Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's P-day!

Wow! What a crazy, but wonderful week. It feels like it has been months that I have been here though. I have experienced so much and grown as a missionary so much in just a week!

Ok, so my district is made up of all Sisters, which never happens so that is different, but it's been really good. We all do pretty well at staying focused and I am learning so much from each of them. Everyone is always commenting on how well we get along and how much love we have for each other. We all are so different but we just love each other and help each other. I couldn't ask for a better district. My companion is Sister Luna. She is wonderful! We teach really well together and we read each others minds. It is great to experience companion unity so strongly right at first. It kinda makes me worried for future companions though, because I've just been so lucky with her. We both work really hard and spend our time wisely, but we also have a lot of fun and laugh a lot. It is so great. I feel like I have known these Sisters for a long time. The spirit really does help strengthen relationships. If any relationship is suffering, just bring God into it and it will be strengthened. We also have a district of Elders in our Zone. They are also wonderful! We get along so well with them and have a lot of fun and learn from each other at our zone teaching times. Sister Luna and I received the calling this week to be the Sister Training Leaders. That is basically zone leader, but only for the sisters. We have 2 new districts coming in tomorrow and Sister Luna and I, along with our Zone Leaders, Elder Jolley, and Elder Romero, will be doing an opening orientation for them on their first night. I am excited to get to know the new Sisters and help their adjustment be smooth.
I am finally getting used to the sleep schedule and I sleep like a baby:) And...you'll be so proud, I roll straight out of bed when the alarm rings and I just start praying. Haha, if I didn't do that, I might just fall right back to sleep. Waking up is hard, but I am being strengthened sooo much here. I know the Lord is helping me every step of the way. At first, I was hungry all the time when I got here. Meal times are fast and I have never been a fast eater. But I am getting better at eating fast and I am not as hungry all the time now:)
So, I have really great teachers here. I feel the spirit so strongly, all the time here. It really is hold ground. We pray so much, and even though I felt like I understood prayer before I came here, I am using it so much more while I am here. My prayers have become more sincere and they have gotten me through everything. Prayers truly invite the spirit to be with you, which is key, as a missionary. I am learning how to trust my Heavenly Father to guide my words to be able to say what He would if He was here. I am representing Jesus Christ for the next 18 months and I need to have the spirit with me so I know how He would best help meet the needs of the individuals I meet. My love is growing even more since I have been here. My companion and I have been teaching two "investigators" here. One is named Luke, he is really our teacher but he does SO well at making me believe that he is real, which is quite a big deal considering I am an actor...haha. But we have been teaching him and we are truly learning how to listen to the spirit. I can feel the Lord guiding our words as we speak to say what He would have us say. But there have been some hard times too. Yesterday, we taught a new investigator, not sure if she is really investigating or a member pretending...but we couldn't figure out what her needs were. We taught what we thought was guided by the spirit, but we didn't feel like we had met her needs after. I was discouraged after and the first realization of the fact that I couldn't just go to my room and cry for a bit, sunk in. But I learned a very important lesson this week from the Devotional, Character of Christ video. I need to forget myself. I need to stop focusing on ME. Even if I am worrying about being a successful missionary, or how well I do. I need to GET OVER MYSELF! haha. So that is my motto. It really is the LORD's work and I need to totally forget myself and worry about the people that I meet and see them how the Savior would see them. I really love this place and I am so excited to go to the field next Tuesday. 
This Sunday was both the most wonderful but the most tiring day that I have had yet. Sister Luna and I had meetings alllllll day with our calling. We didn't get any study time at all, we didn't even get to go sing in the choir. But such is life. haha. For relief society, we had Janice Kapp Perry come and talk to us. No big deal...haha. It was AMAZING! I have learning that my main coping method out here is music. Songs truly bring me comfort. So when Sister Perry, spoke, in the middle of her talk, she had us sing a melody of her songs. Child's Pray, I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, I See My Mother Kneeling, etc. The spirit was so strong. Music has  such a power! I have so much more to say, but my time is running out. Thank you all for the wonderful letters and prayers! I love you all so much! Don't forget how personal Heavenly Father's love is for each of you. He knows you sooo well. Have a wonderful week! Get on your knees and pray to your Heavenly Father, He wants to hear from you, because you are His child. 

