December 28, 2013

December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve!

Hello everyone!  So I will be talking with you all tomorrow so I won't write too much. :) President is letting us do Skype this year WITH the video feature!!!!
Sorry I was not able to email yesterday.  I was up once again in Yosemite!  It was a lot colder this round obviously with some snow on the ground.  Still not a lot but it was nippy.  It's nice going up in that I'm learning more of what areas are worth seeing and not, so when we come out I will know which ones to show all of you to get the best sight seeing.  Yesterday we saw a lot of what I saw the very first time I went up. (more of the falls).  There wasn't many since the rain fall has been little.  So when we come we will have to come once the snow has melted in the summer time.  We all got a little car sick this round so we did a lot of stops here and there to take a breather and walk around.  My legs are so sore right now after the hiking we did.  Ha ha..  But it was pretty.

This past week was very boring because.....I was sick.  I came down with a head cold and was out for a couple days.  So we did lots of sleeping and staying inside so we could get feeling better for Christmas.  The Horan's have been so sweet to us in letting us come over there to relax and so Amie can nurse us back to health.  I'm feeling better now.  The good fresh and crisp air yesterday helped the sinuses.  Just got a little dry cough and sore calves now.  :)  

So last Monday, I had I think the most sweetest and most powerful blessings so far on my mission and even in my life.  I was just having a rough time with everything and finding my purpose here at this time.  We had FHE at the Horan's so afterwards I ask Jim if he could give me a blessing.  I felt bad for just throwing it on him and not giving him much of a heads up.  But the blessing he gave me left us all in tears and has changed us all.  It was very sacred and Jim still talks about it.  He even gave his talk about it this last Sunday (not mentioning names and stuff but about the Atonement and Christ and we all knew what he was talking about.)  In my blessing though I was told over and over again that the Lord loves me and is very aware of my heart right now.  I have gifts and talents to share with these people.  My biggest gift is speaking to the souls of God's children.  I have touched many hearts without knowing it and will continue to do so.  I was comforted to know that the Lord is proud of me for being here at this time.  I was then told to which I will never look at the Atonement the same; I was told that Christ suffered and died for me and would gladly and honorably do it again just for me.  I am an elect woman and have a great calling in this world.  He has spared my life to be here.  I was told that the Lord personally kneels down with me each time I kneel in prayer.  He is with me.  Many more beautiful and sacred things were shared.  I wish so badly we wrote it down or recorded it.  I did have Jim and Amie write their feelings afterwards and I wrote mine down as well.  What a powerful blessing and a comfort to know how much I am loved by him and all of you.  I don't deserve this love but am so grateful for it all and having you all here in my life to bless me and help me along my way.  I wish I could explain more of last Monday and even wish more of that you were here to experience that sweet spirit.  I know this prayer is for all though.  Christ came into this world for ALL of us and suffered everything and died just for us.  He knows us each by name and saw us in his eyes as we went through all of that.  He loves us SO deeply.  More than we can even understand. Literally!  He was born to be our Savior.  He knew what he had to do and what his purpose in life was.  To save us all!  How great it is to have this knowledge that he is our King, our deliverer, our example, our light, our friend, our advocate, our Lord.  I know he would go through all of the pains and torment he suffered the first time again for any one of us.  The worth of souls (or of just one soul) is great in the sight of God.  I was privileged to experience and witness a particle of his love for me this last week in the blessing.  The Priesthood is real and it amazes me how little I tell people about myself or how little they even know about me and yet they always say something that I know is from God because there is no way they would know that other wise.  Dad, Mark, Jeff, and Solomon, please continue to honor and sustain your high calling of holding this power.  Always be ready and in tune to give blessings at any time, especially when a cute little Sister Missionary or Elder comes to your house and asks you to give her/him a blessing.  They trust you enough and chose you to be God's mouth piece.  I want ALL of you to receive a blessing before the new year.  Dad, have Mark or Jeff give you one.  Solomon, if you are with your father this holiday season, have him give you one.  If not, go to your Bishop or ward friend you love and have them give you one.  I know the Lord loves each and everyone of us.  Listen to your purpose here and His deep love he has for just you!  That's my invitation to all of you.

Well like I said not much happened this week other than getting over a cold.  I hope you all are feeling better and getting over your individual colds as well.  Thank you for the Christmas packages and presents.  I hope you enjoy yours as well.  Haven't been home in a year so hopefully you don't already own it.  If so, I have the recite still but I'm sure you can find someone else to give it to or one of the siblings will take it!

I love you all and can't wait to hear from you tomorrow!!!!!!!  It sounds like the Horan's have Skype and will let us use it.  The other sisters are doing their calls around 4:00-5:00 and so they said we can do ours around 11:00-12:00.  

LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- hermana Sorensen

December 20, 2013

December 16, 2013

Thank you all for your love and prayers for me.  I have definitely needed them this week.  Lots of tears and days where I just can't get going but yet do.  I know I'm suppose to be here and pray things will get better and that I can finish well.
This week we had our Christmas Conference.  President talked a lot about the historical nativity.  He explained a lot of the customs and traditions back when Christ was born and all the meanings.  It was very interesting because he's been there plenty of times and so he told us a lot of stories and experiences of when he was there in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.  I wish I could explain everything in detail to you but it's hard over email and I'm sure a lot of it you already have heard of but it was all new and insightful to me.  He talked about how Mary and Joseph were probably in their teens (13-17) when this was going on, the actual date of when Christ was born, more facts about the star, the manager, etc.  His birth was incredible and meek.  I'm so grateful for Jesus Christ and this time we have to remember him and his ministry here on Earth.  I love reading about the need we have for him and the excitement we had waiting for his arrival.  We were there on that glorious day over 2000 years ago at his birth rejoicing and praising Him!  Now we are here, hopefully having that same excitement about Him in the knowledge we have that He lives and is coming again.  Our whole existence and purpose here in this life is because of Him and for us to become like Him so we too can live with our Heavenly Father.  He is our guide and knows the terrains better than we can imagine.  Are we listening to his directions and following him? I hope so.

Well this last week has been a huge turning point for the Alvarado-Calixtro family!!!!  The WHOLE family came to church yesterday!!!!!!  We sent someone to just pick up the girls but she came back to the church and said they weren't there.  A couple minutes later, they all walk in to the chapel.  Carlos the dad looked extremely tired (he goes to work at 1 in the morning over in San Jose and sleeps in his car while he is there ((so he doesn't get much sleep)) and stays there till the weekends and comes back home and tries to catch up on his sleep before he heads back).  The girls on Friday were able to go with the ward over to the Oakland temple in San Francisco to see the lights.  They just LOVED it.  We visited them Saturday night and Hannah showed us all her pictures she took and told us all about it.  She was just beaming!  Carlos and Betty said "the girls really love your church!" and that they are happy as parents to see the girls excitement and love for the church.  I think this is what helped the parents in coming to church in that they are curious why the girls love it so much!  What was really cute, when Hannah came to church the 1st time the other week, I went with her to primary.  We learned the Nativity song.  Well the primary kids went up and sang it in sacrament yesterday.  Hannah walked over to me and whispered "do I have to go up there?".  I told her "They are singing the song that we learned in primary last time you were here.  So if you want to go up there and sing, you can, but you don't have to."  I thought she would just go sit down, but nope, she walked up there and sang with the kids!!!!  I couldn't stop smiling.  I looked over at Betty and Carlos and they were confussed but impressed that she went up and actually knew the song for only coming once!  Ha ha.. The parents let Lupita, Hannah, and little Jesus stay for the rest of the meetings.  So I went with Jesus to Sunbeams while Hna Odor went with Lupita to her Sunday school class and Hannah was brave enough to go to her own class by herself and not with Hna Odor and Lupita.  It was so exciting having them all there.  Hannah went with us last night to our Stake Christmas concert and the girls are going with us Tuesday to Fresno for the leaving missionaries fireside.  I'm so happy they are getting involved in all these youth activities and enjoying them.  Now we just need to get the parents involved more.  This was pretty much the highlight of the week.  It would have been even better if President gave us the approval of going with the ward to the Oakland temple. Ha ha..  We definitely have to go next year or at least in the future!  I hear it is just beautiful!

