Monday, January 25, 2016

My Birthday Week!

Hello to all! I had a great week here in Hampstead this last week:)  It was one that kept us busy and working, cold and hungry, but GOOD nonetheless.

First off, our investigator Ezzy got BAPTIZED!  We held the service on a youth activity night so that all the kids in the ward that were her age could come.  It was a really big turn out which was nice to see.  It really meant a lot to her family.  Sister Macrum and I got her a picture of the Raleigh temple and had everyone who attended sign the back.  We want her next goal to be going to the temple to do baptisms there.  And guess what? She got her temple recommend on Sunday after her confirmation:) (When she received the Holy Ghost.)  She was elated and couldn't stop beaming.  I think the highlight was when our Mission President showed up with his wife and daughter (who was here visiting) to see the baptism.  We were nervous, excited and more nervous and excited! It isn't everyday that your Mission President comes to your investigator's baptism!  He was thrilled and excited to be there.  He told our Bishop, "I knew that Sister Golden's name was good for something!  These two sisters are the best around!" It was cute.

Later on we went over to teach her what we call the 'new member lessons' or the lessons all over again just so she doesn't forget.  So we taught her #1 which is The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I Love teaching!  I have found that I thrive off of helping others to learn and gain a better understanding.  So as we were teaching,  Ezzy's older sister walked in the door from work,  she sat down and joined in on our lesson which actually turned into all of us teaching Ezzy's sister Monica.  After the lesson we asked Monica if we could continue to teach her about the church and allow her to learn just what her sister was learning and had learned.  SHE AGREED!  We don't teach just to baptize, in fact I look way beyond that benchmark.  We teach so that people can come unto Christ, take steps towards Him which includes baptism, so they can reach the goal of going to the temple to be sealed as a family forever.  The temple is different than the local church meetinghouse- it is the house of the Lord.  A place where we make sacred covenants, and receive eternal blessings.  And when families go there they can be bound together not only here on earth, but forever...we are bound eternally. (See Matthew18:18)

We had another great teaching opportunity with a young man named Charles.  He hasn't grown up in any one church and has a basic understanding of the Bible.  But he is so great.  We tracted into him (meaning we were knocking on doors and ran across him at home) and have had two really solid lessons with him since.  The one we had this week was the Plan of Salvation- which is God's plan for us to live happily and return to live with Him again; all based upon how we use and exercise our free will or agency.  He loved this lesson and what made it more great was the fact that we had it in his buddy's home who is a member of the church.  They have grown up together and have that bond.  So when Jake, his friend, shared his testimony it meant so much more to Charles because they have that connection of friendship already.  It was great.  Something that really stood out to him was the aspect that because of the Priesthood (or power and authority to act in God's name) we can be sealed to our families forever.  He recognized the difference between self proclaimed religious figures, and being called and ordained to do so by God.