Sister Young
My whole Zone

My companion and I

My whole district of Sisters

Me in my classroom where we spend all day!

Cleaning the bathroom (that smelt horrible) for service hours 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Karissa's Farewell Talk

Farewell Talk January 19, 2014
Have you ever had a question in your head and had to figure out the answer? Usually in today’s society we turn straight to google, type in our question, and instantly get a million different responses from all over the internet. While this can be great, we know that we have an even greater source to turn to to find answers to our questions.
One thing that sets The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints apart from any other church on this earth is that we know we can receive revelation from our Heavenly Father. He is mindful of each of us individually and we can receive guidance and direction from Him when we ask because we are His children and He loves us. 
In Matthew 7:7-8 it says,
 7 ¶aAsk, and it shall be bgiven you; cseek, and ye shall find; dknock, and it shall be opened unto you:
 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that aseeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
 In order to receive the answers we seek, we must exercise action first. And unlike google, our answers will take a little more work and time but we WILL receive our answers. We are so used to instantly receiving our answers without putting forth much effort. Heavenly Father works in a different way. I have learned these principles of receiving answers and guidance as I have decided to serve a mission and I am still learning them. 
What must we DO in order to receive revelation?  
First, as it is instructed in Matthew 7:7-8, we must ask. We can ask by praying to our Heavenly Father and specifically seeking for answers to our questions. We must have a strong desire to know answers and faith in Jesus Christ. In James 1:5 it counsels “ 5 aIf any of you lack bwisdom, let him ask of God, that cgiveth to all men liberally, and dupbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
True to the Faith says, “In order to find and receive, you must seek and ask. If you do not knock—praying to your Heavenly Father for guidance—the door of revelation will not be opened to you. But if you approach your Father in humble prayer, you can eventually “receive revelation.”
My decision to serve a mission took longer than most. I began to have a desire to know if a mission was the right path for me clear back in November 2012. It had nothing to do with the age change, because I was already almost 21, but a spark of desire began to grow within me to know if a mission was really what God wanted me to do next. I began praying frequently to know. But like I said earlier, God’s answers are not always as fast as a google search, but they DO come when you need them in the proper timing. 
The next step to receiving revelation is to make sure we are clean and worthy to have the Holy Ghost with us at all times. We must be using the atonement. In the talk, Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets by Elder ROBERT D. HALES, he says, “We know that the pattern (of receiving revelation)  centers on the Atonement.14 We receive the blessings of the Atonement when we repent of our sins and keep the commandments. This we covenanted to do when we were baptized, and we renew that covenant each week as we partake of the sacrament. As we continue in righteousness, we qualify ourselves to say with Samuel, “Speak, [Lord]; for thy servant heareth.”15 And the Lord answers, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.””
As I began my process of decision making about a mission, I realized that in order to get my answer, I needed to make sure I was living my life the way the Savior wanted me to live. I realized that a few elements in my life were not in accordance to what they should be. Over my first semester at BYU-I, I gained a stronger testimony of the atonement and the power it has to change lives. Particularly the power it has to change me. I grew closer to my Savior and slowly began to realize more what my purpose is and what I needed to do with my life next.
As I was praying to know what to do, I also exercised the next step that Matthew 7:7 outlines, to seek. To seek I would study my scriptures, preach my gospel, attend missionary forums, talk to my returned missionary roommate, do visiting teaching, talk to my bishop, anything I could think of. As I began to seek and study it out in my mind, my desire to serve a mission grew and I wanted to serve but me, being the stubborn person I am, I was still not sure if that meant a mission was the right path for me. In Doctrine and Covenants, 9: 8 it says, “ But, behold, I say unto you, that you must astudy it out in your bmind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your dbosom shall eburn within you; therefore, you shall ffeel that it is right.” 
I have seen this scripture come to pass so many times in my journey to serve a mission. One of those times was one day I went to the weekly Tuesday devotional at BYU-Idaho. I can’t even remember who spoke or anything about it expect a moment at the very end. I was sitting and we were singing the last hymn after the speaker, totally unrelated to anything about missionary work, and suddenly the spirit hit me strongly. And in my head I remember thinking, “I’m supposed to go on a mission.” That feeling filled me up and was a strong answer for me. Up until that point I had been dragging my feet, waiting to know if it was right, but after that strong feeling, I set up my appointments with my bishop and started my papers.
The next important lesson that I have learned about personal revelation is that we receive answers one step at a time. Often times we expect to know right away every single little thing about our answers. But God does not give things to us all at once because He wants us to learn to trust Him. In the talk Ask, Seek, Knock by Elder RUSSELL M. NELSON he quoted 2 Nephi 28:30 and said, “Revelation need not all come at once. It may be incremental. “Saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more.” 14 Patience and perseverance are part of our eternal progression.”
