Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Footprint on my Heart

Hello family and friends,

I can honestly say it kills me to write this final letter as a full-time missionary.  When I think back over the last eighteen months, I am amazed by the people I met and the experiences I had.  I have grown so much as a person; and through the gospel and atonement of Jesus Christ, I know what true joy and happiness feels like. I met the most amazing people in the three most beautiful states in the world- Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.  

The people I met on my mission have made a permanent footprint on my heart and have given me a glimpse of how our Heavenly Father loves each of us.  The more the people I served struggled or fell off the path, the more I cared for them.  I think it is the same way with Heavenly Father. When we make mistakes or when things get difficult, He doesn't turn away from us; He reaches out to us and his love never waivers.  As missionaries we are blessed with the ability to love the people we serve no matter what they have done or where they have been; and that is nothing compared to how much our Father in heaven loves each of His children.  I truly do "stand all amazed" at the love He has for us.  I know He does because I have witnessed miracles He worked on behalf of the wonderful people I served.  I can testify to you that no one is ever forgotten.  Three things that I will take away from this experience are:

1.  There are no coincidences.

On my mission I learned that Heavenly Father does everything with purpose.  Our family, friends, talents, weaknesses, and disappointments are not by accident.  They are our own personal recipe for growth.  His ways are higher than our ways.  If we put our trust in Him and align our will with His, He will continue to guide us on this earth.

2.  We find true happiness when we stop worrying about our own happiness.

I can't even describe how amazing it was to lose myself by serving others, especially the Savior, for 18 consecutive months.  With holes in my shoes, frozen hands, pain in my feet, walking long distances in the cold because we ran out of miles for the month, starving some days because there wasn't time to eat, and doors being slammed in my face, I was the happiest I have ever been.  No one ever says at the end of life life that they wish they would have worried about serving others less and taking care of themselves more. No amount of pedicures, musical instruments, and fashionable clothes could have made me as happy as the sacrifices I made to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of Minnesota, Montana, and North Dakota.

3.  There is no such thing as standing still in the gospel.

I understand now what it means to endure to the end.  It doesn't mean to just wait it out and stay out of trouble.  To endure to the end means to continually progress.  This life is the time to prepare to meet God and there is no such thing as standing still when it comes to our relationship with Him. We are either progressing or going backwards.  

Through sincere prayer and scripture study, we can come to know Jesus Christ as our loving Savior and as the Son of God. I know that God lives and that He is our loving Heavenly Father who wants us to do His will. I know that His way is higher than my way and I am better off when I keep the commandments.  I know that though we cannot be perfect in this life, Christ suffered for us and His grace will make up the difference after all that we can do. I know that this church is truly the church of Jesus Christ that has been restored to the earth through Joseph Smith; an imperfect man who humbly aligned his will with Heavenly Father's will and suffered hardships no one would ever be willing to endure unless they knew that what they were doing was right.  I love this gospel. I love being a missionary and even though I will not be a full time missionary anymore at the end of this week, I will always share the gospel.  

The northern states will always be my home away from home.  This is where I lost myself, found myself, and most importantly found a lasting relationship with my Savior.  I am forever changed because of this experience.

I love you all and I can't wait to see you this week. 

love, Sister Park 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Run Hard Past the Finish Line!

5 areas, 13 transfers, 18 months, one week to go...Hello! So this is week 6 of my transfer. I have officially been out for 18 months as of Saturday. I cannot believe I go home next week.. It just doesn't seem real at all. 

Just us awesome sister missionaries
This week was wonderful! We are teaching a new investigator.  She has a lot of health problems and just had surgery. She grew up Amish and was extremely healthy, so when she went to college, was on her own and was exposed to processed foods and such, it attacked her immune system. She is very humble and spiritual and has a lot of faith. She is very receptive to being taught and we are excited to keep teaching her. 

Friday was an incredible day! One of my favorite people in the world came to visit me here in Fargo! A little back story... Wednesday night we had to call the assistants to the president to ask some questions and get some things approved, like to call certain people for referrals in other zones. Well, while we were on the phone, I asked permission to call Beth Humphrey from Bemidji. (I taught her husband while I was serving there and he was baptized right after I left.) The AP asked my reasons for wanting to call her and as I stated my reasons, he said usually they would say no but they decided to let me! So the next morning, before I could call her, Beth texted me! She got a hold of our number and asked if we could meet her for dinner friday night, as she would be in fargo. I immediately called her and told her that I got permission to call her. She took us to lunch and it was wonderful! I did not take pictures, I was having too much fun.... haha. It was so much fun and I got to find out when her and Ryan are getting sealed so I can be there!

