Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rawlins Letter #13

Gift from my nephew Taven Duffey

Necklace from R, cookies from Sister Grammer, and the shirt I designed

Running into M at Walmart was awesome!

Sleeping in the truck, under the stars

A little game of tick-tack-toe during lunch one day

A typical visit at the Smiley's home :)

R GOT BAPTIZED THIS WEEK. It was in Chicago, his new home where his immediate and new ward family was able to attend. He sent us pictures on Saturday that made me tear up a little bit.

Tuesday was transfer day. We put up a bunch of funny notes and signs for the new sister coming to Rawlins and then headed to Laramie to pick her up. We stopped by Walmart for a quick shopping trip and we were cruising through the isles when I hear, "Sister Hoer?" It was M!!!!!!!! The manager from Salvation Army when I was serving in Laramie. It was so good to see her and hear that she is in the young women's presidency. She seems so happy. She talked about how easy it was to give up things and change others once she knew the gospel was true. The spirit helps us become more Christ-like and the more like Him we become, the more happy we are. It's always cool to see that in action. We also stopped by Grandma T's for a quick visit and song. I don't think anyone has ever gotten me to sing so much in my life, but I can't say no to Grandma T. I actually enjoy singing out loud when she's around.

I got packages from the Davidsons, Duffeys, and Sister Grammer this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I use stuff every day that makes me think of you guys. So when I was back in Greeley, I designed a shirt that we submitted to be made. After a long wait, Sister Grammer sent me the final product. We each have one and several people have already asked how they can get one. Awesome!!!

We had some really cool lessons this week. We talked about service with less-actives and about the spirit. I got to do some community service by drawing for the Chamber of Commerce. Life is just pretty dang good these days. We had a ward Pioneer Day activity. We helped kids make paper hats for a while then tried our hand at stilts, sack races, and an unplanned water fight. We got completely soaked. S came and had a really good time. People kept her company the whole time. Members are great.

We got a phone call from T that night (the one night we didn't have a dinner appointment) and she tells us her and J are going to Pizza Hut and invites us to come along. That woman is inspired :) We got there late (which is normal for Sister Waite and I ... we're working on it). They had already ordered pizza for us: veggie for me and a bunch of other kinds for everyone else. We had the best time visiting and playing with J's kids. We shared one of my current favorite scriptures, Mosiah 15:9, and talked about justice and mercy. Even though we were in the middle of a busy restaurant, the spirit was present. That's just how meetings are with T.

Miracles are everywhere. Sister Waite and I feel so lucky to be a part of so many people's lives out here that allows us to see so many miracles. His hand truly is in our every day lives.

Oh, and Sister Waite and I slept int the bed of our truck last night just for fun. It was a clear night and the stars were beautiful.

Sister Rashauna Hoer

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rawlins Letter #12

An investigator's home that is actually more like a museum.

District Meeting -- our District Leader brought us awards -- I got poppers!

Doing service work at Frontier Prison.

Adorable Jillian's baptism -- she asked me to speak at it.

"Killing" Sister Zvirzdin -- meaning this was the last day of her mission :)

Our booth that we have in the park every Thursday during summer.

R came to visit Rawlins and took us to lunch! 

We found out late Saturday night that both Sister Waite and I get to stay here for the next 6 weeks! RAWLINS!!! I almost cried I was so happy The whole ward seems pretty happy about it, too :) Life is so great.

In fact, at the library this week Sister Waite was watching a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with headphones on. She apparently was getting really into it because she broke into singing. "Sister Waite, what are you doing?" She answered innocently, "What did I do?" I was laughing so hard I couldn't even tell her for quite some time that the whole library just heard her sing part of "They, The Builders of the Nation.":)

This week has been awesome. T is doing great and continues to learn more and grow closer to Christ. It's the most amazing thing to be a part of. We're over there all the time. I feel like part of their family and I was thinking the other day, I am part of their family. We are all part of God's family. I love moments that help me see that fact more clearly. I don't think I've fully internalized it yet. It's tough to wrap my head around some things. 