This week begins the new transfer but like I said Hna Odor and I will be staying together here in Los Banos still.  I got your package at the Christmas Conference.  Thank you!  Is there anything in it that I need to open before Christmas or are they all for Christmas day?  Just want to make sure.  I'm struggling finding you all a Christmas gift so you might get them after.  They will be a New Years gift.  Ha ha..  Hopefully you got my Christmas ornament by now though.  If not, keep an eye out for it in the mail.  Hopefully it looks good. :/

Tell Grandma I love her and that I bought peanuts like she told me!  I hope she can find the strength to pull through a little longer.  Please keep me posted though and again know you are allowed to call the mission office if you need to get a hold of me.  I can't wait to hear you all next week though.  Honestly I'm nervous but can't wait to hear your sweet voices.  Again, I only get 40 minutes so be sure to think of questions or have stories ready so we can save as much time as we can!!!!!  Anything you want me to start thinking of or stories to share?  What time is best to call?  Actually I think you call me like last time, but when is best for everyone?  Let me know so I can plan for it.  I am not sure what my day will be like so as of right now any time is good.  Probably more in the afternoon in case we have a meeting in the morning and so you can all open your presents.

I love you all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Take care!!!!!!!!!
- hermana Sorensen

December 9, 2013

Greetings to everyone!  My heart is so full of emotions.  I miss not being there with all of you this time of year with the holidays, illnesses, adventures, and everything else that life brings.  I'm very homesick and want you all to know I love you more than anything in the world.

Bishop Lee's funeral was so beautiful.  Before he passed he told his wife how he wanted it to be done, so it was very organized and very uplifting.  He didn't want her to cry or be sappy with her eulogy.  She told a lot of jokes and silly stories of him.  Always a joker.  His favorite city.....Montreal Canada!!!!! I'm sure you would say the same thing too dad since you served there too!  I'm sad to see him gone, but it's sweet to see how strong his kids and wife are which makes us be strong.  The church was packed and it was a great way to teach about the Gospel to those here in town.  Hopefully we will have soften hearts now to accept the messages.

The Elder Porter conference was good.  He talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ more in depth.  I really liked the talks before him though about being humble and full of love.  We as missionaries literally can't talk to EVERYONE we see, but our countenance speaks far more than words.  Always be an example and stay strong to your values.  Elder and Sister Porter cover the middle east.  They obviously can't do any preaching over there, but their actions and lifestyle is how they spread the Gospel.

At the conference, one of the Elders I served with in Modesto came up to me and told me there is a lady in Fresno that is friends with mom that keeps asking about me and is wanting to do team-ups with me some time.  Mom, do you know of someone here that is trying to hunt me down?!  Ha ha.. He said she speaks spanish also.  Hummm... And I'm the only Sister Sorensen here so I know they don't have me confused with some other sister here. He can't remember the name but kept saying it's your friend mom.  So you will have to let me know if you know who it is!

The zoo last week was fun.  It was a lot bigger than I expected (bigger than Nebraska but smaller than Hogle Zoo).  Saw flamingos, zebras, elephants, sea lions, snakes, lots of birds, lemurs, monkeys, kangaroos, warthogs, giraffes, etc.  We will have to plan to go to Hogle Zoo when I get back!

 The ward party was fun too Saturday.  Very disorganized and everywhere, but it was a good turn out.  The Tongan's did a lot of dances which made me miss Amanda teaching them to me.  Santa came so I got a picture with him!

I love you all and hope you have a good week this week.  Always in my thoughts and prayers.  I wrote an email to Grandma so hopefully she gets it.  Thank you for the sweet message.  I love her so much and hope she gets feeling better and can pull through.

- hermana Sorensen

December 2, 2013

I'm so happy you were able to meet Vern Hixson Dad.  The ward members and us call him our giant skinny teddy bear.  He and his wife are just so loving and fun.  His humor reminds me of yours dad and I think that's why I've gotten along with them so much.  As I'm sure they told you, we spent Thanksgiving with them and enjoyed the afternoon there.  The food was good but definitely not like your yummy food mom.  But it was exciting to see similar foods.  In fact the other night we were helping the Betham family set up their Christmas stuff and she fed us Raspberry pretzel jello (the one that you make mom!!!)  I was so happy to eat it and ate a bunch of it actually as we watched Mr. Kruger's Christmas.  So that was fun.  Then Thanksgiving evening we went to the Garcia's and had our Mexican version of Thanksgiving.  That one wasn't my favorite.  I had no clue what was going on with everyone speaking Spanish and what food I was eating.  It was very fun though because they all dressed up nicely and put a lot of work into their food.  I was still really stuffed from the Hixson's though so I didn't eat much.  Then we went home and watched Forever Strong with Sister Vogel.  So it was a fun Thanksgiving but glad I only have to spend 1 away from home.

Last Tuesday Bishop Lee passed away. :(  His funeral will be held this Saturday.  It's going to be super packed.  The whole community will be there and everything.  I am very relieved though to be here for it.  I think it would be very hard to hear about it later and not be able to attend.  So I'm grateful I am still here and get to go.

Today we went to the Zoo.  That was fun.  I will tell you all about it next week.  We are typing at the community center which is closing in 10 minutes, so I'm trying to type fast and briefly on this past week.

This Saturday we have Elder Porter from the Seventy come and visit us.  So that should be fun!  Saturday is also our Ward Christmas luau so it will be a very filled day.

This past week was good.  Still lots of visiting with members and trying to find new investigators.  The work is going slow, but we are trying to keep busy and teach especially with the holidays coming up.  Hopefully we will have lots of success.

I'm glad to hear you are all doing good and that you did end up having warm turkey and not cold.  Ha ha.. that would be a crazy morning!  You will have to send me pictures.  I will send you mine next week again when I have more time.

I love you all and can't wait to talk to you in 23 more days!!!!!!! :D  Sorry it's short.  I'm still alive though and think of you all the time.  I'm glad you had a good Thanksgiving and you are all safe and well.  Enjoy the cold! :P

- Hermana Sorensen

November 26, 2013

Well for Thanksgiving here, we are house hoping a lot because a lot of people want us over.  The Hixson's are having us over and said they are headed to Utah either Thursday evening or Friday morning.  They said I could send some packages with them and that you could meet up.  I said that would be wonderful, so hopefully that is okay with all of you.   I hope all of you have a good day and know that I will be thinking of you and looking forward to next Thanksgiving with you!!!!  Tell everyone hi!

Helping the Forman's decorate
As of this last week things were okay.  Still trying to find new investigators and find the less actives here.  We are helping a lot of the members with their Christmas decor which is fun!

Lupita and Hannah Alvarado-Calixtro came to church this Sunday!!!! I went to Primary with Hannah and Hna Odor went to YW's with Lupita.  Hannah loved it!  YW's was a little different along with sunday school so I think Lupita was a little taken back and didn't enjoy it as much as she could have other Sundays. :/  But we were very happy they came!  

Sorry it's a short one today and nothing fun to read.  We've been knocking lots of doors and trying to find people to teach.  But I'm excited for Thanksgiving this week and the memories I will make here. I will tell you all about it next week and I can't wait to see pictures and hear how yours went.  Be safe and eat lots!  Next Monday we are going Ice Skating, but I should still be able to do my emailing, if not you will get it Tuesday!  LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!  Take care!!!!!