Something I have come to notice is that God sends us to places NOT by accident.  Why do I say that?  Well when I started my mission in Jacksonville I thought I would never return to that place.  But little did I know that by being there it would actually affect my mission almost 13 months down the road.  When I was in Jacksonville as a Sister Training leader I had to go on exchanges with the Sisters in Hampstead for a period of 24 hours.  This is to ensure that the sisters are doing okay, that the work is moving forward, to be an example, and to encourage them.  So almost over a year ago I was in Hampstead a few times going around meeting the members, teaching investigators and knocking on doors.  There are two experiences from this week that I want to share- that proved to me that the beginning of my mission was meant to help me at the end of my mission.
   1.  We went tracting this weekend around 11am and it was COLD.  Like under freezing temperatures with 20 mph winds.  We were tough and layered up and it wasn't too, too bad. 
As we were knocking on the different trailers (I love trailer parks!) we weren't making much headway at first. The people were enjoying their Saturday morning and didn't want the cold air to enter into the trailer (reasonable right?).  We kept going and got to the end of one row and found a lady WAITING for us behind her glass door.  She opened it and asked if we wanted to come in.  (Of course we didn't decline!)  As we walked in I had a strange feeling, sort of like De-ja-vu but I didn't know why.  We started talking to this sweet mom named Caroline who opened up to us about her past life and how HARD and challenging it was...and it WAS.  When she started talking about her husband and family my mind took a flashback to a year ago when I was in Jacksonville but had to come to Hampstead on exchanges.  Sister Alldrege and I had come to THIS very trailer, knocked on HER door, and talked with her husband who was holding the kids that were now sitting before me.  Coincidence? I think not.  When we finished teaching her some of the first few points of the Restoration I told her that I had been here before...and asked her if this lesson was familiar.  She looked straight into my eyes and said, "Yes,  and I remember you.  My husband told me about you last time you came."  I could feel the spirit enter the room and I testified that God wanted her to know something.  And that something, was what we taught people for 18 months of our lives.  It was a sweet encounter. We can't wait to go back next weekend to see how things turn out.
   2.  In Jacksonville I remembered going around looking for less-active members that we weren't sure still actually lived at the address that was listed.  One man we went to go find had the last name of Moneymaker.  That isn't too common.  When we knocked on his door he opened and told us he was who we were looking for, but he didn't want us to come back by again. He was done with the church.  We respected his decision, took the note, and went on our way.  13 months later, as I am serving in Hampstead the name Moneymaker comes up again and I thought to myself, there is NO way there are two of those guys with the exact same first and last names!  We waited for church to start and I was keeping my eyes peeled for this, 'Moneymaker'.  I saw him- walking in with a white shirt on, sleeves rolled up to show his tattoos, gauges in both ears and a black vest on.  I marched straight over to him and said, "Are you ___ Moneymaker?"  He replied that he was...a little taken aback.  I continued, "Did you used to live in Jacksonville?"  Then he says, "Yes, and I remember you.  I told you to go away and not come back." Then he smiled sheepishly-this big burly man- and says, "Well, I'm sorry. But I'm back."  I patted him on his large marine-like deltoid and said, "The Lord wants you back and so do we."  And we went away and sat down again.  I love that we are placed in each others paths for a reason.  It may be just for that time, or it is because it will affect our life somewhere down the way, far into the future. 

Oh yeah and I almost forgot.  This week was also my Birthday!  A few members caught wind of it and we had some invites for lunch and dinner.  Well, at lunch it was a big feast- Cafe Rio style.  Then lemon cake.  Then we moved on to the dinner appointment.  Pork Pasole with tortillas and chocolate mint cake!  Then lastly we go to the Bullard's house (a family we are teaching) and they made us dinner and cake!  3 layer cake! Oh my gosh it was so sweet of them and they went out of their way to surprise me, so I couldn't decline.  Let me just tell you- I have never felt so fat nor full.... Woes of a mission I guess ;)

But the best part wasn't that.  It was teaching Mr. Bullard about the Plan of Salvation.  When we told him about the afterlife and the Kingdoms of Glory (see 1Cor. 15:39-41) he says, "Wow.  I like this. I love learning!"  He said he would come to church and listen to the next lesson we have next Sunday.  To say the least, it was a pretty great week. 

I love teaching, I love learning, I don't like the cold too much, but that is fine!  I hope you are enjoying where you are at and love the life you are leading :)
<3 Sister Golden

Monday, January 18, 2016

Setting Goals Leads to Success!

This week was FABULOUS!  Sister Macrum and I were able to see such success as we went out tracting and found new people to teach.  How did this happen you might say? Well, we covenanted with the Lord.  We set apart specific times to go knock on doors, and told the Lord our goals of what we wanted to accomplish.  And let me tell you, God is good.  We were able to find such solid investigators.  I feel so blessed.  One of the young men had a broken foot, a cast on it, and crutches, but still came out on the porch to sit and talk with us because we couldn't come inside.  He told us about all the plans he had recently made but fell through and then said he was turning 25 on the 24th of January and still felt directionless.  1. We have the same birthday so obviously we were meant to meet. 2. It is crazy how our lives happen and allow us to be in a certain place at a certain time.  We taught him about the Restoration of the gospel and gave him a Book of Mormon after teaching him about it.  He was genuinely excited!  Which made us excited!  He told us to come back the following week.  And that we will do!

