Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Day Late in Accokeek

*Don't be alarmed...P-day is on Tuesday this week for the holiday:)

Dear family, 

     Christmas in the 'Keek was amazing! On Christmas Eve, a member took us to see some lights around the county. On Christmas day Sister Van Buskirk made yummy cinnamon rolls. I can't believe how much trouble she went to with stockings, decorations, and presents under the tree! She truly served us. I felt like I was at home:) Thank you everyone for your beautiful letters and gifts. We were able to meet with some less active families in the ward and I think we were fed five times. I love Christmas:)

     I dislike the few days after Christmas because no one wants to meet with us. We went three days straight without a single lesson! Most potentials and investigators told us to wait until after New Years. Hopefully things will pick up again on Thursday when school is back in session!

     Transfer calls were Sunday and Sister Olsen and I are both staying in Accokeek! However, Sister Olsen has been out for seven months now and her Visa to Brazil should be here any second. I'm not sure what will happen to me when it comes, but it's highly unlikely that she'll make it to the end of this transfer. Exciting things are going to happen in this ward during the next six weeks!

     Tonya is on date to be baptized, and she is committed! As always, please pray for her! I feel like we're finally making headway because she's sharing her doctrinal concerns with us. She's asking more questions! Yay!

     Kayla isn't on date yet, but she wants to be! We've started taking her with us to dinner appointments. She's making lots of friends in the ward, and now we want to help her understand the spiritual importance of this commitment.

     The Fisher family was handed to us by the Elders because the family has a teenage daughter. We taught them for the first time last Thursday and it went really well! They're ready to be baptized, but they want to do it together as a family. They are more active than some members!!

*Now I thought I'd share a little more about Virginia:

     In the South, people want to give you water. We are offered water at every single house! And sometimes they just give us water without us asking. Here's the cute part: they never give water in a cup with ice. The people here keep water bottles, usually Deer Park brand, so they can give them out. We normally pick up two or three bottles a day. The back of our car is stuffed with them! We throw out SO MANY WATER BOTTLES.

     The names here. And not just the black people! I've met a white Danesha. I've met a Kanesha, and a Tanesha. JayQuan, DeVaughn, Kiondre, Shantay, Tasia, Niedra, Tyrone, Latrice, Asan, Veinza, Kanenye. Seriously!

     Anyway... I have a friend who was ET'd home because of depression so I thought I'd address that a little bit. She wrote me asking about how I deal with depression on the mission. I believe there's a relationship between the way I think and act about things, and the way I feel.

     I've struggled with depression for nearly 10 years now. Sometimes I get stuck in thinking that I can't ever get out of it--that depression will always be a part of my life. My favorite miracle in the New Testament is the woman with the issue of blood. Even after 12 years, she believed that she could be healed. I fully believe that I can be healed, and my mission is helping me. God has given me so many opportunities to learn. I'm trying to be the best student I can be:)

     In addition to her faith, the woman was healed by the grace and Atonement of Jesus Christ. He said that virtue had left him when she touched his robe. She was healed by his strength and purity. I love Moroni 8:26--when we offer up a broken heart, we've opened up space for God to fill our hearts with love and hope. That's sanctification.

     I had a nightmare the other night that my mission ended, and it was time for me to go home. I was so disappointed in myself...I haven't grown as much as I want to and I haven't learned all that I need to. Learning won't come by time, but it does take time. (See: Pres. Eyring's "Mountains to Climb.") There are things that I need to do every single day to overcome this. 

     I know that for me the hardest part of each day is when I first wake up and when I leave the apartment after morning studies. Instead of thinking about them as being difficult, I focus on what I'm grateful for, why I'm serving a mission, and what my opportunities are that day. I have to do this every single day!! 

*As part of my new year's goals, these are things that I want to do to be healed:

-Focus on a Christlike attribute each month (reminder: January is knowledge!)
-Read Jesus the Christ twice to learn more about His life
-Read one chapter from the Book of Mormon every day
-Read my Patriarchal Blessing every day to understand my purpose in life
-Always speak highly of myself and others
-Keep a daily gratitude journal

     Small and simple.

I'd also like to invite my family and friends to read the Book of Mormon with me:) I figured out that if we read one chapter a day, we can almost read it twice before I get home! I'm starting tomorrow, January 1st

     So...that's what I'm doing to deal with depression on my mission. It really is just that--doing. So many things act upon us, and all we can do is act. My feelings can't change unless my thoughts and actions do first. And as my family saw during our Christmas Skype session, I'm a happy little Sister:)

     I love you all dearly. Please be happy and safe:) I appreciate all of your love and prayers and support.

Love, Sister Sarah "Rahrah" Crandall:)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yet Another Week in the 'Keek!

Dear beloved ones,

     Tuesday was my half birthday and all of the missionaries met in Richmond (Henrico/Short Pump) to celebrate me....okay, for the Christmas Mission Conference. People gave short talks on attributes of Christ and there were a billion musical numbers. It took over an hour to feed all 250 missionaries, and then the meeting resumed. We had two investigators drive us there and back. On the way home, I just slept in the car because I was exhausted! Sister Olsen and I sang in a group of Sisters and then she played piano for a group of Elders. (I helped turn the pages!)

     At the Conference, the Area Authority Elder Lansing spoke about the decade of decisions. He said that our missions will help us prepare to make important decisions in the future. It hit me really hard that I will hit 20 next June! I remember my 10th birthday! #camptensalotofhaha. My life has changed so much since then, and I can't imagine how different I'll be when I turn 30. I hope that in 10 years the habits I'm building now will pay off!

     On Thursday we went on 24 hour exchanges with the Sister Training Leaders and I was with Sister Stowell. Sister Olsen and Sister George stayed in Accokeek, while Sister Stowell and I worked in the STL's ward, which is Rappahannock YSA. (The ward names here are really cool!) We taught a lesson to a recent convert, helped prepare some things for the Zone activity, had dinner, and delivered gifts to less actives. In the morning we trained on key indicators and making and keeping goals. She helped me begin my own personal constitution! It's still in the works, but I plan on sending it to Dad when I finish so he can help me edit it.
Kayla!!! She came with us to dinner at the RS President's home. We talked about Prophets and gave her a conference address from President Monson. On the drive home, she told us that she wants to be baptized!!!! I AM SO HAPPY!

     We also had a few sad moments with saying goodbye to Christy and Alex. I hope that they'll be receptive to missionaries when they return late January/early February! I made Christy pinky-promise to meet with Sisters:) Transfer calls are Sunday the 29th, so I guess I'll find out whether or not I'll be here for that!

     Stafford is a suburb, so they're aren't a lot of centralized locations for street contacting. In other areas, like Richmond and Fredericksburg, missionaries do "walk and talk" on Saturday afternoons. They spend a few hours walking around parks and busy streets trying to meet people. Sister Olsen and I decided to try it in the middle of the Aventine Apartments complex. It was really successful! We met a few potential investigators for ourselves, for the YSA Sisters, and for the Hermanas! It definitely helped that it was 75 degrees outside! It's about 60 today, but it's raining like crazy.

     Sunday was the fabulous Accokeek Ward Christmas Service! Sister Olsen and I sang in the choir and it was a lot of fun. The conductor, Sister Fellows, is AMAZING! Her husband died a few years ago (similar situation to Katherine Adams) and she has the faith to move mountains. And the voice of Karen Carpenter. (It doesn't sound like Karen's, but it's that good.) We sang "O Come O Come Emmanuel" which is now one of my favorites:)

     I love you all more than words:) Thank you for all of your letters and emails! I got the sweetest card from Grandma Kelsey this week! Shout out to the Nephites! Also, I forgot to mention last week: Congratulations to one of my best friends, Jenna Marsden, for getting married in the Manti Temple!!! Her sister Kim was also married about a week later:) I'm super happy for both of them! What beautiful ladies:)
     President Monson said, "This joyful season brings to all of us a measure of happiness that corresponds to the degree to which we have turned our minds, feelings, and actions to the Savior, whose birth we celebrate."