- Hermana Sorensen

November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013

Pulled over here for lunch and roasted hot dogs
Well sorry my email is a day late.  We spent the day yesterday in Yosemite with the Jim and Amie Horan.  It was a lot of fun.  We went and saw pretty much the same things I saw back in June when I went, but it was still exciting.  They took Sis Hammer, Sis Bardin, and then Sis Odor, and I.  We drove up in a 15 seater van.  It was huge.  I got really car sick but managed through it.  Today I have a nasty headache though and hangover I guess from it all yesterday.  I bought me a spoon for my collection.  I didn't know if you wanted me to pick you up anything there or if you are like me and actually want to GO there to have a souvenir from there.  Sorry!  Please let me know if there is anything you want me to find out here.  Also, who do I have for Christmas?  Sibling, cousin, etc.?  I'd like to know ASAP so I can start looking around for something fun.  Thanks!

Things here are going good.  We've had a full house with Sister Vogel being back and having her kids come out to visit.  Sister Vogel's granddaughter Avery is 2 and when I could I had fun playing toys with her during our lunch.  The first night they were over though, Avery cried the whole night.  It was awful!  Ha ha..  Definitely wasn't expecting to be kept up by a baby on a mission.  They leave today though so the house will be back to normal.

So guess what?  I'm becoming a trio next week.  I'm being put back with Hna Hammer and covering Los Banos ward ALONG with Mercy Springs with Hna Odor.  I'm excited to be going back to Los Banos, but of coarse irritated because I just can't seem to say goodbye for good here in this town.  Trio's are a challenge, but I'm excited.

This Saturday I had to do splits.  Hna Odor had a baptism in Lemoore, so I called up our RS president and she took me out that night.  It reminded me of back at home going out with the Sisters.  Very different being the missionary and not the team-up driving them around.  Laura, Kimberly, or Mom, have you done any team-ups or splits with the Sisters?!  If not, you'll have to.  Tell the sisters what day or time you are free and go out with them!  Dad, you can too.  You can meet them there or take mom with you!  :)  I'm so grateful for the members here who are willing to help us out and be our family away from family.  Let the missionaries know you are there for them if they need.

The work here this past week has been hard.  4 days in a row, all our lessons cancelled, members weren't, n one to visit, our dinners appointments cancelled, etc.  We were jinked.  So hopefully this next week will be a lot more productive and exciting.

We do have 2 new investigators though!  They just showed up at church looking for a new religion, so we took them to the classes and gave them Book of Mormons, and are now going to be teaching them!  President Schofield our Stake President I guess referred them over.  They are his dental patients and so he told them to check out the church. :)  I don't know their names (I personally think it's Rosa and Conrado, but they say it very Spanishy and fast that I can't understand them and Hna Odor say that that is not their names and says it one way but I've never heard of a name like that.)  Ha ha..  I will keep you updated on them!

We have a baptismal date for Maria Orellano for the 30th but will have to postpone that because she didn't come to church Sunday.  She was found back in April/May time.  I visited her a couple times before they split the area here, and now that I am back, we are picking her back up.  She has 3 kids at home living with her (Tim:11, Michelle:8, and Nicole:3).  Maira's brother and sister-in-law are members it sounds like and so she sees the difference it has made in there lives and she wants that for herself.  She said she's been reading the BOM and wants to learn more.  She is a sweet lady.  We are hoping she went to church this last Sunday in San Jose with her brother and sister in law so she will still be able to get baptized at the end of the month.  Don't really have any other investigators right now.  We do, but still working with them to see if they want the Gospel or no.

Sounds like you will have a full house for Thanksgiving!  Still not really sure what I'm going to be doing.  Probably just house hopping and eating lots and lots of food.

I love you all SO much!!!!  I hope this week is good for all of you too.  I will send pictures next week of Yosemite and everything else that has happened these last few weeks.
TAKE CARE!!!!!!!!!!!
- hermana Sorensen

November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013 - Day 300

Today marks 300 days out with 205 left!

Well things here are going better.  We had Stake Conference this weekend to which President and Sister Gelwix came. She gave me a good hug, but her hug wasn't as great as your hug mom, but I guess it does for the time I'm away.  Can't wait till I get a nice hug from all of you!!!!!!

So more info on Hna Odor.  She is from Aruba!!! (yes I sing the Beach Boy song too whenever I say it).  She has been out 13 months.  She speaks 4 languages; Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, and English thankfully.  It'll be nice having her help me with my Spanish.  We had dinner with a new family in the ward last night and they said they are going to help me with it too.  Ha ha..  Hna Odor says I know a lot but need to just be confident in what I say and say it.  So nerve wracking.

I hope your new calling mom is one you love and will grow in.  I know you did a wonderful job as Relief Society president.  You're an amazing woman with an incredible gift of love.  There are a lot of things I've seen in my life here that I know I couldn't do without your example.  You are a great role model.  All of you are!  I think that's what kills me the most about being away, because these families here don't have that love and respect for each other and it hurts.  I just want all of us to be together and show those around us what a family truly can be like.  I love you all and am SO blessed to have you in my life.  Yay for eternity!!!!!!!!!!

 It's still pretty warm here.  Day time is in the 80's and the evenings are cool in the 40-50's.  Definitely cold enough to wear my coat.  The leaves don't change here so I miss that.  It doesn't feel like Novemeber.  It still looks like July.

Well, we're trying to get things up and going which is rough.  The Elders left no record on who they have been teaching for the past few months.  So we are literally starting off where I left off!  Gurrr... It's sad but nice when the members tell us "Ohh yay we have you back!  It was awful having those 3 boys here."  One member asked what our number was and we said it's the one the Elders had, and he said, "ohh I deleted that long time ago".  The Lagunas family (Anthony Lagunas that we baptized in July) told us they stopped going to church because they didn't like the Elders.  We have been getting a LOT of that these last couple days.  So I'm glad we are finally here to help mend hearts and get things back up and going and for them to love missionaries again.  

Our Stake conference was on Hastening the work.  I hope the members here help us and start doing missionary work themselves.  We missionaries really can't do it with out them.  We are starting to help families with a family mission plan.  How are all of your missionary efforts?  Hopefully you don't get too stressed with it.  It can simply be putting up a quote or video from the church on Facebook, in a text, email, etc.  Mentioning what you did during the weekend like going to church.  A sister in conference that spoke counted all the church activities that just her ward alone had where they could have invited someone.  56!  Wow.  Hopefully now with the Christmas season coming up, it will be easier for all of us to mention our beliefs and church in conversation.

Life is hard, but it's worth it.  I've realized a lot this week that God knows more than we do.  There have been a lot of sweet people this week that have helped me overcome my struggles and help comfort me.  I don't know what my future holds and why I've been asked to do and learn certain things, but someday I will know.  I just need to trust in the Lord more.  And as Sister Gelwix told me yesterday, when I'm low, remember "I think I can...I think I can...I think I can.." and before you know it you've made it.  

I love you all and hope things go well for you this week.  Hopefully you have a fun holiday today!  What are your plans for Thanksgiving?!  I will talk to Sister Fairbanks and ask her.  I can give her your email and/or number so she can tell you instead of being the middle man.  Good luck with it!  I hope it can help!

Hna Sorensen

November 4, 2013

Hermana Hammer and I
We got transfer calls Saturday at 10:05pm.  I was informed I am staying in Los Banos, but will be moved over to the Mercy Springs ward.  Hna Hammer will be staying in the Los Banos ward with a new companion.  My new companion is Hna Odor (oh-door...not the smell).  She is from the Aruba if I'm not mistaken.  She doesn't have much longer in the mission so these might be her last few transfers.  She's a native obviously so I guess that will be good to finally have someone to help me with my Spanish.  It's been a really hard weekend though. I was looking forward to helping the Los Banos ward more and working with Bishop Fairbanks, but  Bishop Nuno is and will be great too.