(Kendall didn't take pictures but Beth
put this on Facebook)

Kelly was baptized last weekend. I am so happy for her!  She is such a great mom and just an awesome person all-around.
Kelly and her cute family the day she was baptized
Me, Sister Richins, and Kelly just before her baptism

One of the things that brings me the most joy in life is seeing the wonderful people I teach progress in the gospel. There is no greater feeling knowing that I can be a part of their lives during this amazing transformation. My mission has shaped my life for the better because of these people and because of the Lord and I could not be more grateful! 

Next week is my last week as a missionary and I fly home Friday so I get one more P day...but don't think I am done yet! I plan to work harder than ever for the next week and a half.  There have been times on my mission where I have worked so hard that I felt I could not take another step or keep myself going another second.  My feet have been frozen to the point that I could not feel them, I have been discouraged with myself if I don't think I am doing a good enough job.  I have been sick and tired and all wanted to do was to lay down. But every single one of those times, the Savior has been there to pick up the slack. Knowing that he is always there to carry me forward when I am trying my hardest is what keeps me going every single day. He has not only done this on my mission but throughout my whole life.  I know he does this for each of you too.  Keep going, keep trying and giving it your all. I know you can make it through because you will not have to do it alone. Christ descended below all things and suffered for every heartache in the world to redeem us and to show us that we can do hard things too.  If Christ could endure all that he did, we can definitely endure what we are given in this life. We have been given the promise "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee... (Joshua 1:5)." 

Because of what Christ did for me, I will finish strong. I hope that I can be confident like Paul and say "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)."  So even though I am excited to see all of you, I promise to not get distracted or slow down for my last few days.  I will run hard past the finish line!

"Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day."

I love you all.

Sister Park 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"This Life is the Time for Men to Prepare to Meet God"

Dear Family and Friends,

What a beautiful week we had! The weather has just been a friend of ours this last week. It was in the 30s every day! Some days, I didn't even wear a coat! And when I did, it was a lighter coat. It is weird how getting used to -30 temps can change a person. Yesterday there was a blizzard warning but we didn't even get a real bad blizzard, just a minor one. We went tracting in the blizzard for a few minutes...I actually don't know if that is a good idea but it didn't matter at the time and it doesn't matter now! One man answered the door and told us that "now wasn't a good time." So we asked if there would be a better time that we could come back. He said, "never," laughed and shut the door. The feisty side of me just stood there and attempted to give him the meanest look I could possibly bring to the surface until he shut the door, but really, when I saw my reflection in the window, I realized I just looked really sad, not scary.  Those times are hard but Sister Richins is a trooper and she keeps me going.

Two new investigators
We have two new investigators, Steve and Debbie. They are wonderful! They are an older couple and they were so excited to tell us that we were the first Mormons to knock on their door. They are so intrigued by the Book of Mormon. We read a little from it and they are so excited to read it. They think what we teach is very interesting and they want to keep learning more. They find it hard to keep faith in God and Jesus Christ when they lose family members. I am so grateful for the Plan of Salvation and that we know we can be with our families for all time AND eternity. I am grateful that God is so merciful and that the atonement can heal AND cleanse us. I love being able to bear my testimony of that and I do it every chance I get.  

Great families
One of the joys of being in Fargo is visiting Julie and her cute kids! Julie is a recent convert and she is so much fun! It is awesome to go there at the end of the day and be with her and Zjulida and Ceazar! She is so faithful and is still so on fire with the gospel!  

So Kelly is getting baptized this week! She and her five kids came to church yesterday and loved it once again! Her kids love primary and are so well behaved every week. Kelly is so excited to be baptized and we are excited for her! 

Feeling the spirit through music
One of the things that brings me the most joy in life is music. Everyone knows that. Since I have been on my mission I have developed a new love of playing and singing hymns and special musical numbers. This week at zone conference I am doing a musical number and then again for Kelly's baptism.   Music is such an amazing way to feel the spirit and that is a big part of why I have come to love it even more on my mission.  J. Reuben Clark said, “We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”  Loud worldly music actually has the opposite effect.  If you want to feel the presence of Heavenly Father in your life, find good music to fill your days; not only on Sunday, but every day.  It will help you to receive personal revelation, feel our Savior's love, and experience peace that only comes from the Holy Ghost.