     I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior! I know that we celebrate His birth because of His life. Christ lived a perfect life and performed a perfect Atonement so that we could return to live with our Father and to live like our Father. God has a plan for our lives. He loves us so much that He gave us His Son! I know that if we spend our Christmas truly celebrating Christ, then we will come to understand His grace and love for us. I'm grateful for the opportunity I've been blessed with to share His love with His children. I miss my family, but I have so much family here, too! The good news of the Gospel is that Christ lives still.

Merry Christmas!

Love, Sister Crandall

Monday, December 16, 2013

This Little Sister Loves Stafford!

Dear family that I love,

     I've begun working on my own set of scriptures--The Book of Sarah. Here's what I've come up with so far:

*Chapter One
1. If thou art in my immediate family, including the husband of Lindsay, thou shalt write me an email every Sunday evening.
2. If ye love me, keep my commandments.
3. My half birthday is tomorrow and I'm looking forward to the bounteous supply of letters you have sent me.

     What do you think?:)

Anyway, speaking of scriptures...

     Mine died. Remember how my back died a few weeks ago? Well my scriptures died this week. I would rather break my back ten times over. Thursday morning, I discovered that one of the Van Buskirk's dogs had peed in my purse. My planner was ruined, and my scriptures were soiled. They're not completely ruined, but they're icky enough that I don't want to use them anymore. The Old Testament is most affected. It leaked through most of the New Testament. I cried a lot :( Fortunately the purse was fine after I put it through the wash and air dried it.

     I know you already sent my Christmas package...but I need new scriptures. First preference is a new set, since mine are only 6 months old. (And I poured my heart and soul into them.) Second preference is one of Dad's old sets that he's marked up. And third is my seminary scriptures. The markings are messy and inconsistent, but they'll do the job. I'm really depressed about this entire situation :( Also, if you can't send them immediately, that's fine. I can use mine still, and I do in the mornings, but I prefer to not carry them with me throughout the day anymore. 

*Here's a funnier, happier story:

     On Wednesday, Sister Olsen and I met with the Accokeek Elders to exchange some paper work about former investigators. Afterwards we met with a less active. It was time to go to the Aquia Church for the free dinner service we do each week, but we really needed to use the bathroom first. We didn't have time (or the miles) to stop by home. The closest member was the Hoole family, who we had Thanksgiving dinner with. We stopped by and Brother Hoole let us in. Then he said, "the Elders are here for dinner!" I was pretty embarrassed. The Elders thought it was funny and they teased us a bit;) I love this ward. Also, interestingly enough, Brother Hoole served in the Richmond Mission! He knew the Elder that was shot and killed a few years ago. He went home a couple months before it happened. (Robert's brother was companions with the Elder when he was killed.)

     Sister Olsen and I divided the ward boundaries into 10 smaller areas. Area 5 is one of the most difficult areas. There are no former investigators and not a lot of ward members there. The area is fairly affluent, and normally wealthier people are less interested in the Gospel. We did a two hour exchange with the Sister Training Leaders and I brought Sister Stowell tracting with me in area 5. We found 4 potentials! That's amazing! The field really is white:)

     There are a few people in the ward preparing to go to the temple. Sister Olsen and I decided to visit some of them to encourage and uplift them. One is a convert of about 10 years and a single mom. We also met with a young wife. Her husband is a convert and they're going to be sealed in January. I love talking about the temple! What an amazing experience they have in store:) Everyone, please go to the temple as often as possible. I really miss being able to go every week. Mommy and Dad can we please go to the DC temple in 15 months??

     We've been doing a lot of work in the ward. We send a report to the Bishop each week about our investigators and about the TLC/less-active members in the ward that we visit. Bishop Carver seems to really like us:) I love Accokeek.

     About our investigators...Tonya is on date again! Please pray for her always. Alex...Do you remember how my most recent ex-boyfriend broke up with me? He sent me a text that was meant for someone else. Sister Olsen and I had a similar situation with Alex last night. He's leaving for his home country this week and we might not be here when he gets back. This hurts more than my break-up...Kayla is wonderful--you can read more about her below. Christy is going out of state for a month. (Why are all of our investigators leaving??) Rick is slowly progressing, and now his girlfriend is on board! I love these people so much!!! We have about 12 or 13 investigators, 4 or 5 of whom are progressing. 

     I had a pretty big faith-building experience this past week. Thursday was a difficult day, beginning with my scriptures being peed on. That evening, we tracted a bit. One man opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. His first word were: "You are deceived." He went on to recite anti material. He would give us a Bible verse and then ask us to quote it by memory. When we told him we couldn't, he said it was because we don't believe in the Bible. He asked if he was going to hell, and we said no. Then he said that we were going to hell and that the Book of Mormon was leading millions of people to hell. He interrupted everything Sister Olsen and I tried to say. All we could do was shake his hand, bear testimony, and leave as fast as we could.

     I felt incredibly vulnerable. The second he began speaking, I felt the Holy Ghost leave me. I've never been so sensitive to the Spirit as I am now. Especially after receiving my endowment, which includes a fulness of the Holy Ghost. Because he doesn't have this gift, he can't perceive the loss of the Holy Ghost. My faith was strengthened because this man taught me what it feels like to lose the Spirit. I will do everything in my power to have Him with me at all times!

     It was almost dinner, so Sister Olsen and I went home immediately after speaking with the man. We walked into our room and I began reciting the Young Women's theme. I am a daughter of Heavenly Father who loves me and I love Him! I'm so grateful for the relationship I have with my Father and for all of the blessings He has bestowed on me.

     That night when we met with Kayla, the 18 year old, we gave her the Personal Progress book and invited her to begin working on it. We talked about how Personal Progress will help her understand her divine role as a daughter of God. It is a powerful program!

     Anyway, I wanted to tie this in to my discussion on faith. The man kept saying things like we are saved by grace alone. In the New Testament, it says that we are saved by grace THROUGH faith. Here's what I've come up with about faith:

     President Wilson said, "faith describes our relationship with deity."
-Consecration is a direct result of faith
-Build faith by bearing testimony in my prayers
-Reread all of the Conference addresses to increase my faith in the latter-day prophets
-Be confident that God loves me
-God is perfect, so we can be confident in Him!
-Blessings and miracles come after faith (See Hebrews 11 and Ether 12)
-"Faith must be centered in Jesus Christ to produce salvation."
-Faith comes by righteousness
-BD: Effects of faith are 1. know my life is on track 2. blessings 3. assurance of personal salvation
-"If you desire to enrich your faith to the highest possible degree, you must keep the covenants you have made." TttF
-"Looking forward to the fruit thereof" Alma 32 (faith is pointed to the future)
-Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, which are true...the truth sets us free! Faith is freedom!
     I hope this helps your study of faith! I'm about half-way through reading the Conference addresses, and I really enjoyed President Packer's. I feel like I always get a lot more out of his after rereading it. 

     I love studying one of the Christlike attributes each month. I feel like the experiences I have always help me develop the quality more fully. I'd love to hear from each of you about your learning experiences!