We didn't have much appointments this week.  Our investigator pool is slowly diminishing.  Shen doesn't really want anything to do with us any more so that's hard.  Susan says no one loves her in the ward and she wants to go to another church where she is accepted.  We went over and visited with her.  It was a very touching visit.  She broke down and really opened up to us about her past and how she was as a mother.  I personally feel that she has turned to extreme beliefs (reincarnation, God is neither Male nor Female, etc.) because she has had a lot of hurt in her past with being abused and other things.  She wants beliefs that have no feelings or emotions attached in case it "back fires" or when she's placed in another trial, she won't have any pain and sorrow from that.  She just wants to feel loved and give love.  Her daughter doesn't talk to her which kills Susan because it tells her she was a horrible mother.  We met with Susan 2 times this week and just tried to help her know she is special.  She's very open to learning and has started to change her ways, but then Satan places something in her life to trick her.  She told us she was starting to accept that God has a body and is male until she drove past a church here that took the quote from Pres Uchtdorf (I mentioned it a few weeks ago) that put up "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."  So she of coarse took it as she shouldn't be doubting her beliefs because she is right.  Sigh.  We told her Pres Uchtdorf from OUR church said that and we shared a little bit about his talk and how he referred to that.  Hopefully I'll be able to always keep in touch with her and be her friend.

with the Horan family carving pumpkins for FHE
Halloween here was good.  We had to be in our homes at 6:30.  Had Zone meeting earlier that day, got back in town, visited with Michelle, had dinner w/ Garcias, and then went home and wrote letters.  Not very fun and memorable like your guys, but it was still nice to get things done that evening.  We even had a few trick or treaters.  Luckily we had a bunch of random candy through-out the house.  Sounds like you had much more then we had though.  You all look so cute and fun dressed up!  Did you all get a lot candy?!  

My District in Los Banos
My Zone in Los Banos
- hermana Sorensen

October 28, 2013

James, Me, Jaci, Bishop Fairbanks
So lots of happenings have taken place this past week and will be taking place.  Transfer calls are this Saturday.  Never been so nervous for call outs then I am for this one.  But I think I've mentioned that before.  So keep your fingers crossed and pray hard that what ever happens is what is suppose to happen.  THEN, yesterday the stake presidency came and released Bishop Brett Lee and called.....Brother Michael Fairbanks!!!!!!!!!  No more will he be our Ward Mission Leader, but our Bishop.  It was the most powerful and bitter sweet sacrament I think I have ever attended.  Bishop Lee was not able to make it, but his wife stood in for his place and bore the most touching testimony.  There was not a single dry eye in the Chapel and even foyer. (a lot of the other ward stood out there listening in).  She shared how hard this cancer has been for Bishop and for the family.  She has struggled so much with her faith and love for this Gospel in seeing the Lord not answer her prayers.  She was mentioning how one night she got home from the hospital and was just so sick of hearing bad new after another.  She was texting her brother who happened to have gone through his fair share of challenges and asked him how he remains faithful and strong.  He asked her if she had fair weather faith; meaning, do we only believe if we get our way and the weather is fair?  Or do we believe no matter how hard the storms may be and whether things are lost and damaged.  She turned her prayers of healing into prayers of comfort in accepting whatever happens.  She said Bishop doesn't have much longer and knowing that doesn't take away the pain, but how much she has grown in understanding the Atonement has taken away some pain.  I am so grateful I had the chance of being in the area at this time and serving under Bishop Lee.  I've met him a few times, but have learned so much about love from him.  All he wanted to do for this ward is to help mend broken hearts and cheer up the weary.  He has shown us all how to do just that by letting us mend his broken heart and help cheer him and his family up.  It's was a beautiful meeting.  He will be missed.  I'm excited though for Bishop Fairbanks now.  He is very missionary focused with now having worked with us the past 8 months or so.  He is a new face to the ward and has a lot of love he wants to bring to help pick this ward back up.  Everyone was confused on why President Schofield kept Bishop Lee in for so long and not just call a new Bishop, but I now can't help but think not only was it not time for Bishop Lee to be released, but it wasn't time for Bro Fairbanks to be called.  We needed his strong focus and help in the missionary forces to get that going so that we can then be able to help him and the ward get going.  I'm excited to see this ward have a steady Bishop back in that is able to help its needs.

This last Saturday we had our ward Fall Harvest Night. (we all had to call it that since we are still dealing with the issue of "Halloween" not being appropriate as LDS individuals).  It was a lot of fun and we had a good turn out!  Michelle was our only investigator that showed, but a lot of the ward members brought friends to it so that is super great!  Michelle's grandson came with her (Eli, 3yrs) and he attached onto me the whole night.  He made my night even more by hugging me and saying he loved me.  Ha ha..  He didn't want to go home and was throwing a fit with Michelle, so I told him he had to go so he could show his mom all his candy.  He stopped crying and was like "YAY!" and Michelle just looked at me and was like "How do you do that?!" I was like "It's called... I have 7 nieces and nephews!"  Ha ha.. My proud "aunt tricking" moment.  

Visited with Donna and Manuel a few times (the ones that feed us a candle lit dinner).  We had dinner with them the other night and Manuel kept staring at us and was just so baffled at how put together we are for a 19 and 22 yr old.  He has 2 daughters and knows how they were at those ages and just doesn't get it. :)  He said he doesn't want to be baptized, but just that he wants to come to church so he can see if all Mormons are like that.  We laughed.  They don't get why we have all these rules as missionaries and just gasp and stare as we tell them.  They just adore us so much! Ha ha..  Good thing we adore them.  They don't want us to be transferred and said they will call our leader to petition.  They are gonna give us a big going away party if one of us does leave.  Ha ha..  We are nervous for that party!  They still don't understand we can't listen to music, watch TV, date (she keeps trying to hook us up with her sons), and drink alcohol/coffee. :)

The rest of this past week we did a lot of service.  Helped Sister Gois organize her room and help nurse her back to health.  She's the one that had her neck fused and has been on feeding tubes the last few months and will remain on it for a couple more.  She is in bad shape so we are so glad we can help her out in little things she's not able to do.  Visited Sis Stenberg and helped her with a puzzle.  We're calling that as service too. ;)   Hope you all have a fun Halloween!  We are now headed off to Merced for a Zone party where we will be carving pumpkins.  What is everyone being this year?!

I love you all!!!!!!!! Take care!!!!!!!!!
- hermana Sorensen
Montserrat and I

October 21, 2013

I'm glad to hear all is well at home!  A gentleman in the ward showed me a picture of the Ogden temple last night!  I can't wait to see it when it's done!  They redid the Fresno endowment room.  It was just plain walled, but now they painted it with the Yosemite mountains!  I can't wait till this next temple trip to see it!  I hear it's super neat.

Well this last week was very busy with meetings.  Had District meeting Tuesday, Zone Conference Wednesday, Exchanges Thursday, weekly planning Friday, Church on Sunday, etc.  So we weren't able to do a whole lot, but we did stay busy.  Michelle Aunchman asked is she could move her baptism date back.  She said there is no way she is turning her back on this church, but she knows she needs to get things straightened out before she gets baptized.  She is incredible.  We weren't suppose to meet with her till Sunday, but she called and texted us asking if we could meet with her.  We met her at the church and that's where she told us she wasn't quite ready to be baptized.  We talked some more and she told us of what happened since we last visited.  We had talked about Law of Chastity and told her that living with her ex-husband is breaking the law.  She went home and was distraught because she saw no fault in it.  She prayed though asking God if the Law of Chastity applied to her.  That day she prayed ended up being the worst day she's had since we've been teaching her.  She was full of anger and sadness towards everyone and wanted nothing to do with anything.  As she sat down and contemplated her feelings, she knew that this was God's answer.  She has felt so much peace and happiness since she's been visiting with us, and this day of her telling herself that one of God's commandments isn't applicable to her, she felt His presence leave.  She knows she needs to keep this commandment now to have those feelings of peace and happiness always.  She attended the Addiction Recovery class this week too and is now getting more help that way.  We are just so happy for her and her sweet testimony she is sharing with us.  I've realized that God really is aware of each and everyone of us.  He does hear and answer our prayers.  Listening to her I can't help but question "why does she get her answers just like that?" "why can't I hear or understand my answers that easily?" "am I doing something wrong?"  But I know this isn't what I should be thinking, so I've been trying to think more on how I receive my answers.  As a missionary you would think I'd know or even they'd know by now.  I guess it's a life long matter though.  I hope I am listening to the promptings he gives me and that I am acting on them in time.  That was a lot of our training this Wednesday at Zone Conference, was listening to the Holy Ghost.  