Elder Bednar compared receiving revelation, to a sun rising after a dark night. He says,” In contrast to turning on a light in a dark room, the light from the rising sun (does) not immediately burst forth. Rather, gradually and steadily the intensity of the light (increases), and the darkness of night (is) replaced by the radiance of morning. Eventually, the sun did dawn over the skyline. But the visual evidence of the sun’s impending arrival was apparent hours before the sun actually appeared over the horizon. This experience was characterized by subtle and gradual discernment of light.”
As I began to act upon my first answer to go forward with my mission papers and finished filling them all out, I found that some decisions were still unclear to me. I didn’t know when would be the best time for me to go. I decided to work for a summer to make some money and then go after. As I got home, I began to feel like the timing wasn’t right. I didn’t understand why, but I didn’t feel ready to go yet. As I started my summer job, I began to push the thought of a mission further to the back of my brain. I still remembered that moment of enlightenment that I had had at the devotional a few months before but began to feel like timing was off. My family had decided to make a big move after living in Wyoming for 12 years. We were moving to St. George, UT. I felt like I needed to go with them and then I would figure out where to go from there after I worked for a couple months. I did not understand why a mission stopped feeling right after I had strong feelings before. But I felt like I was making the right choice to move with my family and live at home for a while. 
The next lesson about personal revelation that I have found is that we need to act on what we receive until we receive the next piece to our puzzle. I moved to St. George and started a new job. I did not know what I needed to do in life but I once again started praying and exercising all of the steps that I have talked about above. I was convinced that a mission was not in my plans anymore and continued to live life. After about a month of living in St. George, I had come to think I would just go back to school at the start of the next semester, when little by little, thoughts of a mission started to prick at my heart and mind again. People would mention it to me in passing and I wouldn’t know what to tell them about if I was going or not. 
One day in the mail, I received a letter from a dear friend of mine. She had felt like she needed to write to me and encouraged me to reconsider going on a mission. She also included a talk, “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence” by Elder Holland. Which has a quote, “Once there has been genuine illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts.” I knew that a mission had been right when I had prayed about it, but the timing had seemed off, and I also probably was a bit afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it, so I had retreated, but I knew it was time to ask again to be sure. 
God works in many ways. We need to wait on the Lord’s timing but still take steps forward into the unknown. Elder Bednar “In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, God requires us to do our best, to act and not be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26), and to trust in Him. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, as we strive ever more consistently to do good and to become better, we can walk with the confidence that God will guide our steps.”
I still did not feel absolutely assured about my decision and I was not sure if I was following God’s will but I began meeting with my bishop and the process went really quickly since my papers were already filled out. I turned my papers in and received my call to serve in the Colorado Fort Collins mission. Since taking my steps into the unknown, the Lord HAS assured me so many times that I am making the right choice. After meeting with my stake president, I remember feeling like this choice to serve a mission was more right than any decision I had ever made. I felt the spirit testifying strongly of that same truth as I opened my mission call and found out where I am going. I hold on to those feelings of peace and joy on the days when I get nervous, start doubting myself or my decision, or start thinking about how much I will miss everyone. Once we take steps forward, we will be lead to the right path. 
As Matthew 7:8 says, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” The Lord DOES answer prayers if we have a strong desire, we ask in faith, live worthily for the spirit to guide us, and we seek and study out answers. Then we must realize that we will not receive answers all at once but little by little. We must wait on Lord’s timing but still take steps forward into the unknown acting upon what we have received. The Lord loves us so much and wants us to turn to Him and trust in His guidance. Although my journey of deciding to serve a mission was long, my testimony has been strengthened so much in how my Heavenly Father is mindful of me and that He is guiding my life. His timing is the proper timing and everything happens for a reason. People have been placed into my life that needed to be there to help me. I know that our Savior Jesus Christ atoned for each and every one of us, and we can turn to Him in whatever trial or sin that we are struggling with and He will make us a new person. I know that Joseph Smith restored this gospel back to the earth, the true church of Jesus Christ, the same church that existed back when He was on earth. I know that President Monson is the true and living prophet on the earth today, being guided by the Lord, for what we need in our day and time. I am so excited to share this testimony with those people in the Colorado Fort Collins Mission. 
In the name of Jesus Christ,