Wanna hear something crazy? Sure you do. We had an appointment in Wamsutter (a tiny town 40 miles west of Rawlins) so we go to get on I-80 to find out the westbound part of the interstate is closed. Uh...plan B. We decided to take these dirt roads south of town and started heading west, not really having a clue where we were going, but it felt right. We also knew that the train tracks and the interstate both led to Wamsutter, so if we stayed in between the two, we'd be fine, right? Well, we 
were cruising along and hit this crazy bump...not good. We checked out the tires, everything seemed fine so we kept going. I couldn't stop thinking about it though. It made me feel sick, I just knew something was wrong. Eventually we found a place to get on the interstate, checked the truck again, still fine, so we kept going. We went all the way to Wamsutter, had a great appointment, drove 40 miles back to Rawlins, had a few appointments in town, and right as we were pulling up to our apartment, the low tire pressure light comes on...

We woke up the next morning and our back left tire was completely flat. Sister Waite and I knew it was from hitting the hole in the dirt road the day before, however Heavenly Father helped us get to all our appointments and make it safely home. We both just couldn't stop thinking about what a miracle it was. Then we changed a tire for companion study, ha-ha! Bonding time, right?

Sunday was pretty incredible. Saturday we spent some time staining a family's fence. Father is less-active and his wife is kind of an investigator (open to listening, but not super involved). We didn't talk about church at all (we have previously, but not this time) and they showed up at church!!! I love seeing whole families at church. I love service. I love that family. Two ward missionaries each brought investigators. H was in town and came to church with us and ended up singing a musical number in Sacrament Meeting, as well.

On top of all that, R, our investigator that moved to Chicago is getting baptized on the 26th!!! He was in town taking care of a few things before leaving for good and took us out to lunch at Anong's Thai Cuisine (my favorite place to eat here). It was so good to see him again. We are so excited for him. 

Sister Rashauna Hoer

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rawlins Letter #11

Sister Waite and I ...

Summerfest Outhouse Races: Cops vs Firefighters

The Dunk Tank (if you look closely you can see the ball I just threw...)

Yes, there is still snow in Wyoming! And I fell through at one point.

Summer in the Wyoming...snow!

Bowling on P-day

Retro Bowling Alley -- everyone in the place gets to see your overhead score.

T's baptism! I just love T and her family!

We talked to J (the cyclist) this week. Last we heard she was staying with another Mormon family in Rexburg, haha! She's so much fun to talk to. We love getting updates from her occasionally. It's so interesting to think about who I will probably keep in touch with. Some people are those I've spent 6 months with and others I've only known for about 6 hours. Just strange to think about. People come into our lives all the time for different reasons. 

We felt impressed to knock on a few doors one day. We did so and asked, "If you could ask God one question, what would it be?" A woman responded simply with one word, "Why?" She was obviously going through a hard time. She told us that she would listen, but wasn't in a place to really hear it right now, so we said alright and left her with a Plan of Salvation pamphlet. We talked a little longer about other things, but before we left I bore a simple testimony that she is not alone and that this information would help her. She teared up and answered, "I hope so." We'll see what happens, or maybe we won't, but I know she felt the Spirit. I pray that she felt a little more hopeful from our exchange.

Not a spiritual tidbit: We got to help out with the Summerfest on Saturday. Outhouse races and stuff like that. Hilarious. Someone (the woman's husband) paid for us to throw balls for a dunk tank where the woman we do service for (we LOVE her!) volunteered to be dunked. I got her 3 out of 5 times. We'll see if she let's us come back ;)  The day before, Sister Waite and I were planning and we were discussing someone we haven't been able to contact in a while. We both agreed and wrote down that we'd run into them at Summerfest. Well, guess who we ran into...Yup, our investigator who invited us to come over any time. We stopped by on Sunday evening and visited with them. Miracles!!!

T was baptized Saturday and confirmed Sunday. Her baptism was one of the most spiritually powerful ceremonies of my mission. It was so obvious how ready T was for the baptismal covenant. She was glowing. I love seeing people so happy. That kind of happiness only comes from the gospel. T's family is another family I plan on staying in touch with for a long time. I feel like part of their family. We were over there every day this week and we just loved every second of it. I love when people have questions when we teach, that usually means they have a sincere desire to not just know, but to understand. T always has good questions. We get stumped every now and then, but we are all learning together. 