Yesterday in church Hna Hammer and I performed a musical number!  I played the piano while she sang.  It was like I was back in piano lessons at a piano recital!  I was SO scared!  The song was called "How Shall I Live".  I am so glad to have it done and over with!  Ha ha..  But I didn't mess up as much as I was expecting so that's good! :)  I sure miss playing the piano though.  I am thankful for the sheet music you sent!  It will keep me entertained and up on my piano skills.

This transfer is getting long, but I'm trying to enjoy it while I can.  Not sure if my time is up here in Los Banos or if I'll be here a little longer.  I really REALLY hope Pres Gelwix knows what to do and what the Lord wants for this area.  I really hope I can stay, but we shall see next Saturday when we get the calls.

Thank you all for everything you do for me.  We seriously have the best family ever.  It's sad to see families here not work together or have love for one another.  You all are my bestest friends and will be forever and ever!  I can't even imagine not talking to any of you and not having you in my life.  Thank you all for being such great examples to me and loving me and my flaws.

- hermana Sorensen

October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013

 Tuesday we got a referral from church head quarters for a Machille Aunchman saying to visit her ASAP and that she's looking for a church.  We went over that night and set up an appt for that next day.  So Wednesday we met with her at the church and got to know her more.  I guess a guy from Utah who is a member was driving through California (truck driver) and pulled over to say a prayer and take a breather.  Machille was on the side of the road having a smoke.  This guy after praying felt impressed to talk to her and give her a pass along card telling her to call him if she ever needed help.  This was back in Feb.  Well, this last Monday she was very depressed and didn't know where to turn but remembered this man.  She gave him a call and they talked for awhile and he said he'd send some missionaries over.  He called Salt Lake, we were given the information Tuesday and like I said stopped by that night.  We've taught her now 2 times, she came to church yesterday, and she wants to quit smoking and drinking and to be BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  She really wants this all and you can see the thirst she has for a brighter life and future.  She LOVED church and she's loved all the lessons and agrees completely.  We taught her Friday and we told her to pray and ask if these things are true.  Later that night she called us and said "I was praying like you told me to do and asking God if these things are true.  After a while though I stopped myself and thought "I don't have to pray and ask if it's true, I already know it's true!"  Is that normal and okay?"  We were just so thrilled to hear her say that.  At church she stood up in Relief Society and told everyone who she is and her story and how she is just so happy to finally find this all.  She even signed up to bring food to our ward activity next week! :)  The Lord loves her and we are just so happy that this gentleman heeded the prompting to talk to her and then to send us to her.  We are extatic and can't wait for her baptism!  We just have to help her quit smoking, drinking, and either move out of her house or kick her exhusband out. :/  Please keep her in your prayers that she will stay strong and Satan won't try and stop her from reaching her date for the 27th. 

Another quick story.  I think I mentioned it last week, we found a less active family (the Emerich's) who have let us come in and visit with them.  We saw Sis Emerich Saturday and invited her to church.  She came to all 3 hours too!  So Hna Hammer teamed up with Machille and took her to all the classes with her while I stayed with Sis Emerich.  Both Machille and Sis Emerich were so blown away with church.  Sis Emerich stood up in RS too and mentioned how we need to be brave and call up those ladies in the ward you don't know and visit with them.  She said she's lived her for over a year and no one has tried contacting her but would have loved to have a visiting teacher come over and make her feel loved.  It was a good push for all the ladies to start doing their home teaching in a sneeky way. :)  

This Thursday we had our Relief Society night.  They did a dinner and talked about Visiting teaching.  It was a really good turn out for something like that here.  Everyone was amazed!  I know it was another miracle from God to help the RS see that with a little harder elbow grease, you can have good turn outs to activities.  I know from this experience, we will have a dramatic change in the way they do things in the future and we will see success. :)

- hermana Sorensen

October 7, 2013

This week has been really great.  It's very different watching conference at church buildings.  I really liked it when Dad and I watched conference in Nebraska a couple years ago.  But now, it's quite the luxury of watching it in your pj's on a comfy couch with a blanket wrapped around you.  We were able to watch all 4 sessions here at the church.  Hna Hammer and I didn't want to sit on the hard benches for 2 hours, so we pulled in the big arm chairs from the foyer and sat on those in the very front.  So glad we did!  Ha ha.. I was able to focus a lot better and enjoy listening.  I enjoyed all the talks though.  My favorite was probably Dieter F. Uchtdorf's.  Mostly because as a missionary, I felt that was really what I needed to hear as I try to work with a lot of less actives and helping others see why they should join our church.  I loved his "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith."  Just as we were driving here to come email, there is a church in town by our house that always puts up profound quotes on their marquee. We've noticed they change it every week but noticed they were late in changing it this week.  Well, they just changed it this morning, and guess what their quote is for this week? "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith".  Hmmmmm I wonder where they got that quote from?!  Least we know the pastor was watching Conference! :)
But it was a great conference.  Can you feel the time drawing to an end?  It sure is scary out there, but as we learned, as long as we stay firm in our testimony and do those things we know we should, we will be safe.  The battle is getting brutal and we need to make sure we have on ALL our armor.  We've been in a battle where just a sword and shield were good enough to protect us.  Now we need our helmets, eye protection, body suits, etc.  Bigger weapons call for stronger armor.

So we might have a baptism next weekend.  Not sure how I feel.  Normally you should feel ecstatic and anxious.  Well.  I'm sure I've mentioned her; Susan.  She was taught last year but failed the baptismal interview due to some differences of beliefs.  Hna Hammer and I finally got her approval to reteach her the lessons and to see if she's ready now.  It's a crazy story and mess, but she said she is going to petition that she be baptized.  How can a church reject her when she hasn't rejected them.  It's been a long battle and the ward has been helping her out.  Her mom is a member here and wants her to get baptized just as badly.  Susan still has not accepted all our beliefs which make it hard for us as missionaries to feel that she is ready for baptism.  (She's a feminist and doesn't see why she can't have the priesthood.  Also she doesn't believe in Heavenly Father.  She believes in God, but that "he" is non-gender, neither male or female, and has no body.)  Hna Hammer and I love her and want her to be baptized to receive the blessings that come from it, but we feel it's not good for us to get her baptized when her answers don't align to the actual baptismal questions/interview.  Okay so why do I say we might have a baptism next week?  Well, our WML thinks it's not good for us to keep these blessings from her.  The reason we get baptized is to learn and grow our knowledge.  So he called up Pres McAndrews (one of Pres Gelwix councilors) and talked to him about coming down to do the interview.  They all set the date for next weekend.  We will be cramming in all the lessons these next 2 weeks to get her as prepared as we can.  I pray that she will be ready and accepting, but as the ones with the stewardship in this ward and calling to be judges in Israel to baptize, I'm just worried.  

