also teach lessons. I had probably the best tour of my mission after the training - and i know it was because i was able to seek the guidance of the spirit to ask certain questions. The tour i took was a darling little family from Boise Idaho. Their kids were so cute and well behaved, and the parents were totally open to the spirit and to talking. We ended up spending about 2 hours back in the gallery together, and i was able to learn so much from their Christ-like attitudes, and through their willingness to "seek first the kingdom of God". i was so impressed as they were telling me that they realized how worldly their family was getting, and how they recognized they weren't teaching their children the right things through their constant pursuit of "having the nicest this or that". They decided to make a "course-correction", and they moved away from the big city into a smaller, more humble town in the mountains of Idaho. They bore testimony to me of the difference it has made in their life, and how they know they were led by the spirit because it has saved their family/marriage. AH i want to be like them! talking with them made me so grateful for the many blessings that i have in my life, and i know that even greater blessings come as we prioritize - ALWAYS keeping the Lord as #1.
- We are teaching this part member family, where the dad is a less active and his girlfriend and son are not members. We ran into the son, bruce, a few days ago and asked him if he had ever prayed about being baptized. His mom is a wicken, and his dad is mormon, and so he has been trying to decide which route he wanted to take. he told us that he prays, but had never specifically prayed whether or not he should be baptized. we challenged him to do so, and told him we would follow up with him at our next meeting, which was yesterday. as we started the lesson, we prayed and i knew we needed to follow up with Bruce right then. I asked him if his mom knew about what he was praying about this week. He said that she didnt, and then turned to his mom and said, "Mom, i want to be baptized". Not only did it floor his mom, but it floored us! The spirit was so strong, and thankfully his mom was totally accepting and excited for her son. I know that as we follow up with those that we teach, that we are helping them utilize the atonement, and are helping them receive answers to their prayers. it was a total miracle.
- Lena is set to be baptized on Saturday! We are praying that all goes well, and that she passes her baptismal interview. Pray for her :)
- Chris is doing well! He went out of town for the weekend which set him back a little bit, but he is still pressing forward. he came to church yesterday and he LOVED it. he said it was the best meeting he has ever been to - which i would agree, it was ward conference and it was totally awesome. Chris made the comment this week that asking him to give up coffee is like asking him to give up food, ha so we are praying that he can have the strength to hand those addictions over to the Lord so he can enter into His kingdom.
- our returning member, Sue, is doing really well. We were able to do service for her this week and it was amazing to see how strong the spirit was in our lesson afterwards because of it. I know that service softens the hearts of those that we serve. She was much more willing to keep her commitment that we extended, and the whole atmosphere of her home changed. Not only does having a clean home make ALL the difference for the spirit, but also having a heart full of gratitude.
Now that i have rambled your ear off! my goodness hahaha. I guess my heart is just so grateful today for the blessing of the gospel. I love my Savior and i know that He lives. I know that happiness comes as we are obedient to the commandments that the Lord has set.
If you havent already, read this talk that President Uchtdorf gave at the Pioneer Day Celebration in Ogden. i may be a little biased because i have an obsession with the pioneers, ha, but seriously this is such an incredible talk! I LOVE these pioneers, and i too have learned so much from their optimism, hard work, and compassion. We have a big legacy to continue forward, and all i have to say is "bring it on!"

love you! The church is true!

Sister Peterson

Letter from July 28th titled "2" (I am assuming this means 2 more letters)

Hello from Nebraska!! 

I love this place. I love the people. i love the weather. I love the Trail Center. I love the pioneers. I love the temple across the street. What a joy to be here.

First things first:

-Happy Birthday to Mindy!!! I hope you had a wonderful day, because YOU are so wonderful! i love you and can't wait to see you!!!

-Congrats to Jessi/Will Bangerter: BEAUTIFUL baby! SO happy for you two!

Fun Fact:

-CLARK: Roy Helu's first cousin (and family) just moved into our ward from Sacramento. They are active members of the church! small world!

I am kind of at a loss of words this week, probably because the wheels in my brain are turning too fast! I have had such an incredible week, and i can't even believe that this next week is here. I am so thankful for the Lord's hand guiding and directing us each and every day, and i never get sick of the many miracles He pours out on us!

I had one of, if not THE best lesson of my mission this week.

A member in our ward, Sister Kortus, referred us to her friend, Brooke, a few weeks ago. They have been friends for quite some time, and have had many discussions about the gospel and religion in general. Sister Kortus was very anxious to have us meet her, and kept saying "if we do this right, Brooke will be golden". It was hard not to get too stressed out about having a perfect first lesson.. wanting it to be "just right". I know the Lord blessed us immensely. Sister Kortus invited Brooke over to her house, and we came over to have a first lesson. Sister Hanks and i had been at the Trail Center all morning, and then we served at the Clinic and so we didn't have a ton of time to prepare a lesson. But we prayed and felt like we needed to start very basic, and help Brooke just feel the spirit. I had Helaman 5:12 come into my head, and we decided that we would share that with her as well. 