One of our investigators that has really struggled with drinking has made some amazing progress this week. He was at church with his family (they are members). It is cool to see families all together at church. Preach My Gospel says: "Heaven is a continuation of the ideal home." I know that the ideal home is a Christ-centered home. Not a perfect home, but one where individuals are working together to become better. He is the source of true peace in this life.

And that's the update. Love you all.

Sister Rashauna Hoer

Monday, July 7, 2014

Rawlins Letter #10

Doing service work at the prision

Exploring on P-day

Finding a crazy wind tunnel

Meeting our new friend who is biking from Kentucky to Oregon

Finding a place to study (?) on P-day

With R at church

4th of July

A little disheveled after climbing down from the roof to watch fireworks

Our district wore red, white and blue for the entire week of July 4th

Very interesting week. I feel like I always say this's been our best week yet in Rawlins!! We had several really neat spiritual experiences in lessons and a lot of member participation. It has been wonderful.

We also met J. She is riding her bike from Kentucky to Oregon, so you can imagine that I was immediately drawn to her. Well her knee had been bugging her so she decided to take a day off in Rawlins. (What a coincidence...haha, NOT!) We met around lunch time and she ended up spending the rest of the day with us. (Yup, we just happened to have ridden our bikes that day.) So we rode to a service project at the art shop where J painted a little bit, we set her up with a free tour of the old penitentiary while we went to some appointments, we enjoyed dinner together, and talked about the gospel on and off the entire day. It was tough saying goodbye to her. We all just got very attached to each other. Sister Waite hid a picture of Jesus in J's pack and we told her about the gospel library app to access the scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon.

The next day she continued on her trip heading North. She called us that night and told us the coolest story. She was biking and trying to decide whether to stay in a town she was coming up on or to continue another 20 miles to Sweetwater Campground. She said a little prayer, telling us that God had led her to the right places so far along her journey, and she trusted Him to do so now. She got to the first possible place and started talking to a man. She asked about Sweetwater. He responded with, "Oh, it's just a bunch of Mormons up there." She told us when she heard that, she immediately knew it was an answer to her prayer and thought, "that's where I need to go." Two days ago she didn't know anything about us or our faith, and now she is biking an extra 20 miles to be around members of the church. She told us they are taking great care of her and she'd already received a couple of jello cups, haha, typical :) and that she "found Jesus" (the pass along card Sister Waite hid). I couldn't have been happier. We plan on keeping in touch.

R is incredible. He left today for Chicago and will be getting baptized there where his family and new ward family can attend. We all thought that was for the best. I made him promise to send me a picture of his baptism :) I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed getting to know that extremely intelligent and humble man. I've learned so much from him in such a short amount of time. He is truly seeking all the knowledge he can about the gospel. He basically taught us why commandments are so important. He has a solid testimony. He found an article that he shared with us this week (written by a person not of our faith). Check it out at the end of my letter.

T is doing really well.  Two more lessons this week and on track for her baptism this Saturday!!! After we get done emailing today, we're headed over to her place to spend time with her :)  She has quite a few less-active family members that she is including in the program. It's really neat. It's going to be so good for the whole family.

Fourth of July was really fun. We went hiking for our morning work out and did our studies in the mountains. We were invited to three different barbeques. We ate at one, enjoyed dessert at another, and then just played hide and go seek instead of eating anything at the last one. We had to be home at our normal time and fireworks didn't start until 10 pm....that was a bummer. Sister Waite and I got home and when we heard them start to go off, we decided we just had to see them. I helped Sister Waite up the first part of the tree near our house. We were cracking up as she stepped on my shoulder to get up the last part and then turned to help me get up. We continued up the limb that goes closest to our house. Hanging on this branch with our arms, we could stretch our legs toward the house and just barely make it. We sat up there and enjoyed the limited view of fireworks through a tiny break in the trees. We stargazed for a little while after they ended and then headed back down the tree in the dark...still wearing skirts...What an adventure!