Funny story.  Tuesday we became dog owners!  A dog followed us home after our run and so we gave it some food and took care of it for awhile.  Hna Hammer gave it a bath and everything.  We tried finding it a home all day, but no one wanted it.  We thought we'd get to keep it after getting approval from Sis Vogel, but when we got home that night it had ran away.  But it was still fun for awhile.  Monkey was mad at us though. :)

The area is getting better.  We helped the Elders this week in going down to Dos Palos for them since they don't have a car and teaching the investigators down there.  When they told us, I immediately called up the Langs!!!!  We went over and visited with them.  Georgetta still wants to get baptized and Slim is still a spiritual giant of a prankster.  They are just incredible people and I just get so excited to be with them.  Hna Hammer was excited to finally meet the ones I talk about all the time.  I also did exchanges this week to Chowchilla again.  I love exchanges, but it also makes me down.  Chowchilla members are really loving.  It's hard not to want that in your own area.  But we are getting that more now then we have so I shouldn't complain.  This week the ward has been on edge though after hearing that Bishop Lee has taken a turn for the worst and is now hospitalized.  Not sure how he is doing or how much longer they say he has.  But we are praying for him and that what ever happens, his family will be comforted.

This Friday we had a Zone meeting.  Our Zone Leaders talked a lot about the Atonement.  It was really powerful and it's made me realize how appreciative I am of it.  We are literally nothing without the Atonement.  Everything we preach and live is because of the Atonement.  Everything relates back to it.  Christ's whole purpose was to Atone for us.  We are all here to accept it and believe in Christ.  Hna Hammer and I have made it our goal to teach more of the Atonement with our investigators and members.  If they can see the importance of that, then they will be more accepting of our message.  We also talked about how we are all Generals here.  There are no soldiers, captains, or other ranks.  We are in the highest rankings and need to remember that always.  We watched a video clip called "My Shoes".  You will all have to watch that on YouTube.  It made me grateful for my trials and to accept them and not wish them away.

- hermana Sorensen

September 30, 2013

I can't believe September is here and gone.  October is going to be great though, I can feel it!
Sister Hernandez is by far my favorite cook out here.  Mmmmm.. Last night we had dinner with her.  She made her homemade Hamburger helper soup.  It's to die for.  She's gonna teach me how to make Horchata finally next time!  And she's gonna make us tamales soon!  No one makes tamales until Christmas, so sadly I haven't had any yet.  But she said she will spoil us and make em. :)

We had to drive to Merced (~45 min away) to watch it at the Stake Center.  We invited one of the Recent Converts in the ward, Juanita, to come with us and we got a ride from Natalie Montes in the ward.  She's from Morgan, UT!  She served her mission here and met her husband and is now married and in Los Banos again.  So we had fun talking to her on the ride down of her mission and stuff.  I think I mentioned her before.  I never remember what I've put in previous emails and what I haven't. Sorry!  But the 4 of us were the only ones there from our ward.  Of coarse.  :(  But the 4 of us had fun and we really enjoyed it.  I think we need to do better at keeping our covenants wouldn't you say?! :)  I took from it that we can't be hard on ourselves in thinking we're not keeping our covenants when really we are through our service.  We are here to nurture and care for those around us.  It made me think of one of our investigators who doesn't understand why she can't have the priesthood.  I thought of her and realized myself that we as woman have equal qualities and assignments just like men but in different ways.  We can't all do the same task of paddling on one side of the boat.  We as women are given the task of paddling on the other side, and together with the priesthood, we go forward.

This week has been good but challenging as well.  I don't want to be rude or judgmental, but do not like the Elders here at all.  I'm so hurt to see how they spend their time and how they are treating the investigators and converts Hna Miller and I worked with.  They are great Elders, and I know they are sent here for a reason.  I just wish they would see that and get working.  One of the Elders came from the South where Hna Hammer was previously serving and I guess talked bad of this area making fun of all the missionaries that got called here.  So he gave Hna Hammer a hard time when she got called here saying "You're going to the crappy part of the mission. Let's hope you get along and love your companion a lot because the area sucks and you're gonna be miserable if your companion sucks too."  As you can tell, in the mission, no one wants to serve here in Los Banos or Colinga.  Both have that hard stereotype.  So this particular Elder is throwing a fit being here and is sitting back till he gets his way.  A lot of the members are already coming to us thinking we're still part of the ward and can help them instead.  Sadly it's not our area any more.  Hopefully the coming weeks will get better and these 3 Elders straighten things out.  Sorry to vent.  It's times like this though that your realize how much you love something.  I love this area and just am afraid other missionaries are going to come in and destroy it all right when we were getting a good foundation.

We had a lot of cancellations this week and so we were not able to see any of our solid investigators.  We did see Montserrat, but she sadly is making her way down the ladder instead of up like we had going.  I don't know what more we can do for her.  She doesn't see a problem in drinking coffee and tea.  They're good for you!  With Cheryl Kaplan (our less active we've been helping) stopped drinking for 4 days, but then picked it back up to be rebellious.  She is comfortable where she is at and just can't change.  That just didn't settle with me so I told her she can't say that until she ran it by with the Lord.  How sad it is to see people get comfortable with their lives and refuse to change.  I'm not telling them to change, it's their Father in Heaven.  I don't understand how you could be so hard-hearted like that and turn your back on God.  Back to the Relief Society broadcast, are we keeping our covenants?  We have them to protect us, give us true happiness, and to lead us back to our home above.  We're here trying to rescue her from a fire and she's just sitting there saying "no thank you, I don't want to leave the comfort of my couch." not realizing the house walls are burning down before her!  I am truly seeing this week the need to call people unto repentance.  We can not be satisfied with life.  It's always changing.  Satan tells you it's okay to do the same things every day.  God is the one telling us we need to keep moving forward and not being idle.  I read back in my journal this week when I hit that point of not wanting to go on a mission because I didn't want to leave my comfort zone and sacrifice everything a missionary has to sacrifice.  How grateful I am to say I did not let that keep me from coming out here.  How selfish that would have been of me.  It's hard having to sacrifice things we love so much.  But when we love God, we will have no difficulty sacrificing all we have.  He will bless us.  I want all of you to think of something you can sacrifice this week after you read this, and go 7 days without it.  Some examples I thought of if I were still back at home would be: not going on Facebook for 7 days, waking up early in the morning and not sleeping in, avoid eating snacks, not watching TV all day, etc.  Whatever it is, do it and replace it with something wholesome like; writing your favorite sister/daughter on her mission, reading an article in the Ensign, exercising, cleaning the house, making a gift for a friend or neighbor, etc.  I want to know what all of your sacrifices are and how you accomplished them or how you did or are doing.  My sacrifice this week is snacks.  During studies and lounging at home, I nibble a lot on food.  So I am not going to buy tempting snacks at the store today so I won't be tempted this week!

- hermana Sorensen

September 25, 2013

September 23, 2013 Half Way!

Drum roll.....this Wednesday marks my official half way point!!!!!  Holy Moly!!!  It's crazy but I also feel it's about time! ha ha jk.  No I really am happy to be here.  The time is flying by and I am trying to enjoy every minute I can.  I made it through another transfer though.  I will be staying in Los Banos for another transfer with Hermana Hammer!  I am very relieved.  I was not ready to say goodbye.  I got word though that my trainer Hermana Crandall is the new Coordinating Sister for the Mission.  I knew it!!!!  She's the best and is going to do great!  She's just leaving Modesto.  Been there for 9 months!  And will now be in Fresno probably the rest of her mission.

Well this week I became a member of the Cardinal Puff Club.  I will have to tell you more about it when I get back.  But let's say I felt really sick afterwards.  The Elders gave me a bigger cup then what everyone else used and so I ended up drinking a LOT of water.  Ugh..  But I did it finally and it feels great to join the club!  Ha ha.. 