     I wanted to close with something very sweet I received in the mail from Grandma Crandall! She sent a program from my baptismal services. It's been 11 1/2 years since I was baptized! I didn't know those programs were still in circulation;) She said she's been holding on to it for a time like this, so that I could remember how quickly time moves. I'm grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary right now. It's one of those hard-every-day kind of things, but I love being here. My capacity to love and serve has grown and I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of what Spirit Paradise will feel like. 

     I love my family so dearly, and I look forward to being able to speak with all of you next week! (Details will be sent to Dad.)

Love, Sister Sarah Crandall

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow Storm in Stafford???

36 Bags of Leaves... 2 Hours of Service!
      My back is much better! I've begun exercising regularly in the morning and I can perform missionary work as normal. I strained it a bit while raking leaves, so I just need to be careful about the activities I'm involved in. I'm a happy little sister! :)

*To the family I love more than anything:

     For P-day last week, Sister Olsen and I visited the Aquia church! It was formed in 1680, and the building was completed in the 1750's. There was a huge cemetery out back with graves over 250 years old! Stafford County itself celebrates 350 years in 2014. I learned a few more things about Stafford this past week. George Washington's childhood home was in Stafford, and this is where Pocahontas lived! So when you watch Pocahontas and she's running through the woods, that's where I live! I love this place :)

     On Wednesday we had a seven hour Zone Conference in Fredericksburg. I loved a comment made by Sister Wilson, the President's wife. She said that even though we were excited to begin our missions, we knew it was going to be hard. She said that submitting papers is almost like signing up for an 18-month or 2-year trial. My mission is difficult every single day. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done, and it's also hard work. If I can learn to endure cheerfully, then I'll be prepared to face any challenge in the future. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to spend 18 months in the refiner's fire! Can you believe it's been 2 1/2 already??

     A new rule from Salt Lake is that Elders and Sisters can't drive each other. The Elders took our car to the Zone Conference and we got a ride with Sister Van Buskirk. The Zone Leaders, our District Leader, and one of the Garrisonville Elders dropped off our car at Aquia's Table, where we serve at the Episcopalian Church each week. They came inside to give us the keys and the parishioners offered them dinner. The women of the Episcopalian Church are so fun! They really like us, and it's one of my favorite activities we do each week. They teased the Elders non-stop. Panera Bread donates food to the Aquia Church and so the parishioners gave all of the extra bread and desserts to the Elders. It was really funny :) Also...when we got our car back, they had eaten Sister Olsen's granola bar and left crumbs on her seat! Elders...

     This past week, the Young Women in the ward took cookies to our investigators! It was so thoughtful! When we called Kayla the next day (she's the 18 year old), she was so excited! And because of it she decided to go to the Christmas party. I love the Young Women of this ward.

     We had 5 investigators come to the Christmas party yesterday! Kayla was stolen by the Young Women and spent most of it with them. I'm so happy she's made friends in the church :) Two other couples came. They served finger foods, had a music program, and then we watched Mr. Kruger's Christmas. Which is my new favorite movie besides Tangled and Pride & Prejudice.

*Here's a story from the week that will make Dad roll his eyes and say "that's great..." :

     Penny is the Van Buskirk's dachshund that pees a lot. She was sitting on my bed during morning studies. Then Sister Olsen called to Penny and she jumped over to her bed. Then I called her back. Then Sister Olsen called her. We decided to do this over and over again, as fast as we could. Whoever's bed she peed on lost. Penny probably jumped across the divide at least 10 times before peeing on my bed. Sister Olsen and I started crying from laughing so hard:)

     We had a great experience with an investigator this past week. We started talking a little bit about Mormon culture. She said that when she was growing up, her neighbors were Mormon and they didn't eat chocolate or any desserts or drink soda. She said that when she started meeting with us, she knew she was going to need to throw out a lot of the treats in her kitchen. We explained that she could still eat chocolate and drink Coke. I love that she's already decided that she's going to be a member!! I haven't written that much about her because she's taking the lessons pretty slowly, but she's progressing and I really think she'll be baptized in the future! So happy.

     Alex? Not so happy :( Lindsay called it "divine discontent." He came across some anti and has decided that he will not be baptized. He still came to church and we're going to continue meeting with him until he leaves. (Alex is going to his home country for 30 days right before Christmas.) He believes in the Book of Mormon, but is struggling with his testimony of Joseph Smith. Needless to say, there was some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part at home that night. I love Alex so much and pray that he will someday understand.

     As you likely saw in the leaves picture, it was very warm Thursday! Over 70 degrees outside! It always gets really warm before a storm comes. In Ward Council on Sunday, the Bishop announced that church was going to be canceled after Sacrament Meeting. The only reason he wasn't canceling Sacrament was because it was too late to notify the ward and Sister Olsen and I were speaking. I thought he was kidding. It was a little windy outside, and it looked like rain, but it was nothing like a Utah blizzard.

     Sister Olsen and I spoke, of course, on missionary work. I focused on having courage to share the message. Most people don't share the Gospel because of fear. In 2 Timothy 1:7 (Sister Miller's favorite verse!) we learn that feelings of fear don't come from God. Our ward was about 2/3rds normal size because of the weather, but at least Alex made it! And a less active family we've been meeting with.

     After Sacrament Meeting, our Bishop told us that we needed to park our car at home and not drive for the rest of the day. Then we got a text from our Zone Leaders with the same advice. The snow in Virginia is different from snow in Utah. It was more like ice rain than powder. It wasn't sticking to the ground and the roads weren't too bad. I've lived in Utah almost all my life. I've seen snow to my waist and blizzards where you can't see more than two yards ahead. I have never seen school or church canceled because of weather! We spent the afternoon studying and setting up the Christmas tree. (Sister Van Buskirk bought a live tree for us!!!)

     Today, there's some power outage in North Stafford and all the schools are closed. Fortunately the Van Buskirks have power! Sister Van Buskirk offered to take us on to base today (Marines - Quantico) to do some grocery shopping. The temperatures aren't too bad, and I heard they won't go much lower than 30 for the entire winter. I do miss Utah powder, though, and I never thought I'd ever feel that way!

I love my family so much!  Love, Sister Crandall

*P.S. This is Esperanza! A woman from the ward we would visit often. She spoke very little English but refused to go to the Spanish Branch. We taught her how to pray in English. She kept saying things like, "Dear Gosh" or "Gosh bless you!" So cute :) She's from Lima, Peru and has since moved to Florida with her daughter and son-in-law.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Happy Week in Accokeek!

Two Happy Sister Missionaries!
      Mom, please see Moroni 9:25, and insert "mom" for "son." <3 My back is feeling so much better! The first few days after my accident were painful. It hurt to sit for too long and I was exhausted every night. I feel almost back to normal now! Sitting at church yesterday hurt a bit and I have to be careful with stretching and exercising in the morning. I'm probably not going to see a doctor (sorry) because I'm too busy inviting others to come unto Christ (not sorry). I love my family so much! Thank you for the prayers and support!

Sister Crandall
Sister Olsen
     Last Monday, Sister Olsen and I went Christmas sweater shopping. Mine is atrocious. I will send pictures when we get closer to the holiday!:) We also bought some super cute matching boots! Picture attached. It was perfect timing, too, because it ice rained on Tuesday. The weather here has been so much warmer than I expected! It's normally between 30 and 50, and we have yet to see snow. The wool socks that Lindsay sent me have also worked wonders! I purchased a coat and it keeps me warm and snuggly!

     On Wednesday, we helped out at the Episcopalian Church like we do every week. It's a lot of fun and the parishioners are so good to us. One woman said, "I have a question for you, and I don't want to be offensive..." I quickly said, "No, we're not polygamists!!" She laughed so hard! She was actually wondering if we ride bikes while wearing our skirts. We do not:) We have a car. Our poor Elders ride bikes on 610 and the 1 (Jefferson Davis) and I am NOT okay with it. Anyway, the Aquia Church is one of the oldest churches in Colonial America and Sister Olsen and I are planning on touring it this afternoon!

