Monday, December 28, 2015

21st Birthday

Sacrament talk December 27th, 2015

Homecoming talk, December 27, 2015

Protecting our Testimonies
Testify about how you can explain better, using your own experiences.
Testimony verses conversion. 
One of the biggest things I noticed about the French people, and something I admired from them was their sure testimony of the principles of the gospel. It was something I learned from them. Every Sunday, they were completely dedicated to understanding the principles, before they let little things get in the way. 
I think far too often we let the little things get in the way of our faith and inhibit us from growing our testimonies. Over the last 18 months I was able to teach principles of the gospel every single day, something that at first seemed mundane, and frankly repetitive. I wanted more that, I wanted to understand more of the doctrine, we were missionaries, shouldn’t we study these things? 
So in my endeavors to do this I read the book Jesus the Christ. I realized very fast, you couldn’t have a testimony of the little things until you have a sure foundation of the principles of this gospel. I started asking more questions to myself, “Who is my savior?” “What is my relationship with him?” I kept doing this until finally I found myself begin to apply what we were teaching of the principles of this gospel. 
I believe protecting your testimony means more than making sure you don’t let something tear it down, but fighting to grow it. That is our purpose on this earth, to learn and GROW.  
Once you have a testimony of this gospel, well that’s amazing, but keep going. There is something else I learned. Once, you have started to apply these principles into your life, you have started on the road of conversion. That’s a life long road, of learning, and growing.
During a harder part of my mission my President gave a training at a conference for the missionaries, he talked a lot about missions and their hardships, the choices that others make, and more importantly our choices. He shared a talk by Elder Neil L. Anderson it says,
“Nearly 40 years ago as I contemplated the challenge of a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, “Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?” I believed in the Church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came: “You don’t know everything, but you know enough!” That reassurance gave me the courage to take the next step into the mission field.
Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon.”
We need to build our foundations upon the principles of the gospel, like Anderson states, and that starts with Christ. I have asked these rhetorical questions hundreds of times to members and investigators, and myself, now I would ask you, 
Who is Christ to you?
What can He do for you?
What are some goals you’d like to have for that relationship?
What kind of relationship do you think you have now with him?

As we ponder over the principles of the gospel and gain “enough” of an understanding of the principles of this gospel, God has promised us hope, and happiness ahead as we protect our testimonies. 

Anderson ends his talk with this quote,
“Challenges, difficulties, questions, doubts—these are part of our mortality. But we are not alone. As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have enormous spiritual reservoirs of light and truth available to us. Fear and faith cannot coexist in our hearts at the same time. In our days of difficulty, we choose the road of faith. Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.” 4

I pray that in our trials we may continue to protect our testimony, by choosing the road of faith. Having a sure foundation and testimony and staying on the path of conversion is the key to happiness. 

I would like to testify of something I learned these last 18 months. There was a point in my mission where I had never felt so depressed and sad in my life. I prayed a lot, and asked God, why? This doesn’t make sense. I’m supposed to be spreading eternal happiness how can I be so sad? Why is nobody accepting this message? I was trying my hardest, but I just never felt quite adequate for the situation. Over time I have realized why this had to happen, why the Lord had done this. He did not abandon me, instead, He loved me enough to break me down. As I was in my most vulnerable point trying to rebuild my foundation, and my faith, He was able to work with me, and I was finally humble enough to actually listen to what he wanted. Its like a clay mold that he breaks down enough to finally be able to work with, That is when I realized how happy missions can be. When you are humble enough to give all you have to the Lord, you start seeing more and more of the good in people. You want everyone around you to succeed, and see this happiness that you have found. I will testify, sometimes without the bitter sorrows we pass through, we cannot know the pure joy that comes from the gospel, and a testimony of Christ, and his atonement. 