Tuesday before our District Meeting, Hna Hammer and I went out to get donuts for breakfast.  As we were ordering, we didn't realize the gentleman was talking to us in Spanish.  We ordered, and as we were headed to pay he told us not to worry about it and he gave them to us for free.  We were so touched by his kindness and as we were walking out, that was when we realized he only was speaking Spanish to us and we understood everything he said to the point of ordering something!  We were very proud of ourselves. :)  After District Meeting we went back to Los Banos and tracted all day long.  We were very distraught and down at the rudeness of people after such a good morning.  Well we got to our dinner appointment which was with Donna Murphey who isn't a member or even investigator, we were so flabbergasted to see a candle lit dinner awaiting us.  It was Thanksgiving in September.  Turkey, potatoes, rolls, pumpkin pie, green beans, etc.  She is just the sweetest lady ever.  We tracted into her awhile back and she told us she's not interested, but would love to feed us.  So we took her up on the offer.  Her Boyfriend Manuel was there too.  He told us a lot about Portugal (where he was born) and about his religion back ground.  They are both in the 50's and so it was fun hearing their life stories.  Manuel was very amazed at the sacrifice we were making in being here.  We told them more about our church and a little bit about our beliefs.  We kept it very light and sweet, nothing to pushy.  And in doing so we got another dinner appointment!  This time Manuel is cooking and said he's going to make us a fancy Portugal meal! :)  I'm excited!  So the donuts and candle lit dinner really made our day special.  Also that night we went to Young Women's and helped them door bell ditch the Bishops house.  We taped up their front door and stuck a bunch of balloons in it so when they open the door they all fall in.  It was so cute to hear their reactions.  They definitely can use some laughter every now and then at this hard time.

The biggest thing we planned for this week was our ward activity.  We had a pretty good turn out to the Volleyball game.  The Alvarado-Calixtro family (our investigators) came to it!  Lupita and Hannah enjoyed playing volleyball while mom and dad (Betty and Carlos), and little Jesus played in the Nursery.  It was a fun night!  It was mostly all the active ward members that came, but it was more than we had at our movie night last month.  I know little by little more and more people will come to the activities.  

This week the temperature has really dropped down.  It's been in the low 70's!!!!  Saturday we got a big windstorm that almost blew us away!  I didn't mind tracting in that at all!!! :)  Then that night we had a mini rainstorm.  Mini as in it only rains for 3 minutes if you're lucky.  We always come out of where ever we are and see the ground wet and realize it must have rained while we stepped into a house for a quick prayer.  I sure miss Utah weather especially at this time of year.  I don't even know what the weather this time of year is going to be like here.  Not sure if it will stay in the 70's or if this is just a cold front and that it will be back in the 100's next week.

I think the thing I learned this week is that Satan is really working hard to lead others astray.  I keep hearing that the Pope now is just amazing and his teachings are so much nicer.  More churches are accepting more doctrine and beliefs.  This is all very bad!  Meeting people of other faiths all the time and talking to them, they find no need to join our church because their church believes the same and so they are just going to stay in their church since they already know the people.  Our churches AREN'T the same.  With our investigators now, they don't see the need or urgency to join this church.  It's sad!  One of our Less Active members we've been visiting and reteaching (Cheryl) has told us she will be going to the Catholic church for awhile to clear up some of her mistakes so that the Mormon church doesn't have to deal with it.  She then said if she doesn't feel anything there, she will come back to ours.  I'm getting so sick of hearing that!  I informed you last week with the Palmer's and Lupe saying they think this church isn't for them.  Just because we are given trials doesn't mean God doesn't love us.  He's testing us to see which way we turn.  Alma 5:28 I believe.  The good shepherd is calling us.  We need to make sure we are listening to him and not the bad shepherd.

A lot of little things went on this week, but it's hard to write them all.  But things are good here and I am learning something new each and every day.  I'm excited to work here another transfer and help the people here.  I know God has a lot in store.  I love you all!!!!!

- hermana Sorensen

September 16, 2013

Well this week has been good, but very down heartening as well.  I I realized that all these hard moments are learning moments and to learn as much as I can from them.  I just tell myself, "this is going to be a great story to share someday!", and "when I look back on my mission, what did I learn from this moment."  It really has helped me have a better attitude towards my mission.  Sure wish I would have figured this out 9 months ago!  Well I think I've always know I need to do that, but now I really am putting it to action because I don't want to waste these next 9 months and have regret.

Yesterday was a hard Sunday.  All Sundays are hard.  You'd think they'd be spiritual high days.  These are the days I question God's ways.  Yesterday I was very hurt because a family told us Saturday to find them a ride to church. We told the Elders to bring it up in their WCM that morning.  I called them and followed through and they said they got it taken care of.  Come to find out, they didn't, even when I kept asking they said someone was getting them.  I did not see them the whole block.  No one got them.  Here this less active family was waiting all morning to go to church but no one got them after we promised them someone would.  I told the Elders to send someone over still so they can go to Sunday school.  Did that happen?  No.  Now Hna Hammer and I look like the bad guys.  Then the teacher for the Senior Primary wasn't there and the Elders left, so they asked us if we could teach the kids.  We were nice and said yes (even though I was upset with the ward), and taught about Nauvoo to a bunch of kids.  There were 14 of them.  I guess that's what you get for being in a small ward.  They combine Junior and Senior classes because there is not enough kids or teachers to teach by age.  So we had the 8-12 year olds.  I was pretty proud of how well we did though.  I could be in primary. :)  Then during our church hour, Sis Palmer stormed off after sacrament yelling down the hall as she's booking it out of the church saying she is never coming back to this church ever again and that she doesn't want the missionaries over any more and that everyone is a bunch of jerks.  We tried running after her to see what set her off.  Everyone kept asking us and we didn't know why she's mad at us.  Sis Palmer called us after church just balling and saying how can the church be so mean and judgmental of them.  She said she's removing her name from the church and is joining another one.  Their family is struggling finance wise and has been getting help from the church for a while now.  Well the Bishop says he can't help any more, so the Palmer's are furious.  I understand what the bishopric is doing, because yes, they need to learn how to work and not just expect us all to pay for their bills for the rest of their lives. So it's just frustrating to see this family not understand that.  They take things to the extreme.  I know Hna Hammer and I have done all we can to help this family, but we can't do anything more when they have shut their hearts.  We were both just so devastated at this and are hurt that they think others are judging them when everyone loves them.  We have worked so hard with them lately and to see them not want us over any more is sad.  She said to keep in touch though through letters and Facebook.  THEN!  Yesterday night we visited Lupe Coronado.  Her mother died Saturday and is struggling with that because she can't go because her son is handicap so she needs to stay with him and then they don't have the papers to go to Mexico and back.  We tried comforting her, but she is questioning the church also.  Lupe Martinez was there at the house too and she just lost her job and is homeless again.  Both these ladies are hurt by the members in the ward and don't want to come back.  Lupe Martinez needed a ride home after church the other Sunday and asked for one from a lady.  This lady doesn't speak spanish but understood and said yes.  Well instead of Lupe being taken to her house, she just asked if she could be taken to Lupe Coronado's.  This lady taking her stopped the car, told her she's not her taxi, and that she has 2 legs and can walk there.  I know this lady and am extremely hurt she'd do something like that.  I know it's true though because she told us her side the other day.  Why can't everyone just get a long?  There is no love in this ward.  Everyone is hurt by words and actions of others and has left the church.  We got in the car after this visit and I was just done.  Hna Hammer and I were so hurt by everything that happened.  The DeHerrera's were never picked up after we told them they would and are now angry with that, the Palmer's hate the Bishopric and members, and now these 2 ladies are hurt by the words and actions of 1 lady.  We have been going to the auxiliaries this past week asking them how we can help them in their callings.  We are getting everyone's input on this ward and how we can better it.  From what everyone has said, it sounds like this ward was the funnest ward.  Lots of fun activities and events that people all loved going to.  Then we got some members in the ward who started saying we need to cut back.  The cutting back got farther and farther all because of these certain individuals that had a problem with activities being to fun.  This family got put into the higher callings like Bishop, Relief Society, Primary, etc.  And then they cut everything off to were it was pointless to hold anything because no one wanted to attend because it was boring.  Years later the feeling is the same.  The YW paint nails or frost cupcakes EVERY mutual night.  Nothing else.  No one participates in anything.  This ward is just so hard to get anything out of!  How do you work and help in a ward that wants change but won't put the effort in it because of previous experiences of put down.  I just want to destroy everything and build it back up.  No more hurt feelings!