My lovely friends!

Grandma Larson

Uncle Todd
Young Family
The Ballards

So grateful to everyone who was able to make it, and for the prayers and thoughts of those who couldn't make it. You all are so great! I love you all!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mission Call Arrival

Opening my mission call!

        I've heard other missionaries say that when they read their call they knew right away that that was the mission they were supposed to be called to. I've also had friends who have had complete opposite experiences and have been disappointed and even a little angry at where they were being called. Having heard both sides, I didn't know what to expect when my call came. I am never one to want to fit into the cliches or the stereotypes of the world, I like to stand out and be my own person. And while my story is similar to many,  I have learned how very personal each experience is. Here is my story.

      As soon as I finished my final interview with the Stake President and he said he would be submitting my papers that night, I began to pray specifically for a few things. I prayed every day to be able to accept where I was being sent, and to know that that was where my Heavenly Father wanted me. I wanted to be ready and prepared to be happy with where ever I was sent. I didn't have my heart set on a foreign mission, I was one sister that was fine staying in the states or leave. As the days went by, I got more and more anxious and would just wonder where I was being called, which is pretty normal. Finally after waiting and checking the mailbox daily, my call came! 
       I didn't expect the feeling that came over me when I pulled the envelope from the mailbox. I felt so much joy and excitement, nothing can compare! I realized right then, the power behind the call that was waiting in that envelope. The spirit hit me strongly and confirmed to me right then that I was going to be fine with whatever mission I was called to. I just had to wait a few more hours for my family to get home to be able to open it. After 2 of the longest hours of my life, I was surrounded by my family while I opened my call. 

      My hands were shaking as I opened the envelope and I pulled the paper out careful. The feeling that came over me as I began to read the powerful words, "Dear Sister Young, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." was wonderful. I was being called to represent Jesus Christ as a full-time servant by his own prophet on the earth. I read on, "You are assigned to labor in the Colorado Fort Collins Mission." So many thoughts went through my head, but the thought that stuck out was, "Yeah, this is the right place for me." Like I said before, I'm not one for cliches, but as the words sunk in, I received my long prayed for confirmation that the Colorado Fort Collins Mission was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt like Heavenly Father was aware of me and knew that I would best fit in this mission. I have learned even more, through receiving my mission call, how very personalized mission work is. My talents, personality, and testimony fit best with this mission and this is where I need to grow the most through my time on my mission. 
      I am so excited to begin serving! My mission covers Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming! As I most recently moved to St. George, UT after living in Wyoming for 12 years of my life, it is quite interesting but comforting knowing that I am going back to an area that I love. Who knows if I will end up back in Wyoming during my mission, if so, my work in Wyoming must not have been done just quite yet. I am so grateful to know that Heavenly Father is in charge and knows what he is doing. Knowing that Heavenly Father loves me and is aware of me will bring me great comfort as I serve Him for the next 18 months. With each person I meet, each companion I have, each area I am sent to, each joy, and each hardship, I will know Heavenly Father is in charge.