*Here's an awkward moment in Accokeek for you:

     I'm sure those of you who have served missions have had this unpleasant experience...when someone confesses their sins. Sister Olsen and I have an investigator who I haven't written about before, because they're not one of our regulars. And I'm going to be vague, but I want you to understand that this was a traumatic experience for Sister Olsen and me and we actually had to go through this. We were meeting with the investigator, and they were depressed. (They were crying.) When we asked what was wrong, they began relating an experience they had nearly 50 years ago. It started getting pretty explicit. I could tell Sister Olsen was very uncomfortable, and I couldn't look at the investigator in the eye anymore because the story was going south quickly. I finally had to ask them to stop. So much awkward. Just wanted you to know that that happened. Sister Olsen and I hugged when we got outside and said ten prayers to bring the Spirit back. Depression makes people live in the past more than they should.
Now it's off my chest. YAY.

Kelly's Tree
     Anyway, on Thanksgiving, we helped a woman in our ward decorate for Christmas! Her name is Kelly and she is a convert of about 1.5 years. We had Thanksgiving dinner with the Hoole family, and 4 families that they are friends with. It was overwhelming to learn everyone's names, but we had a good time! And the food was SO DELICIOUS. I talked with one man who is an economist in DC. When he said that, I felt like a bolt of spiritual lightning shot through me. I was reminded of how much I enjoyed my Econ 110 class at BYU! I've never thought about pursuing a degree in economics, but he made me reconsider my major. I love business, but I think I will look into economics when I get home. (I liked Econ 110 more than Acc 200 and Fin 201, and I've always loved economics because of debate.)

     About our investigators...I feel like some of them are falling off of the face of the earth. Alex has been really sick, so we haven't seen him in over a week. Tonya is working nonstop, even over the holiday season. The Elders haven't been able to reach Walter yet. But, we're still working as hard as we can! We found a new investigator, Larissa, who seems really interested in the Book of Mormon. Kayla, the 18 year old, is back on track and wants to come to church. We do a lot of work with less actives and recent converts, too. I really love this ward!!!

     I've been thinking and praying a lot about switching to Spanish. I feel like it's the right thing for me, especially because of what my Patriarchal Blessing says about my mission. Right now, I think I'll wait until April to switch. Please pray for me:)

     Here's a miracle for the month: Sister Olsen and I have been really struggling with miles. Because I'm training, we had to go to Richmond for "Return and Report." We also went to Woodbridge to hear from Elder Sitati. That's when we had our little incident where we got lost and ended up in the DC South Mission. We lived with the Rockhill Sisters for a week while Sister Van Buskirk was out of town, and that was an additional 10 miles every day. By our last week, we had about 20 miles for each day. We did it! We made it through November with 6 miles to spare! We tried so hard to be obedient and we planned very carefully. It was truly a miracle!
Snug as a bug...
     Mommy asked what I want for Christmas. I would love to have a hula skirt and a CD of Hawaiian music. As long as the songs aren't romantic and do not detract from the Spirit, it's okay for me to listen to! I love Keali'i Reichel, Iz, and the songs from Lilo and Stitch. And anything else that I used to dance to. And Don Ho. Please make sure Pua Mana is on the CD:) If you put a hula skirt (preferably my brown one) in a plastic bag, you can suck the air out with a vacuum and get it to fit into a box. I want this for a few reasons: I need to strengthen my lower back, and hula is a great way to do that. This is a talent that I want to continue to develop. Hula dancing makes me super happy! I have 30 minutes every morning to exercise. This would truly be the greatest Christmas present in the world:) That and lots of prayers.

I love you all so much:) Love, Sister Crandall

Monday, November 25, 2013

An email from Accokeek that will probably make Mom worry...

Mom, please sit down.

     I fell down some stairs Thursday morning and injured my back. They were wooden, outdoor stairs at the Rockhill Sisters' home. (Picture is attached.) Sister Olsen was at the top, and she said I didn't really fall or slide...My feet just came out from underneath me and I landed on my back. I hit three steps. One was my lower back, just to the left of my spine. I had an abrasion and small lump that's mostly gone now. That's where most of my pain has been. The next step hit my right shoulder blade, and it's only sore when I stretch too much. I bumped the back of my head, right where my neck and head meet, on the third step. My neck has been very stiff the past few days. 

     It didn't hurt immediately, and I feel like I was especially protected because of my temple covenants/garments. On Friday, I was in a lot of pain. It hurts to stand for too long, and it hurts to sit unless my back is properly supported. The only comfortable chairs are the church pews and the passenger seat in our Toyota. I got a blessing from the Accokeek Elders on Saturday and I talked with the mission nurse. I'm supposed to ice my back three or four times a day and take a lot of advil (anti-inflammatory). It's not as painful now, just sore and uncomfortable. Especially in my hips and lower back. I am still able to perform all of the work normally, except I just go to bed earlier and I ice my back instead of exercising in the mornings. And it's a little more difficult to sleep at night. Sister Olsen said she wants me to see a chiropractor this week. I tested positive for scoliosis in 8th grade, so I'll probably give in and go;)

     I can just imagine what Grandma Crandall would be telling me if she were here right now. Don't worry, Grandma, I remember how to eat an elephant. And I'm sorry for taking hot showers at night. And I only went running once since the accident. I'm sorry to hear that Grandpa Crandall also took a fall this past week! He's actually been on my mind a lot. When I received my blessing, the Elder said that my family is mindful of me and that I am in your prayers. I want you to know that you're in my prayers too!! I wrote letters this past week that I am mailing to Nephi and Santa Maria today!

*Also, read Psalms 145:14.

     Here's an interesting service that Sister Olsen and I were able to do:

     We had a potential investigator named Veinza. We offered to do service, but she said it was a bad time. She was walking slowly, and looked like she had a back injury. When we went back, her sister had just arrived with groceries. We helped the sister carry in the groceries, and she explained that Veinza had been in a car accident. We came back a third time, and Veinza was just leaving. She invited us in and took us to the cutest little pink princess room in the world. She asked us to bag all of the clothes in the closet after separating it into winter and summer clothes piles. Veinza said she had been trying to do it earlier in the day, but that it was too emotionally difficult. She said that we can help her move out the furniture and paint the walls in the future. She then left to run other errands. Her daughter probably died in the car accident. The Spirit was so strong in that room. It took everything in me to keep from crying as we packed away little dresses and shirts and skirts. The girl was probably 10 or 11. Veinza invited us to come back, and we're hoping to see her later this week!

     On Friday, we did a "blitz" in the Rockhill ward, where our district meets together to tract one area. Sister Olsen and I came to a door where the screen was shut, but the door was open to the inside. The walls were covered with hunting knives and guns as decorations. There were three bearded men in the room. I felt like Rapunzel when she enters the Snuggly Duckling bar with all of the ruffians in Tangled. We knocked on the door and one answered. We introduced ourselves as representatives of Jesus Christ and he immediately said, "Sorry, we're devout atheists." Sister Olsen and I didn't really know how to respond, so we told them goodnight. Then we laughed really hard all the way down the driveway. 