That was just Sunday.  Sigh.  I guess the rest of the week was good.  We did service at a house with a bunch of black widows.  I thought I was going to die.  How could you live in an environment like that and feel safe?  Zone Conference was Tuesday.  We pulled into Turlock and I then realized I forgot my name tag!  OOOPPS!!!!  Thank goodness one of the sisters we rode with had her brothers name tag.  So she gave me hers to wear and she wore her brothers who is serving in Iceland right now.  I was Hermana McArthur that day and she was Elder (except in Icelandic) McArthur.  Ha ha..  Friday night our dinner appt canceled but they gave us money to go out to eat.  We went to Denny's.  Amanda and Solomon, we spend $5 trying to win an ipad with that key machine! Ha ha.. I saw it and remembered us trying to win there in Texas.  We got so close!  But I guess that would be hard trying to split an ipad between the 2 of us and also trying to explain that to President.  Broke the rules in the white handbook of not gambling.  We also drank Vodka.  Another rule breaker.  Ha ha ha.. We were at dinner and the lady was telling us how she made the homemade vanilla.  It's just vodka and vanilla beans.  We didn't make a big deal about it because we didn't want to be rude.  I know she knew we weren't suppose to have it, but she's a harder lady, and I think she was surprised we didn't say anything.  She was probably bummed.  So we had fun accounting all of that to our District Leader that night.  Ha ha.. He said he had almonds that day and was looking at the ingredients and I guess one of the seasonings was Coffee.  What a good leader he is! :P  just kidding.  Also I think I told you before, but Mickey lives here in Los Banos just so you know.  He drives a mini cart around town every now and then.  Hna Hammer didn't believe me for the longest time until Saturday when we drove past him.  I need to carry my camera with me and have it ready for when I see him so I can take a picture!  Oohh!  Also, we taught Shen this week again at the Fairbanks, and as we were leaving Bro Fairbanks told us to wait because he had something for us.  Lo and behold, he pulled out a new Saturday's Warrior CD for us!  Ha ha ha.. they both smiled and laughed at our excitement!  So we've been listening to that nonstop.  I loved your letter Kimberly with the "line upon line" part because it was just so fitting that night when I got the fun family letter in the mail from everyone at East Canyon.  I loved it!  Thank you all for the sweet love notes.  And Michelle, all my companions now fold their garments like the way you taught me.  You're a legend here. :)

This week really has been good.  We are slowly seeing things get better, but it still is far from being to where the Lord would like it.  I guess I am here to help the members not doubt their beliefs and help them forgive.  We are putting on a volleyball game this Saturday and are really trying to get a lot to come to that.  Please pray that people will come and have a fun time.  And please pray for this ward more than anything.  I wish you could see and be here to see just how sad this ward is and how difficult it has been.  I love being here there SO much and I don't want to leave.  Transfer calls are this weekend.  I hope I can stay for a little longer and help the ward and people here.

Sorry this letter is short and mostly about my Sunday.  Things are going good and we have a lot of hope for the future.  Thank you all for your love and support.  I truly am blessed to be here and can't believe how much I have grown.  I don't think I realized how much until this last conference when I saw the new missionaries get up and bare testimony and also during role plays.  I am more confident in what I say and do.  My Spanish is still needs help, but little by little.  I was able to understand and even correct the new missionaries Spanish.  So to me that is improvement! :)

I love you all!  Please stay close to the Lord and forgive those that have hurt you.  Turning away from the church is NEVER the answer.  When you feel lost and alone, THAT is the time you need the church, prayer, and the scriptures more than anything.  Don't let Satan win.

-hermana Sorensen

September 9, 2013

September 9, 2013

Nothing much has happened since Wednesday.  The Palmer's in the ward fed us fried pickles last night!  Not too bad!!  I'm trying to learn new recipes to bring home.  I learned a really good hot chocolate brownie one.  I'm asking around for a good Horchata drink.  I sure found a fast food place that has really yummy horchata.  I guess funny story this week.  Hna Hammer went to get a drink out of the fridge the other night.  When she opened it, Monkey our cat jumped out.  Ha ha ha..  I think she jumped in when I went to get a drink but I didn't see her.  Luckily she was in there long, but it was still super funny to see and feel how cold she was.  She cracks me up.  Socks and her would be the greatest friends I tell ya.  Another cute story is we were visiting a recent convert, when one of the little girls named Giselle (she's 3), exclaimed, "I pick my boogers and put them in mommy's purse!"  We all laughed.  Silly girl.  THEN!  Yesterday after church we were invited over to the Horan's house (our RS pres) for their big family get together dinner.  It was Jimmy Horan's 4th Birthday too.  When we all went to sing Happy Birthday, I was shocked and couldn't stop laughing at how they sung it.  They SHOUTED and SCREAMED the song.  It was a battle who could be the loudest.  Poor little Jimmy was just covering his ears waiting for it to be over so he could just blow out the candles.  It was so fun being there because it reminded me of home.  I love getting together and having dinners and talking with all of you.  That's the biggest thing I miss is our family dinners.

I don't know really what else to write about.  I guess Saturday we had a different day.  The Elders here called us and asked for cleaning supplies.  We went over and found their apartment trashed!  I guess one of the Elders had a major melt down and exploded.  There was glass, shredded paper, and just everything everywhere.  He has anger issues, so.  The other Elder called President.  He came down with all the assistants and Zone Leaders.  We are not sure what's going to happen, if the Elders are going to be transferred out, or if they'll send another Elder to take the spot, or what.  One of our Zone Leaders is here right now on an emergency exchange till we hear otherwise.  We're nervous because we might get both wards back again, and I don't know how I feel about that.  So we are all on the edge of our seats waiting to be told what to do.  But this is just between you guys.  Also Bishop Lee's treatment is still not working and is getting weaker and weaker.  His parents have now moved in to help the family and that they can get as much as they can with him before he passes.  What do you think are some ways we can help this area and the ward.  We feel we're not doing anything, but we really are working hard.  We still don't have investigators, still trying to earn trust of members, and trying to get this area moving.  Hna Hammer and I are open to any and all suggestions.

I've had some foot problems the last little while.  Back in the MTC I had a pebble or something in my shoe but could never find it.  So I got all these tiny bumps on my heel.  Well the last few weeks they've been really sore and it hurts to walk.  So I've been limping and soaking it a lot but still don't know what's irritating it or why the bumps won't go away.  We just tease that it's cancer and my foots just gonna fall off.  No big deal.  Ha ha.. Hopefully it will go away soon because my hip is starting to hurt with limping. :)

I love you all and I know there will be more interesting things to write about next week.  I have my ups and downs with being here, but all in all I love it and I know all these things will help me later in my life.  I know God loves us and wants us to follow him.  We are given hard challenges not to punish us, but to learn.  I know I'm here in Los Banos to learn how to be a hard worker and not give up.  We all wish for the easy route, but it's more adventurous the hard way I guess.  

Thank you all for the letters, emails, and love.  Sorry I can't personally respond to each and everyone quickly, but I will get to it!  Be patient with me and my limited time to read and respond.
Te quiero mucho!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo
con amor,
Hermana Sorensen