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 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!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Life is great! Missionary life is even better!

"God loves all of His children equally! But He loves His missionaries a little more equally."
-Sister Nally, wife of the MTC President :)

     First of all, General Conference was AMAZING. I especially loved Elder Holland's talk on dealing with depression and Elder Christofferson's talk about the moral influence of women! Being in the MTC one year after the age-change announcement was amazing!

     On Wednesday I flew to Virginia with about 30 other missionaries. Yes, I did place a Book of Mormon to the man I sat next too! His name was Gary and he's Lutheran. We talked about our beliefs, and I found that he had a hard time explaining his acceptance of the Nicean Creed (sp?). A lot of what he said contradicted itself. Gary seemed pretty interested in Mormon Doctrine and accepted to read parts of the Book of Mormon. (I had marked up certain chapters like 2 Nephi 2&31, 3 Nephi 11&17, and Alma 32.) 

     I met President and Sister Wilson at the airport. I wish I could think of someone to compare them too. They are incomparably amazing people. In fact, I'm surprised they haven't been translated yet. God must need them here for some reason:)

     The group was taken to a church for a dinner. It felt so nice to be served a meal after a long day of travel. Then we had interviews, took pictures, and wrote letters home. Pres. Wilson even gave me a hug!!!!!!:) He said something in my interview that really struck me. He said, "If there's any experience you want on your mission that you're not having, then let me know and I'll make it happen." I thought of two things: my desire to train, and my desire to speak Spanish.

     The sisters spent the night at the mission home in Richmond. It was on about 4 acres of land and was designed like a large, old southern home. When I stepped inside, I felt like I had entered a temple. That was probably the most restful night I've had my entire life. The following morning, we had a transfers meeting and were assigned our areas and companions.

     I have been assigned to serve in the Accokeek Ward in Stafford, VA. (Accokeek sounds kind of like echo creek without the r.) I'm living in the basement of the Van Buskirk's home! They are an amazing couple! Sister Van Buskirk never had kids of her own, because Brother Van Buskirk had kids from a previous marriage. She treats us like we're her daughters:) Sister Van Buskirk is always making us desserts and food. The decorations remind me a lot of home! I love it! They also have three little dogs that are crazy. Here's my address for at least until mid November:

Sister Crandall
110 Galway Ln
Stafford VA 22554

     I'd compare the area density to Provo and Lehi combined. Some places are very densely populated, with town homes and apartments. Other parts are a little more country-like. Lots of trees. Beautiful, amazing trees. Some urban shopping areas. Stafford is perfect. I love it here! And we're about 30 or so minutes south of DC. Apparently the government shut down? Does anyone want to fill me in? About 1/3rd or more of the men in the ward are out of work. The Bishop was teasing about himself being "non-essential."

     My companion is Sister Olsen from Oregon. She's also a BYU student! This is her third transfer. She is amazing! And really patient and kind. She's confident speaking and teaching, but said that she prefers that I speak more so that I can be taught by experience. It's great for me because I love talking!!:) She's actually a visa waiter, and could leave for Brazil at any moment. Well, with two weeks' notice. Sister Olsen wears an English badge and dislikes telling people that she's a visa waiter because she wants to be taken more seriously. She doesn't want the ward to view her as temporary. 

     Because of that, Sister Olsen has to study Portuguese every morning for an hour. I use that time to study Spanish! I knew I brought mi Libro de Mormon for a reason! Mommy will you please send me more Spanish things? I should have a binder somewhere with my 105/106 materials. If not, there's a dictionary in my room. And I'd love to have a Spanish PMG and Spanish copy of D&C 4, Joseph Smith's first vision, Proclamation on the Family, etc. I've thought a lot about what President Olsen said about requesting the experiences that I want. I would love to spend a transfer or two speaking Spanish! I'd really need to prepare:)

     Here's one run-in I've had with Spanish: Sister Olsen and I went to visit a less-active woman yesterday. She's out of town, but her mom was home. Her mom, Esperanza, is an Aquino from Lima! She knows Alonso's family! (Alonso's mom is an Aquino.) She didn't speak any English, so I was able to communicate with her in Spanish. We went inside, talked, prayed, and she fed us. Sister Olsen was able to understand a little bit because of her Portuguese. Esperanza said she was feeling very lonely until we came! We're going to go back in a week when her daughter is home.

