Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just Follow the Instructions

Bairon (scruffy looking kid next to me) and his dad (next to Hna Cumatz), leaving priesthood meeting together for the first time, and definitely not the last

Some time ago, as a little high school junior in Mrs. (Sister) Shaffer's class, we took a very simple assessment. She counseled us beforehand that, before beginning the test, we should read and follow very carefully all of the instructions. I read the first line of instructions, and then started answering the questions. Within a few moments, I noticed that some of my classmates were acting strangely. As more and more people joined in, I realized that I had not read and followed all of the instructions. With curiosity, I read the instructions that I had neglected. After skipping to the penultimate question and shouting my name loudly (as instructed) I followed the last line: write your name on the back of this sheet and turn in your test for a 100%.

Sometimes in life, we make things too hard by not following the instructions.

This thought struck me this week as I borrowed a mixing bowl and a hand mixer from Cindy Lopez, the branch president's wife (bless that woman, I can't even count the times I have borrowed baking supplies from her, and never once has she complained about lending them to me) and she and the first counselor in the branch said, "What will you make?"

"Banana bread!" I answered, excited.

"Hermana Pickett sure does love to cook," said the first counselor.

"She has such a gift for it," said Cindy in agreement. Looking to me, she asked, "What's your secret?"

"That's easy," I answered. "All I do is follow the instructions." Think about that. How many amazing things can we do just by following the instructions? Of course, we get better and quicker with practice, but when we do what we are directed to do, we can produce pretty good results really quickly.

Life totally works that way. God knows how to have success in this life. Not only can He see the end from the beginning, but as we read in the scriptures, He was once as we are. He completed successfully what we are now fighting to finish. He knows how to do this. And He gave us instructions! My shoulders are killing me from almost 16 months of carrying those instructions around every day (but joyfully!). And He hasn't stopped. The instructions keep coming. And when we are confused about something, we can received an answer, not by uplifted hand, but rather by uplifted prayer. We have all of the instructions to happiness. When we follow them, we get results. Of course, there are things we can't control sometimes. Today the oven didn't heat up properly. A few weeks ago my dough wouldn't defrost and hence did not rise. The power goes out, there isn't enough flour, we don't have a springform pan, etc. But when we do our best with the part we do have control over, we see the results that were promised to us.

Each week, we have a meeting with our branch president to talk about our investigators and the progression of our area. Some time ago, President Lopez told us that he wanted Bairon to see a certain film, How Rare a Possession. No one in the branch has it, and we couldn't find a version to download off of the internet, so we sort of let that counsel go. But this last Sunday, a copy of that film came into the branch's possession (thank you, Hno Quintanilla). President said, "Did you ever watch that with Bairon?" He gave us a slightly disapproving look when we responded that we hadn't and told us that we needed to take that opportunity. So we followed our instructions. And the message of that film made something click for Bairon.

After the video, we read 1 Nephi 3:7 with him and challenged him, according to the answers and revelation he had received in response to his prayers, if he would be baptized. And Bairon, that kid who has never given us a straight answer EVER in response to a baptimal challenge, set a date for this Saturday. Remember that feeling I described of lack of the Spirit last week, that was so strong it made me want to vomit? This was just as strong, but just the opposite. I was so full of the Spirit I thought I was going to explode. It was like EFY, but so much better. Bairon's father came with him to church yesterday, and we think his mother and sister are very likely to come this week.

I love so dearly being a missionary. It is the best thing I have ever done. Yesterday I was blessed to give a talk on conversion, and when I received that assignment, I thought, Great! I'm a missionary, I've got the best seat in the house to see how conversion works. That's true. I see miracles every day, and I see them as people follow the instructions.

Bairon wasn't our only good miracle this week, but he was one of the most spectacular. The wave of support that has rushed in to help Elder Vivas to get into the field is another. Waking up at 6:30 every morning and realizing I have another day in this wonderful work is another. I love the Lord so much and I feel so priviledged to be in His service.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Remember, read the manual, ask for clarification if anything doesn't quite make sense, and over all, follow the instructions! They work!

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Pickett

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Didn't See That Coming

Distrito Santa Bárbara #bestdistrictever #hashtagjokes

This picture was an accident, but I feel like it describes my life very effectively as of late. Analyze that.

The bespectacled missionaries of the zone (except Elder Nathan and I are the only ones with legitamate glasses)

Cumatz and Pickett, round 2! 

Oct 16 was the anniversary of my first attempt at making bread in Honduras, so I made it again to celebrate. The top cooked great, but the bottom...well, I miss convection ovens.

We had a birthday party today for P'day--Happy Birthday, Elder Baird!
All my "sons"! I've got a new one to meet tomorrow! 

Hello! Today is the 20th of October, and based upon what I've learned in the last 15 months, once the 20th roles around, the month is pretty much over. Scary, right?

So I left you all on a serious cliff hanger ending last week, what with impending transfers and all. I tried to make guesses about what was going to happen, but it didn't work out. I had no idea. O sea, no tenia ninguna idea. Ni una. But we got to cambios meeting, hugged all the sisters, gave all the elders high fives, filed into the chapel, and here's the shocker...my companion is Hermana Cumatz! AGAIN! That doesn't really happen. Basically, not ever. But it happened! So aircraft H. Pickett is being copiloted by a crazy little Chapina, and oh, it's going to be an exciting ride.