     A few doors later, we were stopped in the middle of the street to check our voicemail. It was really dark outside and the street wasn't well lit. I looked behind us and saw three men in the dark coming towards us...it was the devout atheists!!! Needless to say, we got to our car as soon as possible! On that tracting trip I also got my first real door slam. I've had people say or do rude things, but this one woman yelled and slammed the door. There's a first time for everything, right?;)

*Here's an update on our investigators:

     Alex canceled his baptism. He's still struggling to accept a modern day Prophet and that this is the only true church on the earth. He came to church on Sunday and he's been listening to a lot of conference talks. Tonya has stopped progressing. She's back together with her boyfriend. Dean hasn't kept two appointments now, and we think he purposefully planned them when he knew he wouldn't be home. Latrice texted us and said to not come back. 

     Sister Olsen said I'm not allowed to pray for humility anymore, because things like this happen;) I'm doing the best that I can, but people still have their agency. People that I love love love. Isaish 61 talks about the Savior and the work that he does, but I think it also applies to missionary work!  I'm really happy because I know that I'm obedient and faithful and that I have my family supporting my 100%. Except Lindsay is supporting me 200%... :)

     Speaking of which, congratulations to my sister Lindsay on her pregnancy:) I am happy beyond words. I found out from Darci's email about an hour ago, and the people in the library think I'm insane. I am so excited to be an auntie:) I have been praying earnestly for this to happen. Robert and Lindsay will make excellent parents!! I love you both SO MUCH. I look forward to receiving the letter that I was supposed to get;)

     For Thanksgiving I'm eating dinner with a member family, and then helping another family decorate for Christmas. It's an exciting time to be a missionary!:)

I love you. Have a happy week:) Sister Crandall

Monday, November 18, 2013

Staying in Stafford!

Beautiful Sarah at Government Island
I love you all so much:)

     This little Rahrah is staying in Stafford in the Accokeek Ward for 6 more weeks:) I'm so excited for the holiday season! I get to be here--living with a family--for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year! Sister Olsen is also staying, though her visa is supposed to come through soon. We haven't heard yet about whether or not we'll be picking up a third companion.
Sister Van Buskirk is going out of town for a week for a wedding, and we can't stay in the home alone with Brother Van Buskirk. We get to move out for a while! We'll be staying with the Rockhill Ward Sisters, Rushton and Robinson. They're in our district and they are so nice! They live in a little home (not even a townhome!) by themselves. They said they have an extra room with two extra beds. It's kind of like a missionary sleepover:) Sister Olsen and I will be there from this Tuesday until next Tuesday.

Beautiful Government Island
     Last week Monday, for P-day, Sister Olsen and I went to Government Island with the Aquia Sisters (Bennett and Thuerer) and the Stafford Spanish Branch Hermanas (Moon y Arce). It's an old quarry. Stone from Stafford was used to build all of the old colonial buildings in DC. Now it's just a walking path. It was really beautiful, even though the trees here are beginning to look bare. I've attached some pictures and I'll forward on some of Sister Olsen's pictures.
Sister Olsen & Sister Crandall
     On Tuesday, we drove north to Woodbridge for a Zone Conference with Elder Sitati of the First Quorum of the Seventy. The Accokeek Elders (Gambles and Ray) came with us. Sister Olsen got into the carpool lane to avoid all of the government worker traffic. The carpool lane ended up not letting us off until we were all the way in Franconia! That's in the DC South Mission! Oops:) We crossed mission boundaries. Elder Ray was originally in the DC South Mission before the split, so he recognized some of the areas where he had served. Stafford used to be in the DC South Mission too! Remember how I guessed that I was going to serve in DC South? Well, I sort of am!

     Anyway, we made it to the conference on time. Elder Sitati was amazing. He gave some great advice. He said "you will rarely be given to equally good options." And he also talked about how humility is a prerequisite to the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel. Of course I wanted to hug him, which is against mission rules. Fortunately, I was able to sit next to him during lunch and I hugged his wife:) I love meeting General Authorities!!

     Here's a little funny story: Sister Olsen and I had an appointment fall through. On our way out of the apartment stairwell, we saw a man moving things out of his car and into his apartment. We offered to help. He almost accepted, and then said: "No, I couldn't make you do that. You're too pretty. I wouldn't want you to get dirty." It was so funny! Next time we'll send the Elders to take care of it.

     Mommy. Sunday was the Primary Program. I don't have much to say about it, but I just wanted to make you aware. I only cried thrice:) I love kids and I think I want six of them. Can you imagine? Six little people running around me calling me Mom! (That means six little people running around you calling you Grandma.) I can't think of anything better.

     Sister Olsen and I also wore all black to church yesterday. We were in mourning of the impending loss of our cute girlish figures. Over the past week, we were fed dinner at least ten times. People keep shoving food down our throats. Sister Olsen's Auntie sent a package that was filled with candy, cake mix, and gingerbread cookie mix. We ended up giving most of it to the Elders. There's no way I could eat that much food! We wrote "no desserts, please!" on the meal calendar. We've decided to cut out sweets and desserts completely. We also follow the "one-roll-rule" at dinner to keep our carbs to a minimum. Sister Olsen got a pic of our dark attire, and I will forward that on when it comes:)

     Here's an update on Tonya and Alex: Tonya is back in town! We heart attacked her door and it was so much fun! We're going to visit her today, and hopefully help her paint her living room next week. She's been talking about how her conversion story is coming together. I am so happy for her and I love her to death:) Alex is still progressing, though we've pushed his baptismal date back a week.

     We gave Alex the coolest assignment this past week! He's been getting into lds.org and he loves to watch conference addresses. We invited him to check out mormon.org, and gave him the challenge to find our profiles. He didn't know our first names, so he was going to have to sort through a lot of people. Our hint was that we both have Bible names (Sister Olsen's name is Esther). After about an hour, he texted us saying that he had found us!

     My challenge for you is to find me on mormon.org! It shouldn't be too hard:) After that, I challenge you to make your own profile! It's really easy. If you need help, ask Dad because he already has one. Then you can share it on facebook, through email, etc. We use the computers on Friday to make electronic progress reports. We also get an hour to mess around on lds.org and mormon.org. I hope I can find some of you by then!

     Alex and Tonya aren't the only people we are teaching. We are teaching a ten year old boy. His parents are divorced. (Mom is less-active, dad is Catholic.) The boy wants to be baptized, but his dad won't let him. Another woman we're teaching has had significant medical challenges. She is Clarissa-sized! She lost a son at 17 weeks...very sad. But she has a lot of faith and she loves our reading assignments. Another woman always says "coolbeans." We told her about prophets, and she responded with "coolbeans." This one man is in the Marines (we are minutes away from Quantico Marine Base) and he just had surgery, so he's staying at home for the next few weeks. That means we have a few weeks to love him into the Gospel! Another Marine is trying to drop us, but we asked him if we could visit with him one last time. There's a woman who contacted the church because she wanted to be taught. She is a former member, but requested to have her records deleted over 35 years ago. She won't get baptized any time soon because she's been living with her boyfriend for 20 years and they don't want to get married until next fall.

     The final thought I want to leave with you is about depression. The Relief Society is putting on a dinner program Thursday night all about depression, titled "Like a Broken Vessel" after Elder Holland's talk. The Bishop's wife will be speaking. We're hoping Tonya and a few other investigators can make it! I've been thinking a lot about depression and the influence it's had on my life. Depression makes dreams and memories and hopes for the future very vivid. Because of that, it's often difficult to live in the present. Days can seem dull and colorless compared to the things I used to be doing, or the things I'll be doing in the future. Sister Olsen and I always try to do fun things to change it up. For example, wearing black to mourn the impending weight-gain of the Christmas Season. It's simple, but it gives me something to be excited about in the present. Writing in my journal is also very therapeutic because it helps me realize how fulfilling my life is right now. 