I learned that to protect our testimonies we must be fully committed to daily prayer. 
One of the prayers that changed my life, and my faith was said when I was in Paris. I had read the scripture that morning Mark 11:24,  
24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 
I read that as a promise from the Lord. I knew that miracles existed, id seen many, and I was so frustrated with not being able to find any, I put all my faith on the line, and in that very sacred prayer, I told Heavenly Father I will do my absolute best to find someone today, and with that you have promised me I will. It was a miracle what happened that day. We went out, all morning, and late into the afternoon. We had contacted everyone, and nobody was interested, I looked at my companion, she was trying so hard as well. We sat down for a couple minutes, and talked about, well what if we cant find anyone. We had only a half hour left, I began to silently pray, I had put all of my belief and faith into this prayer, why was God not answering? A couple minutes went by and we got up and turned around headed to the bus stop that would take us back home. As we were about to cross the street to the stop, the bus pulled ahead of it. We waited, and then crossed, and as the bus pulled away there sitting on the bench was a woman. It hit me like lighting, that was Gods answer. She was who we were supposed to find that day. We ended up teaching her and she became our new investigator. Now, the story might not seem super cool, or exciting. But to me that day, I realized, God listens, when we ask in complete faith, he will answer. I was able to take this faith promoting experience and build on it the rest of my mission. Through this experiences I was able to recognize countless other miracles the Lord gave us. 

The only way I could have said this prayer with so much conviction was because of the scripture I had read. I have a firm belief that daily scripture study can keep you on the path of conversion. Before my mission one of my trials would be to read the scriptures for an entire hour everyday! Haha but, as I began to study the scriptures everyday little by little, I realized and hour was not long enough! Haha There was so much to learn. The Book of Mormon became more of a history book, with heros, and villians, and faith building examples. The New Testament was the story of Christ and his life, with amazing miracles that we can still see today. I promise you that the scriptures can be fascinating, and intriguing, if we allow them to be. 
We had this one investigator who was really struggling with daily scripture study, we taught about praying before and after to have the spirit as she read by herself, but whatever we tried, it was still a trial for her. So every Sunday we would go and read with her a scripture story. Step by step she began to see the good in reading, and apply what we had read. One day after reading the story about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, we asked if we could do some service by helping her set up her new dinning table, and as we were lifting the heavy top in place, she yells out, “Use the strength of Joseph!” haha But she listened and understood! Daily scripture study can be used in everyday life if we just apply it. Sincere study, can lead to a lasting change of which I saw in myself, companions, members, and investigators. 

The last thing I want to talk to you about is action. In the end we are the only ones responsible for our own faith, testimony, and conversion. We need to make our own choices to grow our testimonies. Gods greatest gifts to man were agency, and his Son Jesus Christ. They are completely free, and its our choice if we want to use his Atonement.
I’d like to read one last scripture Heleman 5:12
 12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. 
I pray and hope we all will continue to choose to protect our testimonies and stay on the path of conversion so like how it says in Heleman 5:12, when trials are placed before us, they will have no power over us, but instead we can be prepared and overcome whatever is thrown in our paths. 

Testify in French. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Report to High Council….

  This is a reminder that Sister Ashley Stevens has been asked to give a report of her mission to the High Council at 7:00 am tomorrow Sunday Dec 13th. Please come to the High Council room and I will come out and get you at the appropriate time. 
Chris Johnson               ****************************

Written by Mom ( Kirsten who was invited to listen), Nancy Moore was also in attendance.

The High Council asked Ashley some of the following questions:

Was there something significant you learned from your Mission President?

Ashley discussed how at a difficult time Pres. Babin called her and spoke of agency and that the people in France were making choices but Ashley had choices also. It was a very influential conversation regarding choosing happiness and the gospel.

Was there a companion that had a powerful impact on you as you served?

Ashley discussed that Soeur Simpson in the first 6 months had been there on a pivotal day. She was exhausted from the rejections and endless contacting that produced seemingly little to no result. One day Ashley had just had enough and said " I can't go, I can't keep doing this." It was at this point that Soeur Simpson told her to " put your shoes on". Ash expressed how life can be difficult and she'd learned that sometimes one needs to " put your shoes on" and forget yourself and remember your purpose as a missionary and later as a disciple of Christ and just carry on and that indeed things get better with perspective. 

Was there a time when you noticed the difference between testimony and conversion?

Ashley stated that about 6 months into the mission or earlier on,  she was having a difficult time. She really started praying and really digging into her scriptures. She started to put into action all the things she was teaching and apply the atonement and Christlike love. It was then that she felt the true conversion, of forgetting herself and focussing on others. 

Was there an experience you'd like to share?

Ashley shared about teaching in the very end of her mission and how gratifying it was to find someone and her friend to teach who truly were seeking a new knowledge. She felt very blessed but the experience. 