Sunday was a day of miracles. We contacted two referrals. The first one had been looking for a Book of Mormon for over a year now. We were able to bring him one and teach him a little more about it. His friend spoke primarily Spanish (and English was definitely a second language for him, as well) so I said a prayer in Spanish! I felt the Spirit, so I'm just hoping it made sense. It was simple, but simple can be the most powerful sometimes, right? Anyway, he talked to us about seeing the Salt Lake Temple and wanting to go there, but he wants to be able to go and say he is Mormon. Haha, okay..."So, you want to get baptized first?" He had a huge smile on his face and said, "Yes." Wow. The next person we contacted was a girl that just graduated from high school. At first she told us she was a different religion and not really interested, but she was nice enough to let us in and talk for a little bit. As we continued asking questions and try to get to know her, she expressed her concerns about the faith she grew up in, how she actually doesn't agree with most of it, and how she is looking elsewhere for truth. We shared a few things about the restoration of the gospel and Plan of Salvation. We left her with a Book of Mormon and she can't wait for us to come back.

Heavenly Father really loves us. So many little things are evidence of this love every day to me. That doesn't mean that everything always goes right, but there's always more than enough good to carry me through. I'm convinced being grateful helps us notice all these little things.

Love you!
Sister Rashauna Hoer

Article mentioned above, written by someone of another faith:

One religious group shows consistent growth year by year and decade by decade. Mormons keep growing their church. Why? I propose six reasons.

1. Mormons have bigger families.

This is the easiest and simplest explanation. But it's far from the entire story. In fact, if family size were determinative, then many churches in America would be growing at a rate that exceeded general population growth. After all, the birth rate of religious families generally exceeds that of nonreligious families. Instead, church after church shrinks or remains basically steady in spite of the higher birth rate. Mormons start with a bigger baseline family, but then they tend to hold on to their kids while many other religions often do not.

2. Mormons have lower divorce rates. 

While regular church-going evangelicals divorce less often than secular couples, Mormon-marrying Mormons have the lowest divorce rate of any major religious group. Families that stay together are more likely to pray together. Few experiences are more demoralizing to a young Christian than seeing his parents destroy their own marriage and destroy their own kids' childhoods in a blaze of selfishness, lust, and pride. 

3. Mormons share their faith.

Who hasn't met a Mormon missionary? My wife used to debate them at the doorstep, but we made many new Mormon friends and now welcome them into our home, offer them rides in the rain, and generally get to know young people who experience a very different young adult rite of passage than your typical evangelical. A Mormon mission is a sacrifice—a deep sacrifice. Evangelism not only wins converts, it also strengthens the faith of the evangelist. 

4. Mormons are "orthodox."

No evangelical can call Mormons "orthodox" in terms of the Apostles' Creed and biblical canon. But they are orthodox within their own, distinct faith tradition. In other words, members of a Mormon church tend to know and believe their faith. Go to a typical evangelical church and you'll often find very wide theological divergence. Nationally, 84 million people self-report as evangelicals, but of that number only 19 million according to Barna actually have orthodox evangelical beliefs. In other words, the evangelical church must improve in transmitting even the most basic elements of the Christian faith from generation to generation. 

5. Mormon leaders ask a lot of their members.

I'm always amazed at the level of church involvement of Mormons compared to evangelicals. From giving, to service, to teaching, to raw number of hours in the church building, Mormons are simply doing more. To some evangelical critics, you'd think we lose members because we're so demanding. But compared to the Mormon experience, evangelical churches are a carnival ride of short services, low accountability, and rare church discipline. If you're a faithful Mormon, you're not living a 95 percent secular life like so many evangelicals. At least in this regard, Mormons are truly countercultural. 