     Even though depression has been the biggest challenge in my life so far, it has also been the greatest blessing. Because of my depression, I have to be passionate and excited about things. If I didn't have this perspective, I think I would take a lot of things for granted. I am so happy to be here! Choosing to serve a mission is the hardest decision I have ever made. It's the only hard decision I've ever had to make! But I know that I made the right decision:)

     Quick shout out to my good friend Stella, who just received her mission call! She'll be serving in Manchester, England, speaking Mandarin, beginning in March. Stella and I used to work together as custodians in the JFSB on BYU Campus. She also attends the Asian Ward so she knows Dad:) 

Text from a Member
I love you all so much. Have a beautiful week:)

*And send me mail! 

Sister Sarah Crandall
110 Galway Ln.
Stafford, VA 22554

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sweater Weather in Accokeek

Waiting for Library Computers!
To the people I love:

     Most days it hovers around 65 degrees, but yesterday it hit 75. I'm loving the weather here! I've never seen such a warm November!

     Let's talk about Stafford. A woman in my ward had to explain this to me. Because Virginia is a commonwealth, not a state, it's organized differently. There are some cities, like Fredericksburg. But most places are counties. Stafford is a county, not a city. Spotsylvania and Caroline are counties, not cities. Accokeek isn't a city in Stafford county, it's a creek that my ward is named after. Aquia, Garrisonville, Rockhill, Culpeper, etc., are the names of other wards in Stafford county...but they aren't cities. 

     Mommy asked about the Accokeek Ward: I LOVE THIS WARD. The Bishop is amazing. The Ward Mission Leader contacts us at least three or four times a week. This Relief Society President...I cannot believe how much she does! She is super woman. We get fed about 5 times a week, if not more. People are always asking what we need and what they can do for us. I know the names of at least half of the active families. 

     I am praying praying praying that I'll get to stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Next Sunday Sister Olsen and I will find out if we're being transferred! Most Brazil visa waiters spend 4 months state-side, so there's a pretty good chance she'll be out of here before Christmas. When her visa comes through, she'll be given 3 weeks notice.

     Here's an update on my investigators:

*ALEX is really progressing! Last night we had a break through lesson about modern day prophets. We watched President Uchtdorf's address "Come Join with us" in Spanish with him. He is so prepared! Also, he likes to write his prayers down. He wrote us three prayers in Spanish and gave them to us! I can't remember if I mentioned this last week or not, but when Alex prayed about baptism, he had a dream where he was standing on clear blue water and Sister Olsen and I were there! AHHH! Today we are fasting with him to help him gain a testimony of the Priesthood.

*TONYA (I had her name spelled wrong earlier) is struggling and needs lots of prayers and love. Her mom passed away and so she's out of town right now. We're keeping in contact and she really appreciates our friendship. I love Tonya so so so much. My heart is the size of Virginia for this woman.

*WALTER was unsuccessfully passed over to the Elders...He wasn't outside like normal for our appointment, so we knocked on his door. His daughter answered and said he's having a hard time coming to grips with God and Jesus Christ being separate. She said he's going to continue reading from the Book of Mormon and he wants us to come back in two weeks. We are 9999% sure that he was fed anti by his pastor who we met previously (and I mentioned a few weeks ago). So much sadness. You should know that my entire mission, I've only cried for sadness once, and that was my last time in the Celestial room of the Provo Temple. (And I was crying because I don't get to go to the temple until April 2015.) I almost cried about Walter...it's a pretty big deal. At that moment, I wanted a Father's Blessing more than anything. I sure miss you, Dad!:) I hope that the Spirit works on Walter as he continues to read from the Book of Mormon.

     Happier things: Sister Olsen and I drove down to Richmond (about an hour South) on Saturday for "return and report," where all of the greenies and their trainers meet up. President Wilson started talking about iPads and missionary work. By the end of 2014, every missionary will have an iPad. Their OWN iPad. He said that in the future, missionaries will receive their iPads after they accept their mission calls. They will use them for pre-MTC training, in the MTC, in the field, and they will keep them when they go home. Area books will be completely digital and accessible by ward mission leaders, Bishops, the missionaries, mission presidents, Salt Lake, etc. Daily planners will also be digital. iPads will be used for all areas of proselyting: tracting, street contacting, teaching, etc. Eventually, all missionaries will be on facebook, too! He's not sure when it will come to Richmond, but all missions will be using this technology by the end of 2014. I'm hoping it will come here in the summer. That way I will get to serve 9 months without it, and 9 months with it.

     As many of you know, I love journaling. Right now I'm keeping two journals: I have my large plates, and my small plates. In my large plates, I keep a record of everything that happens as well as my notes from devotionals, Sundays, and meetings. In my small plates, I only write things that I learn or revelation I receive. I keep track of my goals and progress. I write important questions and then answer them over time. Examples: What are mission habits I want to keep for the rest of my life? What answers did I receive in General Conference? Who do I want to be in 18 months? I also take notes about my Patriarchal Blessing, like things I need to remember, blessings I've been given, and my spiritual gifts. I don't think I'll turn back to my large plates very often, but my small plates are something I'll treasure for the rest of my life. I also call my small plates my "becoming book" which is really cheesy, I know...but everything in the book is about helping me become more of who God wants me to be.

     In my small plates/becoming book, I have a page for each Christlike attribute. This is what I have written about humility:

-Don't think less of myself, but think about myself less.
-When I pray, give thanks and acknowledge God's hand.
-"Recognize gratefully [my] dependence on the Lord." (True to the Faith)
-Always speak respectfully about my leaders
-"Pride is competitive" (PMG) and so is envy!
-Alma 26
-Contrite, meek, submissive, teachable
-Humility is strength! (Ether 12:27)
-Veil will be rent and I will see God (D&C 67:10)
-Fasting builds humility
-John the Baptist is a great example of humility!

     I hope that gives you some ideas of things to look at or work on:)

     Last story...Sister Olsen and I went with some neighbors to their church's weekly service project. It's an Episcopalian Church and they serve free dinner each Wednesday night. Everyone was very friendly and wanted to know more about missionary service. We're hoping to go back every week now!:)

     Another shout-out to Sister Miller, who is flying to Charlotte, North Carolina today! How cool is it that my best friend and I are both serving on the East Coast? In neighboring missions?? The coolest. I love her like crazy and she will do amazing things.

I love you all SO MUCH. LIKE A LOT!! Please write me:)  Sister Crandall

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Spooky Week in Accokeek

     As many of you are aware, today is my Mommy's birthday! When my Mom was my age, she was in a pretty serious motorcycle accident, and as a result, has large scars on both legs. It's never been a concern for me. Mom is beautiful and perfect as she is. However, I know that when she was younger (and maybe even now), it has caused some embarrassment. 

     Here is a quote from Elder Holland that I love:

“Jesus has chosen, even in a resurrected, otherwise perfected body, to retain for the benefit of His disciples the wounds in His hands and in His feet and in His side-signs, if you will, that painful things happen even to the pure and the perfect; signs, if you will, that pain in this world is not evidence that God doesn't love you; signs, if you will, that problems pass and happiness can be ours.”

     God's definition of perfect is very different from the world's. When we obtain our perfectly glorious resurrected bodies, I don't think that means that we're going to look like the people in magazines and on TV. In fact, I hope I don't look like that. I think we'll look like ourselves. God promises that we will see as we are seen, and be known as we are known. My Mommy will be perfect, whether or not she retains those scars on her legs.