Remember, remember
Yesterday in Relief Society we learned about adversity. As the end of my mission is getting closer, I have been doing a lot of pondering and remembering. I love my mission and the times that have brought me the most joy have been the hardest times, the times when I have experienced the most adversity. I love tracting in -20 degree weather. Not because it feels good, because trust me it doesn't; and not because I am crazy, because I'm pretty sure I am not;  I love tracting in -20 degree weather because it helps me feel even the tiniest glimpse of what the pioneers felt. I know that they wouldn't do what they did if the church was not true. I would not tract in -20 degrees in the wind if the gospel of Jesus Christ was not true. It brings me so much joy to be out there spreading the message even when people reject it because I know that I am at least making a difference, trying to bring the world Christ's truth. I love this gospel!

I knew there would be difficult times on my mission like extreme weather and other hardships; but I did not choose to serve a mission to have fun.  If I wanted to have fun I would have moved somewhere exciting.  Just like in life, we are here to have joy but joy is not always what we think it is.  It's not just about following our dreams and making sure that we have a good time.  True joy is felt when we experience challenges and trials and rise above them.  True joy is when we give up the things we want in order to do what is right.  

Alma 34: 32 says, "This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God." 

That is why we are here. This isn't something that God ever intended us to take lightly, it is our purpose. It is why we are on this earth. One of the words I notice very frequently in the scriptures is the word "remember."  It is easy to get caught up in worldly things and forget why we are here on earth in the first place. We must try to remember our purpose every single day.

"Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation... A foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall."

Remember who you must build your foundation on and remember why you are here! Never forget! :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful week! Study the scriptures, say your prayers! 

Love, Sister Park 

Population 177

Hello Friends and Family,

Somehow, the weeks are going by faster and faster. That is not a good thing for me, but it is for Kelly, who is getting baptized February 13! Just a couple weeks away. She is so excited about everything. Even the gospel library app. We brought a member who was showing her more things about it and she thought it was so cool and kept saying, "I am going to have so much fun with that later!" Who gets excited over the gospel library app? Kelly does! We went over the baptismal interview questions and she is solid. She is doing so good in reading, she is almost in Helaman and started reading in November. Her 9 year old daughter, Lakota, started reading it too and she reads it every day! Kelly is helping Lakota understand it better. It is so much fun to see their progression!

So here is a funny story. On Thursday we were weekly planning and we needed a break so we decided to go tract for an hour before lunch. Well we get in the car and start driving in beautiful Moorhead and Sister Richins said, "where do you want to tract?" I thought for a small moment and then said, "Felton." She looked at me kind of funny and said, "really? Felton? are you sure?" I said, "yes. let's go to Felton." A little background on Felton. It is a small town in our area. It is like 30 minutes away. We thought there would be a good 800 people there, right? Well, thirty minutes down the road we see a sign that says, "welcome to Felton, population 177." It only took a couple seconds to find the town. It is about four roads big. No stop lights, of course. At first I looked to my right and saw no town but that is because it is only big enough for the left side of the highway. Well we proceeded to tract almost the whole town and found nobody, not even a potential. We were so bummed, but we went to a gas station and got to talk to a man about the church! We taught him about prophets and what we do as missionaries. And, Sister Richins found Dr. Pepper made with real sugar so her day was made. 

By the way, we did finally eat lunch around 2 ish.  Sorry but this is all I have time to write today!

I love you all, have a beautiful week!

Love, sister park 

Monday, February 1, 2016

In the Quiet Heart is Hidden

Enjoying milkshakes even when it's 30 below zero outside.
HELLO! It is a warm 25 degrees today! Oh how I love Minnesota winters.

This week has been very long but we have been so busy! I love when we are really busy but sometimes it makes me sad because I feel like I miss out on noticing all the little miracles that come with not being so busy. We don't have time to look or sometimes see the tender mercies of the Lord but I know they are still there.  I want to pray to notice them better!

Last week we got permission from the manager of Walmart to set up a hot chocolate stand outside to do some contacting. They had us sign a contract and everything. We were able to talk to lots of people and we gave out free hot chocolate. 