Then we had an amazing lesson with this family of three.  David, his wife JJ and his daughter Kameryn are so, so sweet.  Our night had completely fallen crashed and burned. But we persevered and didn't stop working.  Because of that we were able to share the message of the Restoration with this family, and David and JJ told us that they were willing to do anything to be better parents for their daughter.  They warmed up to us right away and actually invited us to stay for dinner!  Which was a blessing because we didn't eat anything all night!

We had to get 3 new tires on our car this week.  Just time for it I guess. That took FOREVER.  So we made a bracket for our zone and assigned people to certain houses at Hogwarts...and this was at McDonalds. Ha:)

We had Zone training on Wednesday and I learned so much.  A photographer for the church also came and was capturing the action!

I got to go to Jacksonville again on exchanges and see more of the people I love. I am grateful for the second chance I was given to go there.  Otherwise I would have gone home with a bad taste in my mouth from my first experience there.  The Lord knows what we need and when :)

We went out to get Sushi with an investigator named Alecia and before we left her boyfriend had to show us his latest catches.  He had gotten 2 coons while out 'coon-hunting' and 2 beavers.  He was in the process of skinning them and had hung the 2 raccoons for us to see.  It was...lovely...haha! I laugh and the 'country-ness' of the folks down here.

Sunday we all went to Wilmington and watched a broadcast from a few General Authorities that was specifically for the South Eastern side of the country.  Our investigator Ezzy came and enjoyed it.  We were able to travel with the Bishop's family and had a lesson in his home after that, which was really special.  She is so excited to be baptized on Wednesday- it will be the activity for the youth that night.

I hope you have a great week! Love
Sister Golden :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

My last Zone Conference!

Sharing our testimonies!
Well this week was a whirlwind of emotion that is for sure!  I had to give my departing testimony at Zone Conference we had on Friday- and truly I never expected that day to come.  But it has! I will share with you some of what I said:
1.  My mission has helped me to develop Charity...and I have defined charity as a never ending search for someone else's happiness.  So therefore my mission for me has been a never ending search for someone else's happiness.  And because of my Savior, I am able to feel a greater understanding for everyone I meet.
2.  My reasons for coming on a mission have slowly changed over the course of these last 17 months.  I feel a sincere desire to help- lift- and support.  That has come through hours, tears, and sacrifice while on my mission.  As I have developed better study skills and tried to overcome some of my inadequacies I have felt Christ qualify me for the work I am doing.
3. I love my mission BECAUSE I love the Lord.
4. I didn't want to change on my mission.  Change scared me!  And little did I know that the only consistent thing on a mission IS change.  HA.  But I realize that it is more refining than it is change.  I am still the same old me, but better and more in-tune.  I have seen in myself the spark of a new person and I would never give that up.
5. Life is hard.  But Christ makes it possible...and it is oh so worth it. 
6.  "This isn't the best 18 months OF my life...but the best 18 months FOR my life."

So after that shocking experience and for the FIRST time realizing that my time here is running out....we had lunch. Okay! Moving on!

Sister James gave an instruction on 'healthy eating' and proceeded to make a healthy green smoothie in front of us all and gave us each a sample.  Then she brought in Kale chips she made and had everyone try them.  AND THEN she handed out a yellow piece of paper that said SISTER GOLDEN on it and there were several 'healthy recipes' I have compiled while on my mission.  She had heard from a few of my companions, and other missionary friends that I am a health fanatic and she asked me for these recipes.  Well, now everyone in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission has a copy of my recipes.  HA.

This week we had a lesson with a part member family in which the Bishop accompanied us to. We taught the restoration to the dad who is working towards being baptized and it went so smoothly.  The Bishop added great insight and was so spiritually in-tune.  I was glad he took the time out of his schedule and came to this lesson with us.  I am so grateful that we have leaders in the church who have authority and the priesthood to act in God's name.  These leaders truly make a difference in my life and I know that because we have the gospel here on the earth, we are blessed with revelation and insight from them.

I had to go on 4 exchanges this last week! It was crazy.  I went to Jacksonville and got to see a few of the members I grew to love! Oh it was so FUN!  I was sad to hear that people have moved, become less active, or don't talk with the missionaries.  But so is life. 
Jacksonville 3rd Ward

Jacksonville 2nd Ward
I was able to have a lesson with my convert Mellisa and talk to her about getting ready to go to the temple and get her patriarchal blessing.  I feel so privileged to be an instrument in God's hands...because Mellisa's life is SO different than what it was just a year ago.  She is still going, still loving the members of the church, and is involved. It made me SO happy.