     I'm so grateful for my Mom. I wouldn't be on a mission if it wasn't for her. Not to say that she pressured me, but my decision stemmed from the way that I was raised. My Mom was diligent in holding family scripture study and weekly FHE. She taught me the Gospel and helped me build my own testimony. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of my Mother, who has made me everything I am today:) I love you, Mom. Happy birthday!:)

     I have three investigators that I want to talk about:

*TANYA is still progressing and working towards her baptismal date! Sister Olsen and I are going to be helping her paint her living room soon, too. I love teaching Tanya because it's like visiting a friend. She always has the kindest things to say to us and her faith is phenomenal. She came to church yesterday and loved it! Everyone wanted to meet her. Please pray for Tanya!:)

*WALTER, I mentioned briefly last week. He's kind of old and aloof. We always show up at his apartment complex at the same time every week and wander around until we find him. Sometimes he's on his front porch, other times he's behind the building on a bench. I have the biggest crush on Walter. Me as a missionary loves him as an investigator:) Last week, we found him reading from the Book of Mormon!! However, Sister Olsen and I have felt really strongly like we need to pass him over to the elders. We threatened them and said that they have to love Walter into the Celestial Kingdom.

The "Princess" Sisters!
*ALEX is our next door neighbor. He's from Honduras, and was taught the missionary lessons at age 17. He has read the entire Libro de Mormon! He has a lot of faith and said that he's ready to be baptized. He's only hesitant because he wants his wife to be baptized, too. Also...he bore his testimony at church yesterday!!! I imagine that what I felt is what Mom and Dad feel when one of us girls bear our testimonies. Alex's daughter Kelly loves us and drew us a picture! I've attached my picture of the picture.

     Here's another Holland quote that I came across:

"You make or break your mission every morning of your life. You tell me how those morning hours go from 6:30 am until you are on the street in your mission, whatever time it is; you tell me how those hours go, and I will tell you how your day will go, I will tell you how your month will go, I will tell you how your year will go and how your mission and life will go."

     I think this applies to post-mission life as well. My goals are to use every morning to become more of who God expects me to be as well as to make the decision to wake up happy every single morning!:)

     NOW, the moment you've all been waiting for...The Restoration!

     The Van Buskirks came home early Halloween morning. We drove to the post office with Sis. VBK and brought home so many letters and so many packages! I've attached a picture with me and all my mail. It was a glorious feast! Thank you everyone for your love and support. As awesome as it was, I've come to the realization that mail isn't what makes me happiest. Hearing Tanya commit to live the commandments, finding Walter reading from the Book of Mormon, and listening to Alex's testimony were the highlights of my week. I LOVE inviting others to come unto Christ.

     The night before was the ward Halloween party. Sister Olsen and I went as elders. You can see the attached picture. I love the Accokeek ward!! I have come to love these people so so so much.
     Alrighty, I'm glad we're all on board with working on Christlike attributes each month. Here's a full schedule of the months and attributes:

*Charity and Love - Oct 2013 & July 2014
*Humility - Nov 2013 & Aug 2014
*Faith - Dec 2013 & Sep 2014
*Knowledge - Jan 2014 & Oct 2014
*Patience - Feb 2014 & Nov 2014
*Virtue - Mar 2014 & Dec 2014
*Diligence - Apr 2014 & Jan 2015
*Hope - May 2014 & Feb 2015
*Obedience - Jun 2014 & Mar 2015

     My Ward Mission Leader (Max Houtz) said this about charity: "Charity is nothing more than helping others feel good about themselves."

     It's so simple. I love that. Charity doesn't have to be giving money or giving time. It's about helping people realize their divine nature and potential. Now on to November, which is humility! Sister Olsen and I have a nasty habit of talking ourselves down. I think my hair is frizzy, my skin has zits, or I'm displeased with my waistline. Talking badly about myself doesn't help me focus on God and His hand in my life. My goal is to think better about myself, and to think about myself less. I want to look in the mirror in the morning, and then spend the rest of my day looking outward. I also am going to always say positive things about my leaders to show support for them. God has given them stewardship over me for a reason.

     Speaking of God, this is the testimony that I want to share today: God knows you and He loves you. God loves me SO MUCH. I know this because we went to visit a potential investigator...when we arrived, they ordered pizza and fed us cheesecake. I have been craving cheesecake for about 134593876 days now, and I finally got some! God loves me so much!!!

And I love you too.  Sister Crandall

Monday, October 28, 2013

New Arrivals!

President & Sister Wilson with Sister Crandall

Life in the 'Keek

Trees... glorious trees!
      We are almost to the end of the Great and Last Letter Fast, which we now lovingly refer to as the "a-POST-asy." The Van Buskirks are coming home Wednesday, just in time for the mail to return on Halloween! (They realized they took the mail key, so they called USPS and turned off mail services. That's why I haven't received the package from distribution yet. Mail should return on Thursday the 31st!) We have to be in by 6 pm on Halloween, which means we'll have lots of time for letter reading:) I hope it will be a feast/glorious restoration......that is, if any of you lovely people have written me.

     Speaking of Halloween, happy birthday to my beautiful sister Darci! And happy birthday to my Mommy, who is still young and super hip!:)

Keeping track of investigators
      Sister Olsen and I have been meeting with a man named Walter. He's kind of old and aloof...I'm not sure how much of our conversations he actually understands. But he accepted and has been reading from the Book of Mormon. We never have set appointments. We usually show up at around the same time his grandson gets off of the bus, and we'll find him chilling outside somewhere on a bench. Last week, when we went to visit with him, his pastor showed up. Awkward.

     Pastors aren't scary. Even though they have their theological credentials, they don't preach correct doctrine, so it's easy to "confound the wise." He was interested in our religion and began a discussion on God and His eternal nature. He described God as a dual being. Love came first, from God's creation of an extension of himself. God created a second personality to love perfectly, who is Jesus Christ. Out of God's love for himself, He created us so that we could love Him too. The more the Pastor spoke about God, the more he himself was confused with what he was saying. I asked him what God would look like when we stood before him on judgment day, and the Pastor kept avoiding the question. We asked how we should then become like God or follow Jesus Christ. Are we supposed to have a split personality? Are we supposed to be self-obsessed? The Pastor seemed flustered and made up an excuse to leave. (Also Sister Olsen and I were very polite.)

     I know that God is our Father in Heaven. He has a body of of flesh and bones, glorified and perfected. Jesus Christ has a separate body, also perfect. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. One day I hope to have a glorified and perfected body, too!:)

     Last Monday evening, I extended my first baptismal invite to Tanya! She works at Amtrak and is the sweetest woman you could ever meet! She began meeting with the elders in July, but it was difficult for the elders to set up appointments because they would need a member and a ride each time. She went about two months without contact, and now we are meeting with her! She has read the Book of Mormon through Helaman and she knows that it's the word of God. Tanya is set to be baptized at the end of November! We have a few Word of Wisdom things we need to work through, but she has so much faith! She also fed Sister Olsen and me and she goes on about how she wants to beat up anyone that hurts us. I love Tanya so much! I never realized I had this kind of capacity to care about others. It's amazing.

How many days until Christmas?!
     On Thursday I went on exchanges for the first time! I went with Sister George, a sister training leader, and the trainer of Sister Olsen! We went south to Fredericksburg and a met with a less active who's attending Mary Washington University. Beforehand, we did a little bit of training. She really helped me set goals and then flesh them out. For the past few weeks, I've been working on developing more charity. My Patriarchal Blessings says that I have the gift of love. I want to capitalize on that to be a better missionary. Sister George helped me come up with an awesome plan!!! I would like to invite you to be involved...