6. Mormons are less selfish.

Add up points one through five, and you get to the sum. Too many of us evangelicals have forgotten the fundamental paradox of Scripture—you won't gain your life until you lose your life. We ask our kids to lose just a little life to gain . . . what, exactly? If Christianity isn't worth losing everything, is it worth only losing some things? And if it's not worth losing everything, why is it worth losing anything? 
Big families, intact families, years-long missions, faithfulness to church teaching, and a lifetime of service add up to a sustainable, Christ-honoring counterculture. By contrast many of our churches will prove to be ashes and dust—unable to resist a culture that relentlessly demonizes even the small remaining differences between evangelicals and atheists. 
As a member of another Christian denomination in America, I've got my theological differences with the LDS church. But if we evangelicals don't believe we have anything to learn from our Mormon friends, then we're foolish. Our churches will not grow by conforming, by shedding the last remaining distinctions between Christians and the secular world. That route is well-traveled by the imploding mainline denominations. Instead of asking less of our families and youth, let's ask more by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit. Instead of giving less, let's give more. Instead of believing we're unique theological snowflakes capable of discerning truth on our own, let's teach church doctrine early and well. And let's not be afraid of church discipline. 
What are the core lessons for the church? Conform and die. Resist and live.
David French is an attorney, author, and blogger at Patheos.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rawlins Letter #9

Working out at the park

Frosting fight...

...the frosting won!

The frosting that was left went on Sister Young's birthday cake.

Meeting up with the Wilderness District on the way to Laramie

No caption needed.

Visiting with Grandma T in Laramie!

Last Monday we were playing soccer in the park on P-day and the ball managed to get by me right as a guy was walking by. He let the ball come to him, juggled it a few times and passed it to me. I said, "Whoa, you wanna play with us?" He agreed and got to meet all four of us sister missionaries. Since then, we played Tuesday and Wednesday for a little bit and got to meet all of his friends. They call me "hermana" because they can't say my name and I try to speak Spanish to them. They've asked us all sorts of questions and we've invited them all to church. Quite a few are actually interested. It's great! Soccer: best finding activity on my mission, so far.

Sister Waite and I decided that it simply doesn't matter what you teach. How you teach is the real indicator of someone's progression. If the Spirit is present, He will teach people exactly what they (and we, as a matter of fact) need to hear. We've been trying to focus on that even more.

We helped out a less-active with gardening again and guess who showed up to church this Sunday!!! Yup, she made it!!! That was really exciting. T is doing great! She came to church this week and we taught her the Plan of Salvation which was really powerful. She still has some questions about a few things but feels it's true. Questions are a good thing. If we don't ask questions, we'll never find answers. And, let me tell you, she's got some great questions. Lessons are totally led by the Spirit. T is one of the most prepared people I've ever met. It is so clear how much Heavenly Father loves that woman. She's been through a lot and deserves this Gospel and the blessings that come because of it. 

Everybody deserves the Gospel.

We had a meeting in Laramie on Friday (I got to stop by and visit with Grandma T!!!! We sang her a song just like the good 'old days). On Saturday, Sister Waite and I decided to pray together to request help in finding an SD card that she had misplaced. It had been missing for quite some time and had her pretty worried. I would be too in that situation. I had no idea where she had put it or anything. She said a prayer, during which I had the clearest impression to look in a very specific drawer. It seemed so silly, but after the prayer I told Sister Waite the thought that had come into my head and went to the drawer. I started taking a few things out pretty casually, not really expecting anything when all the sudden I froze. I was looking at her SD card. I pulled it out and we both screamed. Prayers are answered. There is just no way I would've known to look there without help. So neat :)

A member took us and T out to dinner on Saturday night and someone paid for the four of us. So cool. I LOVE WYOMING!!! I love seeing the blessings that come to people that want to do nice things for missionaries, too. It was just a great experience.

Sunday was the grand finale. Whoa. We had three investigators at church. M, one of our ward missionaries, invited her friend to come. He's now interested in learning more. We had quite a few less-actives at church. Sundays like this are not an indicator of good missionaries at all. It's simply miracles that Heavenly Father is blessing people in Rawlins with ... but it's also soooo nice to see results from our actions.

We fixed Sister Waite's bike!!! Stoked!!!

Love, Sister Rashauna Hoer