Ashley then bore her testimony in French and the spirit in the room was powerful. Everyone felt the strength  of her sweet testimony and months of service. Brother Pugmire raised his hand after her testimony and testified that he had inspiration that Ashley's work on the streets of France had indeed touched lives and made a difference.  I was asked to say a few words. I testified of the blessings that come to a family supporting a missionary and of her shining example in our family, and missionary work. Ashley and I both shook everyone's hands and she was congratulated on her successful completion of a mission well served. Later, Brother Jeff Moore told her she had really had an impact on all the men of the High Council that day with her testimony and report. 

Upside down Ashley in Ward Bulletin

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Home sweet home….

December 11, 2015
Coming home from my mission. 
Woke up in the mission home in Le Vesinet at 4:30am the Assistants picked us up in the  car it was Elder Lattin and Elder McBride. They took us directly to the airport where they parked and helped us in. We were already in line just for checkin and they had has interviewed etc... We payed for our second bag 85 euros, then it was on to security. So the assistants who held our carry ons while we were checking in said their last good byes and left. We waved them good bye until out of sight. We looked at eachother (Soeur Katherine Bell) and then we stepped across the line into what was the security hall. There was no going back now. We chatted our way accorss the airport excited to see the families again, and honestly be done with the mission, it was hard, and we were exausted. Then when it was my turn for security i went through the mechine but was wearing 3 layers which showed i had a lot of bulk, so the woman pulled me aside and I had to get patted down. But then soon enough we were on our way to the terminal. We had a little bit until boarding so I went to Paul and got some Pain au Chocolat for my family, dad had been requesting it for weeks. Then we went to a Relay store and I got some munchies, and water, and a last minute photo of the eiffel tower to use up my extra euros. We got to our gate and there was an african there who i totally think was a prince, we have a pic. Anyway the flight was uber long, but with soeur bell there it made it a lot easier. We talked a lot, I read my soeur book entries, and we made goals for ourselves. It was pretty fun. We watched some disney movies like Mulan, Pocohontas, and Inside Out. We were fed 3 meals, and tons of drinks. It was nice. We finally landed in Atlanta and it was pretty easy that we got through customs. They re took our luggage, and everything worked out easily. We then had about 2.5 hours together until our next flights. We went and ate at Chick-fil-a, it was sooooo good. Then we just kinda walked around the airport looking at stuff, I got to call my mom and tell her I had landed and was waiting for the next flight. Soeur Bells flight finally started to board. I still had another hour until boarding after hers. We said our goodbyes, and hugged one last time. I love her so much. Then I left I started walking really slowly, and got super lonely in all of 2 seconds, but the Lord provieds, right then an Elder walks out and we see eachother, and said hi and started talking. He was going home too from South America to Utah. We chatted for a bit, then finally my plane was boarding. I got on and I was sitting right next to this really nice older couple who were coming back from their carribian cruise. She was super sweet to me. The plane ride was a rough one though. The row behind us was crazy. The guy kept on asking for more drinks. The flight attendents were getting really frustrated. And the woman who was with him was just super rude. It was so long and I had no headphones, so i just watched some of the same disney films with no sound. Then the last two hours I just started getting super sick. We hit turbulance and it was rough. My stomach was already turning and my body was just incredibly tired after staying up for 24 hours straight. So I prayed harder than I have in a long time asking God to keep me together then I dont know how, but we landed. It was the greatest day of my life. I went immediately to the bathroom and had the runs. haha. Then I walked out, and there was my parents holding a big banner saying “welcome home ashley!” it was super cool. I hugged my parents and we all cried. We got my bags easily and headed out of the airport. We talked all the way along in the car, dad and mom got Jack in the box for dinner. We headed straight to the church where I got to meet the Stake President. He asked me a couple questions, then had my parents come in and we talked about the after shock of coming home, and what that could mean to me. How they could help keep me invlolved. He thanked me for my service, and then released me from my calling. I removed my plaque. I cried. 
Then pulled myself together said goodbye, and headed home. There awaited me Susan, Adam, and Casey. They came and gave me a good welcome home hug and we talked all about the mission. Then they left, and we went to bed. 

Spiritual side:
I made some short term goals on the plane, when I was with Soeur Bell. Just about keeping busy, and trying to fit in with everyone. 