*VISION: (Who or what I see myself becoming in 18 months.) I want to become more like Jesus Christ.
*GOAL: Develop Christlike attributes (Chapter 6 in Preach My Gospel).
*PLAN: Because there are 9 attributes, I can focus on each attribute for two months of my mission! I don't have my journal and full calendar here with me, but October was charity and November is humility. Next week I'll let you know what the rest of the months are. I would love for my family to be involved in developing Christlike attributes:) If we all focus on the same attribute each month, then we can share our experiences and learn from one another! I will spend some time each month studying the attribute and setting smaller, more personal goals. True to the Faith, the BD, and PMG are wonderful resources for learning more about these attributes!

     I hope all is happy in Utah, Idaho, and California! I love you all dearly. Please write me! Transfers are on November 20th, so don't send anything after November 15th until you find out whether or not I'm staying in Stafford. (Which I hope I am.)

     At the close of this email, I would like to give a special shout out to my best friend Clarissa Sheney Miller, who is about to become Sister Miller. She will be entering the Provo MTC on Wednesday the 30th to prepare for her mission assignment in Charlotte, North Carolina! I am so grateful for her and the influence she has had on my family! Especially her love for the temple. Sister Miller LOVES the temple, and her love has permeated my life. She will be a fantastic missionary and I couldn't ask for a better best friend. I can't think of anyone more worthy of this call. How lucky am I to be in the neighboring state??? Until we meet again, Sister Miller:) I can't wait to be at your homecoming in 18 months!!

Love, Sister Crandall

*PS I might be moving to Virginia as soon as I finish at BYU:)

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Week in Accokeek

Here are some happy quotes:

--"Testimony is God's gift to me. Conversion is my gift to God."

--"We become more substantive as we serve others--indeed, it is easier to find ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!" - SWK

     Missionary work is all about becoming! Becoming is conversion. I am becoming something bigger and better--someone more like Christ. At the same time, I'm helping others do the same! It's the best. I love being a missionary:)

     President Wilson implemented a program a few weeks before I got here to help us focus on our covenants. He gave each month a theme:

-Sacrifice September
-Obedience October
-"No No" November (chastity)
-Consecrated Christmas

     Missionaries are endowed before serving to give us extra protection from the adversary and to help us help others make covenants. But in addition, serving a mission is one way to learn how to keep your covenants. The day of my endowment is really sacred to me. And every day is still sacred because I am learning how to better keep my covenants through sacrifice, obedience, keeping the law of chastity, and consecrating my time and talents to the building up of the Kingdom of God! 

     So the Van Buskirks are AWESOME. It's like living with grandparents. Sister Olsen and I come home to goodies, candy, puppies, a loving family, etc. It's the best. Right now they're on vacation in Utah and we're not sure when they'll be coming home. And we're about 99% sure they took the mail key with them. We're calling this period of time "The Great and Last Letter Fast." I received Dad's conference notes/tweets in the mail (thanks!!! My comp thinks you're a weirdo;) but I might not get anything for the next week or so. We believe that this sacrifice of contact with the outside world will bring great blessings. We're also praying desperately that this famine ends quickly. 

     You should all know that missionary work is the most awkward thing I have ever been a part of in my entire life. We'll be knocking doors and people will peek at us through the window and then NOT ANSWER. It's like....WE SAW YOU. And then they still won't answer. Most people here have screen doors. Sometimes they won't even open those and they'll just tell us to leave. Once we had an appointment with a woman named Kimberly. We could hear laughter, etc. from inside. When we knocked on the door, it went absolutely silent. No one answered. Sooooo awkward.

     Sister Olsen and I have a giant map of the area and we were examining it on the floor. Penny the dog ran downstairs and started towards the map. Sister Olsen and I freaked out and started yelling at the dog and trying to move the map away. (If you missed it, I sent a letter home about how Penny pees all the time and on anything and everything.) We then started laughing SO hard. The thought came to my mind -- I cannot believe I'm 2500 miles away from home, I haven't seen my family in weeks, I'm here to teach people about Jesus, and this dog is about to pee on my precious map of a place I hardly know. Missionary work can be so awkward and so crazy...but I love it more than anything else I've ever done.

     We've had a really successful week here! We started with absolutely nothing, and now we're up to 13 investigators! Is this really happening??? That kind of success in this area is unreal. We've committed 3 of them to baptism. (If they come to know that this is the true church...which it is. They don't have dates yet.) My favorite is probably Kayla. She's 18 years old, an only child, and a high school senior. She knows a little bit about the Bible, but wasn't raised very religious. (A novelty in the South.) Kayla really wants to find a place where she belongs. She liked the things that we taught and said that she's been a lot happier. We have high hopes for her!

     Jason is an investigator who came to church with us! We were actually surprised he showed up. Our only lesson with him was just bearing our testimonies on his porch. Because we haven't taught any real lessons yet, I think he was confused. Most churches have paid clergy, or they pass a money tray around, or they don't invite kids to sacrament/communion services. He said it's a lot different than other churches he's attended, and he's not sure if it's the right thing for him yet. I hope he at least lets us teach a lesson or two! Jason stayed for the first two hours, which was pretty good.

     Darci asked about the weather. It's been very warm so far. It rained the first four or five days, but has been sunny since. When I was in the MTC, it was getting into the 40's and 50's in Utah. In Virginia, we've been as high as 75, but it's usually closer to 65. The cold here is very different. It just sticks to me. If I have something covering me, I'll be just fine. For example, the basement can be cold in the morning during personal/companion study. As long as I wear a jacket and have a blanket on my legs, I'll be warm! Sister Olsen and I are going to Target/Ross today to try and find sock/cable knit tights to keep our legs warm when it's starts to get colder.

     Clarissa asked about my hair. I wrote about it a bit (a lot) in the letter I sent home. Mommy, if there's something important/interesting in a written letter, will you please add it to my blog? Thank you! To answer the question, my hair looks like Hermione's did in the first few Harry Potter movies. It is BIG. Like, REALLY BIG. So much frizz. Sister Olsen loves it. (She has straight hair...so she has no idea.) It's big, but not unmanageable. I think I'll like it more when it gets a couple inches longer. (10 inches longer.)

     Anyway...Many of you well know that my major at BYU is business strategy. My interests and skills in organizational behavior have been super helpful! I said that we have a giant map of the area...well we've broken the Accokeek Ward down into 9 smaller areas. On our ward list, we have each family separated into the 9 areas. We color coded the list for active/less-active/converts/part-member, etc. We save on miles because we decide an area or two to spend our day. It's awesome! I love love love everything I'm learning about how to organize and plan effectively so that more work can be done. 

     Also, because I love business, here are two cool thoughts. The first is to have a daily "accounting" session with God. Every night, spend 15 minutes thinking about your day and considering how you can improve. Use that time to write in your journal and set goals for the next day. When we report our improvement to God, our improvement accelerates! Use this time to set everything in your life in order with God.

     The second is "earnest." I'd explain it to you, but the Bible Dictionary does a much better job. So your assignment for today is to look up "EARNEST" in the BD!

     No pictures this week. I know, I'm failing;) I just don't take my camera with me every day. Maybe during my free time this afternoon Sister Olsen and I will go on a walk. I have no words for how beautiful it is here.

     I love you all so so so much. I love you more than I did a month ago when I entered the MTC.

Love, Sister Crandall

*GENESIS 21:6 (see footnote)

*PS- I am SO HAPPY. Happier than I've ever been before:) Thank you for your love and prayers and letters and emails and support!!!!!!!! Choosing to serve a mission is the only hard decision I've ever had to make in my life. Choosing to go to BYU was easy. Choosing my major was easy. Choosing to be a member of this church was easy. BUT, choosing to go on a mission was not an easy decision for me. (Nor was it an easy process.) However, I've never been more sure about a decision. I am supposed to be here. I know it! I'm so grateful and happy and blessed:) and I love my Mom so much!