A while back I told you about C.  She is an Ojibwe indian from Cass Lake, Minnesota, the reservation right next to Bemidji. C is a sweet lady. She is a member of the church and has been less active since she moved to Moorhead. She joined the church when she was a teenager in the placement program for native americans. We have been teaching her and at first she wasn't sure what she believed.  There is some conflict between the native ways and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  C wasn't sure if she even believed in a God at all. Well, lately her heart has softened and changed. I think it started when she decided to feed all six missionaries in the fargo first ward. She made Indian tacos and she loved having us there. We all stayed after and did her dishes, took out her trash, and cleaned up. Then the elders brought her some end tables and we helped her arrange her house with them. She thought that was the nicest thing. It was so simple for us and the elders, just small acts of kindness, but it helped her to feel the love that Heavenly Father has for her. Well yesterday was her second time coming to church.  During sacrament meeting they announced that she moved in and that they received her records.  After reading in her records we were asked to welcome her into the ward with a show of hands.  She looked around and was so touched that everyone welcomed her in and she started crying.   Later she told us that she knows the church is true and as she said it, she started crying again. She is so sweet and her testimony strengthens mine. 

I don't know why C didn't come to church all these years but when she showed so much happiness at being welcomed I couldn't help but wonder if she didn't feel welcome in the past.  I hope we all make sure that everyone around us feels welcome and accepted no matter where we are and no matter where that person has been.  I hope we can all stop judging each other.  One of the best verses in a hymn is verse 2 from "Lord I Would Follow Thee".  It says:

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.

 We can't always know what trials people are having to bear.  So if we see someone who has made a bad choice or who always seems to be grouchy and mean, remember the words:  In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see. So many people are bearing heavy burdens that we will never know about.  If a person is hard to love, they probably need our love the most.  What sorrows can't you see? Stop to really notice people and reach out to them.  You could have a bigger impact than you realize.

Well, I love you all. Have a wonderful week and remember-- it only costs one stamp to send a letter to Minnesota :) LOVE YOU!!!

Sister Park 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Last transfer, last days

Testing out if you can open a freezer from the inside
Hello family and friends! 

My Final Transfer
This week starts the beginning of my very last transfer of my mission and Sister Richins and I get to spend it here together in Moorhead! I plan to make this last transfer my best one yet and work harder than I ever have on my mission.

This last week was great.  We met lots of amazing people and taught 17 lessons!  That is the most I have ever taught in one week on my mission. 

C is doing really well and she wants to be baptized; however, we don't know if she is moving here or going back to Minneapolis. Please pray that she will receive guidance on what she needs to do. She said either way, she is joining the church.  She is one of my favorite people!

K is also doing great. Her children are adorable! We are so excited for her baptism next month! 

In my first area, Bemidji, I told you about Brother and Sister Tadlock.  Sister Tadlock made us breakfast and let us do our laundry at her house.  Well, her husband is on the high council and came to speak in our ward on Sunday because we are in the same stake now.  It was so fun to see him.  Anyway, he announced to the whole ward during sacrament meeting that they need to feed the missionaries, "especially Sister Park because she sings."  He told them how I served in bemidji for many months and that I sing really well. Well, now our whole dinner calendar for the rest of the month is full! Thank you, Brother Tadlock!

Following the Spirit in the Last Days
Lately I have been studying how to recognize and follow the spirit in these last days, and having more effective scripture study to know what I should do. It seems to be coming up in everything I do and so I know it is something that Heavenly Father wants me to learn.  I realized how much of a help the scriptures are to us in these crazy latter days. The Book of Mormon, especially, is very similar to what we are experiencing now.  History seems to repeat itself. When I read the Book of Mormon, I find myself reading about situations that I can liken to today's world, and even my personal life. We are taught what to do in difficult situations and how to overcome spiritual bondage. I challenge you all to read the Book of Mormon with a specific question or concern in mind and listen to what the spirit tells you as it teaches you what to do in your situation. I believe that not only will we learn how to handle personal troubles but many people will also receive guidance on what they can do to help many people during these dark last days in the fight of good against evil.  It really is time to choose sides and to determine if we will be on the side of Lord.  We cannot serve two masters.  We can't claim to be on the Lord's side while supporting evil or even turning a blind eye to evil.  Those who choose to serve the Lord will be persecuted but will triumph in the end; we are given this promise.  I told you a few weeks ago I have been reading Jesus the Christ in conjunction with the gospels.  In Matthew chapter 5, when speaking to the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord said:

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

In Jesus the Christ, James E. Talmage explains that these blessings probably will only be realized in the next life but we can still find happiness in living this now because we can have the consciousness of knowing that we are doing what is right.  I have been in a lot of uncomfortable situations on my mission; but I have found comfort in these scriptures knowing that being uncomfortable now for the Lord's sake means having joy in the life to come.