I guess I know what my long term goals already are. Being who I am, and growing. Keeping my spirituality, and growing my testimony. Continuing to progress. I know how. I know I can do it. I know a lot more now, but I also realize there is a  world to discover. My long term goal is to remember the big picture. “be willing at any moment to sacrafice what you are for what you can become” 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Final Letter home and top three things learned in mission field!

Well this week was absolutely amazing. From beginning to end. I don't even know where to begin, but it was a lot of goodbyes. 
I'm not sure how to really write this email. It's been so long of this, that it still feels like normal life was a dream of the past, and the mission is forever. But I think it'll hit when I get on the plane. Oh man. I'm still battling the sinus infection. But I got a blessing and it's been getting much better. I hope all will work out. 
This week has been a real white knuckler to the end. Haha. We had tons of RDVs And got a baptismal date set with one of our Amis we've had since erickson and I. We actually got two new Amis from our Amis too haha it was just a crazy miracle week. And we had some super good mangez Vous with the members and Amis literally. His week was a dream. 
But, I'm super stoked to see you all soon, and everyone was like, oh next Sunday you'll be living in a different language! Haha NO! I like always having to speak another language, it's like a challenge that never ends! 
I guess for the last email of my mission I will share the top 3 things I learned while in the field:
  1. Jesus is the Christ. I learned a lot about the gospel, and missionary work, in the end I believe a mission is a Training center for life.  We learn and grow so much, and though the trials I learned who was there with me the whole time. I have a strong relationship with my Heavenly Father and Christ. Through experiences, and work, I have come to know with confidence this gospel is true.
  2. Communication with others. When times are hard, nobody can know you are frustrated, or sad if you don't tell them! It's your responsibility to act, and be Christlike, but share with others your feelings, hopes, and goals. They can't help you if you aren't open (that was something that took me a while to learn). Once you discuss in a loving manner what you are feeling, that's when problems can be solved, and relationships can grow. 
  3. We choose our own happiness. No matter the trials we are faced with, or the circumstances we are in, we can choose to be happy. There have been so many times I have wanted to be angry at others or myself for silly reasons. We can choose to be who we want to be. We have agency, the greatest gift God has given us, so why not use it wisely, and choose to do the right. Choose to be happy. Once I figured that out, life just became a whole lot easier. Remember the big picture, our president always quotes the general conference talk, "there are no endings, only eternal beginnings."
I can't wait to see you all in a couple days!

Some final pics with companions and friends

Sunday, December 6, 2015

                                Awe, the treats!!!

Good byes are never easy.

                                                They know how to appreciate Canada too!

                                                 Last Sunday with Angela!

Lord needs me at home now….

So I'm pretty sure I have a sinus infection. I love the tree, and
honestly, yes it's hard leaving, but I'm happy. I am just most excited
because I know the lord needs me to be home now, and I've learned a
lot, I can put that to use in other ways at home, and can continue to
develop them!
So stoked!
See you in 10 days, but I still have a whole week. So not to worry.

Second to last week on mission…..

We had our last soirée families with Soeur welter! She taught about faith. It went really well, and we played some games, but during the games I looked at my classes, and got to see my schedule! So that was cool.

We met up with a bunch of people and had some super good RDVs. To end it we celebrated Soeur welter a last night at our good old Macdo hang out. It was so fun, we laughed so hard, and just realized how much we love it here. We came home and helped Soeur welter pack, Tilby knocked out first at 11, then me at 11:30, then Kemp around 12:30and finally welter around 2. 

Got up and headed to Paris! We went directly to Gare de l'Est and had to drop off Soeur welter with the elders. I got to see one of the elders who was in the same MTC group as me, so that was cool to catch up. Then we went to le grand épicerie and we found some pumpkin purée which is like canned pumpkin because they didn't have any there. Sad. Anyways it was really fun Because the store is just super cool! I shared some iCloud photos. Then we got some baguette sandwiches and headed back to the train. We came and did splits with the members and had some RDVs. 