     The field is white in Stafford. Sister Olsen and I aren't white-washing, because Elders white-washed last transfer, but we are pink-washing! The Elders are still here, so we started with nothing. No one. No appointments. We've done a TON of tracting. And...I'm pleased to announce...that...I LOVE TRACTING. I love it. Just like Mom said, you never know what you'll find behind each door! Also, we find someone who's interested almost every 5 doors! I think I've experienced only one or two door slams. Most of the people are really kind and respect what we're doing. We've received plenty of "glory hallelujahs" and "yes Lords!" And lots of people want us to come back. Sister Olsen said she's never seen success in tracting like this before.

     The Elders also gave us a stack of former investigators to go through. We go to their homes and pretend like we're if we don't know that they're former investigators;) We can tell that they recognize us as missionaries, but they pretend like they don't know that much about the church. So far, visiting former investigators has been our most successful tool for finding! Yesterday we got two new investigators this way!! (To be a new investigator means we've already taught them a lesson.)

     Last night we taught a man named Dean (yay!) about the authority of Jesus Christ that was lost during the apostasy. We testified that the authority has been restored to the earth and that his life can be blessed by it. He seemed verrrry interested. We're going back next week!

     We also tracted into a woman named Nicole. She had Mormon friends in high school and has even visited them in Utah a few times. She was so excited that we found her! Nicole is recently divorced and seems very prepared to accept the Gospel. I'm super excited to begin teaching her!

     I had my first ever Bible bash the other day!!! YAYYY! It was really fun:) Don't worry, I kept my cool. And my companion said I did a great job of answering the man's questions and using Bible scriptures to back up our doctrine. It wasn't really a Bible bash, but more of a discussion of doctrine with a Christian well-educated in Bible verse. His name was Isaac. He very discreetly hinted that Mormons are going to hell. We asked him about his beliefs on Heaven and Hell, and he said that he believed that all those who accepted Jesus Christ as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Trinity) would go to Heaven. Anyone who has a differing view of Jesus Christ is accepting a false god. He also rejected the idea that missionary work would exist after death and before judgment. 1st Peter 4, anyone??? It was a cool experience to recognize the Bible knowledge I do have, and to be able to keep the Spirit throughout the discussion. I wish his heart would have been softer, but "they who reject this glad message shall never such happiness know."

     I'm so grateful that I know who God is. I worship a God who has a glorified, perfected body of flesh and bones. Jesus Christ is His son. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.

     I love my family so dearly.

Love, Sister Crandall
*Also: Sister Olsen and I got a brand new car! A Toyota Corrolla! Seriously when we started driving it, it had less than 50 MILES!!!! AHHHH! She's the designated driver, which means I get to awkwardly stand behind and help her back up ;)  

Friday, October 4, 2013

I Love the MTC:)

Had to get a Famous "MAP" Picture!
     I know you all want to know what I'm struggling with. To be completely honest, I almost feel guilty that I haven't had any emotional issues while here! A lot of girls cry, and even the girls in my district have been overwhelmed. The MTC is much easier than I thought it would be. I love school, and I love the Gospel. The three hour classes go by quickly. I do a great job of staying on task during personal study. I love love love teaching. I have enough energy to make it through the day and I rarely feel homesick. My love for my family has more than doubled, but I know that I'm here for a reason. Hearing from them once or twice a week is enough to keep me going.