I love you all. Have a spirit filled week!

Sister Park

My awesome district :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Burdens can be a Blessing

Hello family and friends!  This last week was a great one.  We had several appointments cancel but also had some really cool things happen to make up for it.

We have a new investigator named “C”.  She is only here for a month but she lives with Julie Makoul, the lady with the cute kids (one of them was in the picture with me last week). C lives in Minneapolis and is the grandmother of Julie’s kids.  She wants to learn about the gospel so we are going to teach her while she is here and try to prepare her for baptism.  Then she will hopefully continue taking the lessons when she returns to Minneapolis. She is already reading the Book of Mormon, coming to church, and even cried when we taught the plan of salvation. She believes it and loves it and it has answered so many of her deep questions.

K and her 5 kids came to church yesterday and everyone in the ward was so good about fellowshipping them and making them feel welcomed. K’s 9 year old daughter Lakota already loves primary and has made friends. K is such an amazing person so everyone naturally loves her and people in the ward even helped her take care of her two year old and 5 month old during church.  Even her shy 6 year old boy stayed in class the whole time and K was so surprised by it. K is getting baptized on February 6th and then her husband will be deployed in April. I’m glad she has the ward to help her out during that time.

Our other investigator, Kayla, is still doing amazing as well.  We have another lesson with her this week.  She is just awesome and we love her.

Me, Kayla, and Sister RIchins

Funny Story
Earlier today we went grocery shopping at Walmart and saw a couple of the elders there. They asked us if we could go get them some leggings because they are much cheaper than buying men’s thermals and of course they did not want to be seen lurking through the women’s department and then buying women’s leggings. Our zone leaders started the trend of wearing leggings instead of thermals because they are warmer and cheaper. So Sister Richins and I went and bought them some leggings.  They were so embarrassed but they really wanted them.  

One of the elders with his sweet fleece-lined leggings

Burdens and the Power of the Priesthood
We have been meeting with a less active woman named Ashley. She has muscular dystrophy and is always in so much pain.  It also affects her speech. She is the sweetest woman ever. She was baptized a little over a year ago but is less active because she can’t get out of her wheel chair so that makes it hard for her to come to church. We asked her if she would like a priesthood blessing and she said yes.  We called one of the set of elders in our ward and they were available right then so came over to her house right away and gave her a blessing.  After the blessing she was so happy, the happiest I have ever seen her and she said her hip stopped hurting. That day had been one of her worst days yet because the pain was so bad.  I am so thankful for the power of the priesthood. The severe pain in her hip was taken away and her burden was made light. Her burden wasn’t totally removed but it was made light.

Speaking of burdens… I don’t know why Ashley has to endure this painful condition while she is here on earth.  I wish she could just get up out of her wheelchair and feel good like most of us do.  She is so sweet though and handles her burden well.  We don’t all have physical burdens but we all experience something that causes us pain or sadness.  Experiencing these things makes us want to give up sometimes and it might even make us angry at Heavenly Father.  We should always remember that the burdens we carry are meant to prepare us for something greater than all of this.  Our burdens really can become blessings when we allow them to.  On my mission I have seen people change for the better and it all started with a burden of some kind.  In Mosiah 3:19 it says “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”  When people experience trials, they become humble and are more open to developing some of the virtues mentioned in that scripture.  Sometimes our burdens are meant to be a blessing to someone else.  When we experience trials we are able to reach out to others who experience those same trials.  In Galatians 6:2 the Apostle Paul said “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”

Whether our burdens are meant for our own growth or to help someone else grow, we experience them to become something greater than what we are.

D&C 121: 7-8-
7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Remember that we don’t have to carry these burdens alone.  We are blessed with families on this earth to help us get through difficult things.  We also have the blessings of the Priesthood to help us.  And the Savior promises to be there for us if we allow him to.

Matthew 11: 28-30-
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I love you all!

Sister Park