Woke up feeling like I inhaled chlorine water lol. But it stayed all day, and I sneezed a lot.. Dang! But we had 5 RDVs that day and some member splits it was crazy, we ran around Orleans all day long, I don't think we even ate, and at 8 we were all starving. So I was with Tilby coming back from a lesson and kemp was with another member, we were all meeting up and going to one last RDV. So it's the end of the month and we have like no money left, and nothing really fast to eat, so I'm on the phone with kemp and within the next couple days we have to pay for bus tickets, groceries, and dessert and rolls for the JA activity. Not knowing how to even buy the bus ticket to go to do service the next day in Montargis we were brainstorming, then while looking down praying I find a 5 euro bill behind a leaf! Ahhhhh the heavens opened! I couldn't believe it, I think in total I've found about 35 euros on the street from my entire mission. Just when I'm finally like, alright, Heavenly Father, I don't know how we're going to do this, but we really need your help... I find money! Haha so needless to say the tram ride home was me praising the heavens and I testify God answers prayers. We now had enough cash to get to Montargis and back! Whoop! Then I get a phone call from Soeur kemp because I told her what happened, well she told the story to the member, and the member was like, Ahhh you don't have enough? Then took Soeur kemp into the pizza parlor and bought us all pizza. :) I have to say life is good when the lord is on your side. 

Still super sick, my ears are hurting lots and I'm getting bloody noses. But we got up early and took the bus to Montargis, about a 2 hour bus ride to the east or Orleans to go do service on a boat. We spent the day there, and saying our last goodbyes to her. We cleaned out a back room with fleas and parasites. Em yes. Haha probably not super good for the lungs but we laughed. We then came back to the church running to make it on time to CDP. The meeting where all the leaders meet together. We had to present our missionary plan to the ward from president, it was about integrating our amis. 

Ok I'm thinking it's like a sinus infection, normally runny noses are not this painful. Haha I was utterly exhausted and it's kind like when you wake up and get ready and you are so tired you can't remember if it's last night or this morning haha. Anywho we had to start baking our rolls. So I made 60 rolls a pumpkin pie, and pumpkin squares (don't tell anyone it was me because I was super sick, but still made all the food lol) my comps planned out the next week while I did that. Then we went to the church and had a RDV with Vanessa. My best friend, haha. We started to set up for the JA activity. We have been planning it for 3 weeks now. Everyone came and brought something, and the theme was "Thanksgiving" lol. We played minute to win it games, the had a huge chicken (roasted) dinner with everything! It was so good! And did a spiritual lesson of what everyone is grateful for. We ended up having 7 investigators and 3 less actives come! That was huge! 

I'm literally about to give up and just stop trying to breath through my nose. Lol. I'm so done with it. We went to church and talked to the JAs who thanked us for the activity, they rated it within the top 3 best activities ever. So that was cool. And they had brought a bunch of friends that we talked with about the gospel. It was just an amazing night. Then the DMP asked if I would teach the lesson the 2nd hour because the normal teacher wasn't there. So I taught, "the signs of the second coming". Then it was the primary Sunday so we got to hear all of the little kids sing it was so cute! After church we had to go to the choir practice for the relief society. I don't know if I ever told you, but nobody in France knows how to play the piano. So I had to somewhat sight read half play while Soeur Tilby directed. Haha oh man. If that's the best you got, you can bet how good it was. But thank you mom for helping me learn to play the littlest bit on the piano, so I could at least read the notes. Lol. Then we went to our RDV with a less active family. Then we were invited to another JA activity at the penvernes, so we got dinner! Yay. It was super fun. I love this ward so much. They are so cool, and we are all just super good friends. It's so nice to have members that trust you, and help out in the missionary work. 

Things I learned:
Saline solution doesn't work as a decongestant haha. 
I broke my boots, fixed them, then the heel ripped apart. So, gel glue isn't the best shoe repair. 
Lucky charms in France costs $12.25 a box. 
Birds at the gare will eat out of your hand.
Hot chocolate made with soy milk is not my favorite. Though a baked apple is. 
We went over discussion methods (at a members house) to use when your married to avoid hurting each others feelings... Nailed it with companionship inventory. Hehe
I like mushrooms. It's official. 
I learned just a little bit more about patience and humility. Every day. 
I like being tired and sore knowing I did something awesome that day. 
My moms pumpkin bars are too popular among the French, and they will all hunt you down until you give them the recipe lol. 
I have way over 10 things to be greatful for, but I think something on top is Christmas trees 
Love you,
Soeur Stevens

Sent from my iPad