So, we start the lesson, and everything was great. We were able to get to know Brooke, and understand her background a little bit better. It was SO awesome having Sister Kortus there, IN HER HOME, because she was able to bear SUCH powerful testimony of the blessings of the gospel in her own life and how it has blessed her family. I was able to then share Helaman 5:12, and bear testimony of how the gospel provides a solid foundation for our family, one that will stay strong no matter what life throws at it. As i was speaking, Brooke instantly started crying and said "is that what your church teaches? will the gospel teach me how i can have that type of foundation??" We all let out a resounding YES!! And were all in tears. We were able to point out to Brooke that she was feeling the spirit, and that He was aware of her and wants this for her and her family. Her husband passed away 10 years ago, and her kids are everything to her. She wants what is best for her kids, and she committed to being baptized :) It was such an incredible lesson, and i know it was not because of anything we said, but it was because the spirit touched Brooke's heart, and helped her feel of God's love. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to teach her. It was such a testimony to me of how missionary work is supposed to be, with members completely involved. 

We had another AMAZING miracles happen this week. We got a text from some elders who told us that they had received a call from a woman, named Heather, who was wanting to learn more. She had found the number in a Book of Mormon left at her house by a previous roommate. She is going through a difficult divorce, and so she found the Book of Mormon and decided to call. Well, the ward she lives in doesnt have sisters, and so the elders referred us to her. We were able to have an awesome first lesson with her, get in touch with the relief society president of the ward she belongs to, and she will be coming with us on tuesday to meet Heather! I know that the Lord is SO aware of His children.. There is no doubt in my mind that the gospel is HIS. He leads His children to the church when they are in need of help, peace, love.. and it is because it works! This IS CHRIST'S CHURCH!

This week we were able to go to the Temple! ah. it was so wonderful and peaceful... SO peaceful actually, ha that i found it extremely hard to stay awake! ha but it was seriously so great to be in the Lord's house. I have missed being there. Something that really stuck out to me as i was there was how the covenants we make in the temple are everlasting. They will apply to us forever - not just while on my mission, or even just in this life - but they will be covenants that will effect our eternities. And oh! how grateful i am for those covenants!

I had a really neat and sacred experience after the session, while in the celestial room. Sister Weston was there, giving hugs to all the missionaries and softly talking with each of us individually. When she came over to me, we both started crying and i felt so much love for her. She is so amazing, and has really been a "mom" for all of us missionaries since ours are far away! While i was talking to her, she was saying such sweet things, and i had an incredible moment where i saw the face of my REAL mom.. it reminded me of when Brigham Young was speaking in Nauvoo, and the whole audience saw and heard the voice of Joseph Smith.. i was looking at Sister Weston, and listening to her, but i was with my actualy mom! it is hard to describe, but it was one of the greatest tender mercies i have ever experienced, and i will forever hold it sacred. I am so grateful for the temple - i am so grateful that we can be a family for EVER. There is nothing more important to me than my family, and doing everything i can to make it back to live with our Heavenly Father again.. AS a family. What a blessing that will be!!

We had  a cool miracle this week as well as we went out on team-ups with our Bishop, Bishop Ostler. First of all, i love that man. I love his family even more - they remind me SO much of when our family were the ages of their kids: 2-14 ish age. They are hilarious and make me laugh so hard haha with their elementary school boy jokes. We had dinner with them on sunday and it made my life. But ANYWAY. ha. We went out with Bishop (he goes out with each set of missionaries once a month) and we visited a less active that sister Brough and i found, named Dennis. It was 8:55 when we got there, and so we really were just going to introduce Bishop to him. But, the opportunity was too precious to not teach! so we ended up having a lesson with him as well, even though we really needed to get home and get the car back to the other sisters. i prayed silently that the time would stop. I would say that we probably had about a 45 minute lesson with him, but when we got back into the car it was 9:15. there is NO way that the lesson was only 15 minutes. I KNOW that the Lord stopped the time for us! we were able to get home right on time. The Lord provides miracles for us each and every day if we just have the faith to ask Him.

We had a great lesson last night with our investigators Bruce and Christy. Bruce is set to be baptized in 3 weeks! Please pray for them. Christy's boyfriend is a member of the church, Jimmie, and as we talked last night about temple marriage and the sealing power, she completely softened. i know that she wants that for her family, so we are praying that she will have the faith to change. She told us last night the coolest thing though.. she said "there is no doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It is like how i know that my mom IS my mom, there is no questioning it. I know that Joseph Smith really had that vision". It was such a cool one liner! ha and i too know that Joseph Smith is a prophet!! so wonderful.

I could continue to talk forever.. haha i guess my stumped brain began to work! ha. But i love you all and i am so thankful for the gospel! We are so blessed. Yesterday at church, our recent convert John was talking with us before sacrament about how he wishes he would have had the knowledge of who God really was, earlier in his life. We had taught gospel principles about our Heavenly Father, and the discussion was so good. After he made that comment i said, "isn't the gospel amazing?" John stopped and then said, "ya.. but learning about it for the first time is even better". He has been blessing the sacrament every week, he has a calling, and is doing so great. it is pure joy to see him progress in the gospel.

Love you all! See you... :)

Sister Peterson

Picture: Dinner at the Ostler's house :)