Sister Moore & Sister Crandall
     So here's what has been hard: my companion. Sister Moore and I get along really well, and we have great communication. However, we tend to be late to almost everything. I think a part of obedience is being on time to class. We always walk in after the teacher closes the door or when opening exercises have begun. It's been hard on me. I remind her often that I want to be on time, but nothing changes. We're late to meals, classes, zone teaching, devotionals, etc. She and another set of sisters in my district/dorm stay up late giggling and chatting after the lights are out. Between 10:15 and 10:30 is our "quiet time," which is supposed to mellow us out before bed, but it doesn't work. That's where I've been struggling. 

     I'm so ready to be mature and grown up and quiet and dignified, but a lot of the girls here see this as a big slumber party. I love Sister Moore so so much, but I wish we were more obedient as a companionship. I think that would improve our learning greatly. At the end of the day, that's the only thing I regret.

     ANYWAY, teachers here are really good at role playing. They will pretend to be an investigator and we teach them as often as we'd like. Brother Mitsvotai plays Lee, and they are completely different people! Sister Moore and I are teaching Lee. He's a doctor who was recently divorced and is now dating a Mormon woman. He's been baptized into a few churches and really wants to know what makes our church different. He's very receptive to our message and often takes notes. He said he'll be baptized if he comes to know that our church is the true church. Lee is our main investigator. We also teach Carmelo and Ivelisse. With Ivelisse, I was able to bear my testimony in Spanish to her (she's from Venezuela). I could tell that it was really meaningful to her. I LOVE THAT. I know that I will have opportunities to use my Spanish language skills when I enter the field.

     Brother Mitsvotai is our afternoon teacher, and Brother Heath teaches in the morning. (We have two three-hour classes every day.) Brother Heath taught the most amazing lesson! We don't just want investigators to know the Book of Mormon is true. Lots of people who are not members of our church know that the Book of Mormon is true. Even the devil knows that the Book of Mormon is true! Having a testimony of the Book of Mormon is true is not enough. We need to know how to USE the Book of Mormon. That is real conversion. In other words, we need to know how to apply its teachings and how to receive personal revelation from it. 

The BEST District!
     My scriptures are away in my classroom, but there's one in Moses 3 (or maybe 5) that talks about how God created all things spiritually before they were created here on the earth naturally. A sister from my district had a really neat insight. My investigators were someone spiritually, and now they are here naturally. They have become who they were supposed to become. Am I fulfilling the measure of my creation? Have I become who I need to become in order to bring them back to the Kingdom? So cool.

     Yesterday (Thursday) was in-field orientation. Instead of having regular classes, we had a big combined devotional/breakout sessions with all of the missionaries entering the field next week. There were over 450 of us! We learned about how to use our planner, area book, and how to work with members. The brother in charge shared a story about how--when he was 5--he was trying to impress the missionaries when they came over for dinner. It reminded me of a story of my own!

     When we lived in Aliso Viejo, I remember elders coming to visit Mom. They were downstairs in the front room. I went onto the loft/bridge that overlooked the front room. I pulled out all of my coolest toys and put them on display, hoping to impress the missionaries. It's interesting now to be on the other side--to be the missionary! I never want to let down the children who look up to me. I never want to disgrace the honor of being a representative of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful to be a missionary at this time when the Lord is hastening His work. We are living Jacob 5!!! I have never been happier before in my entire life! Missionary work is urgent, important, and TRUE. 

     I testify that "the field is white, already to harvest." This applies to all missions, everywhere. Even for the people who serve in Scotland or South Dakota or Japan, the field is white. The scriptures say that phrase 52 times! God really means it. I'm so grateful that my field is in the beautiful state of Virginia. I will be flying out Wednesday morning with about 25 other missionaries to Richmond. 

     Thank you so much, my dearest family and friends, for your love and support while I've been here in the MTC. I appreciate all of the prayers. I have truly felt lifted. Because I'll be leaving soon, please don't send any letters because they probably won't make it in time. My next P-day will likely be Monday October 14th while in the field! However, my Mission President (Wilson) will probably send a notice that I've arrived safely.

Love, Sister Crandall