Last night we were able to watch the Young adult broadcast given by Elder Nelson at BYU Hawaii with our investigator Ezzy.  It was a great broadcast and something that Elder Nelson said stuck with me, he said, "Listen with the intent to obey."  Do we listen to God- the prophet- our leaders- with the intention to apply and obey the counsel they give right away? Or do we take it as a nice little devotional, and get pumped up, but then go about our day.  I challenge you to heed promptly to the counsel we receive from the Lord and our Prophet.  Don't listen just to listen, but listen with the intent to obey.

"I hope this new year to come you make mistakes.  Because if you are making mistakes you are trying something new, learning, pushing yourself, changing the world.  You are doing things you have never done before and more importantly doing something.  Dare to make mistakes. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough or it isn't perfect.  Whatever it is you're scared of doing, DO IT.  Make your mistakes this new year and forever."  (A quote by Pres. James adapted and abridged from Neil Gaiman.)
Love, Sister Golden

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year!

HELLO from Hampstead.  This week was a busy one- but a good one nonetheless.

Last Monday we went to Wilmington to play some sports together with some missionary friends.  It was a well needed outlet!  We played soccer...but it was a small field and everyone was like, "Don't break Sister Golden again!"  I was sore the next day, but a good sore.

Then I was able to go on exchanges down to Jacksonville and the highlight of it was seeing my sweet convert Mellisa who was baptized just over a year ago!  I know that eternal relationships are built on missions!  In heaven it will be just one big party with everyone who loves each other :)
The Jacksonville Gang!

In between our appointments and meetings and other missionary duties we were able to find 5 new investigators and talk baptism with some of them.  In our area book we have records of people who used to take the missionary discussions but for some reason discontinued them.  We decided to try and go contact them since it has almost been a year or more for some of them.  There was a neat experience I will share.  We tried to contact this woman who had been interested in learning more about the gospel- and when we knocked on the door a middle aged man stepped outside, gave us a huge smile and said,"HELLO!"  He was quite enthusiastic.  Ha.  We told him we were looking for this woman..who turned out to be his mother, but she was in a care home now.  We continued talking with him about family, and other things he cared about.  We then transitioned into the gospel and our purpose as missionaries.  NOW,  I have NEVER had this response from anyone on my mission, but he said, " I would invite you in...but I have family in town." *I was used to that and almost expecting it* Then he goes, "Is there a time you can come back and teach me about what you believe? I really want to learn more!"  *SHOCK!*  Sister Macrum did a double take and I had to keep my voice even to show him that I wasn't extra-excited!  So we are planning on going back and teaching him this upcoming weekend! SO that was great!

Tuesday night we drove in our jammies to Wilmington to spend the night with the Sisters there.
Some kind of portable puff up bed!
The next day, Wednesday, Sister Muder and I had to wake up at 5am, get ready, pack up, and get a ride with the elders to Raleigh at 6am. We had to drive 2.5 hours to get there...I slept in the back and the poor elders had to stay alert the whole time.  The meeting was a Missionary leadership meeting and I had to give a thought, then we talked a lot about upcoming changes.  Such as not having transfer meetings anymore, and peoples departure dates getting pushed back by a week because the MTC time is going to be restored from 2 to 3 weeks now.   So yeah.  That was interesting.  We went out to dinner afterwards and took a long car ride home.  We saw a few fireworks that way for New years;) 

This week we had a really good lesson with our investigator Ezzy in a member's home.  She is so excited to be baptized she has a count down going.  When she said the closing prayer she prayed to God and said, "Thank you so much for sending these wonderful ladies to me.  I love them for teaching me more about you and making me feel like I belong."  It was so touching!  It makes me sad to think that there are some people who live without the gospel.  It brings so much joy and satisfaction.
Cookout with the local Baptists!

Billy making fried cornbread!
I am grateful for this time I have to forget myself for 18 months and serve other people.   I have been changed for the better and I want to continue blessing others as an instrument for the Lord.

Sister Golden