In other news on Cambios, Hna Davila returned to one of her former districts in La Fesitrahn, Hermana Harmon is training (I'm an ABUELITA!), and I have yet another "son" in the mission. I am now a mother of nine. If we carry on the mission family terminology, both of my parents are dead, the father of my two daughters has left me, and all of my two sons are born of different men. Someone should probably teach me the law of chasity. But, anyway...

We're keeping up with Bairon. When Hna Cumatz asked me what he was like as we headed to her first lesson with him, all I could think to say was "Me desaspera, ese hombre" (that man drives me crazy!). To the point that he had an interview with the branch president and afterward the branch president simply asked, Hermanas, will you baptize him already?, he's ready to be baptized. But he won't set a date. We mentioned last night that maybe he needed to exercise his faith enough to take a few steps without knowing everythying, and he said, "Oh no, hermanas. I could never do that." I was ready to shout, Oh ye of little faith, GET IN THE WATER! But we don't convert people that way in this church (story to follow), so I didn't say that. We're working on it. The best part is that we've got a third companion in future Elder Vivas, o sea, Johnny, who is soon setting out for his mission in Quetzaltanango, Guatemala. He just went to the temple. I'm jealous! And I'm also off topic, sorry. But yeah, Bairon. We're working on it.

We're also working with familia Tabora Sorto. They got to church before we did yesterday, and we were early! That's impressive! Everytime we visit them, I can't help but think of those who came to Alma because they had been denied entrance to the Zoramite synagog (see Alma 32, and ask for your own copy of the Book of Mormon to do so, if necessary). They a so truly humble. They have set a baptismal date for November 8th, but even as they set it, they were saying "But Hermanas, we won't be able to pay for our wedding." We just smiled and told them not to worry about it. (the branch president told us earlier in the day that, if they were really going to progress, the cost would get handled). So here's hoping for good news for them soon!

Here's the story for this week: There is a certain family, by the name of Lopez Funez, in the which the dad drinks, the mom is catholic (inactive), but both could be interested in finding real truth. So we've been visiting them, but we really struggle to find dad at home. Last week, he told us that his mom would be coming to visit the following Friday, and couldn't we come that day so that she could talk with us, also. Okay, sounds great. The day before our visit with them, the lesson with the neighbors fell through, and I suddenly felt like it would be better to visit fam. Lopez Funez early. They were both at home, but said "Oh, but you're supposed to come tomorrow!" They said they had a lot of questions, but absolutely wanted to wait until the following day. For us and for Kristy (our favorite RM), the way they said it set off a red flag. So we prepared to come the following day, but looked for someone who could come with us. Unfortunately, the only member we could contact who was not in Tegucigalpa for the branch temple trip didn't want to come that far at night. Hm. So we went alone.

We got there early. After chatting for a while (they were stalling, because family members had not arrived yet), in walked a man who was obviously an evangelical pastor (they just have a look about them), and his two "pastorcito" children. The daughter wore a floor length skirt and a headscarf. Big red flag. It seems that (this is what we patched together the next day) Daddy Lopez honestly desired to start up a friendly conversation about religion between the two religions paying him house calls. But our evangelical pastor in question had no interest in being friendly. We stayed all of a minute after the prayer, which was long enough to tell me that my praying without my head covered was an insult to every man present and an offense to God. I excused us and politely told him we weren't interested in contending. He informed us that he had come to contend. My companion reminded him who the father of contenion is (see 3 Nephi 11:29, machete points for Hna Cumatz), and we left. As we walked out, he was still calling us diabolical and saying things like "How disrespectful! Look how they are dressed!" In the morning, we took turns admitting that we had both had nightmares about evangelical pastors and felt like vomiting when we thought about the experience.

We had planned to stop by fam. Lopez Funez for five minutes to excuse ourselves for leaving and ask honestly if they would prefer that we stop coming. On the contrary, they told us that they had felt bad all night long and said "They shouldn't have treated you like that. We had questions about the Book of Mormon, can you explain these scriptures to us?" Didn't see that coming. But I should have. You know why? Because the truth is a more powerful force for good than a lie is a force for evil. Truth shines so valiently that it exposes all the darkness tries to conceal. Fam. Lopez learned that this week, and I relearned it.

I love being a missionary. I know that this gospel is true, and I know that I am serving as a representative of Jesus Christ, because I know by whom I was called--my Heavenly Father. I love this gospel, and I love my Savior, and even if I am chewed out by someone trying to propogate false doctrine every day for the rest of my mission, it is a small price to pay for the chance to walk in the footsteps of my Redeemer. I know that He lives, because I have received a testimony by the power of His Spirit, and I know that He keeps His promises, because I have seen them in my life and the lives of all those who keep the commandments.

Have a wonderful week and enjoy the rest of October--there's not much left, after all!

Love, Hermana Pickett

Monday, October 13, 2014

Preparing for Take Off

Domesic missionaries, gaining investigator's trust with french toast

Here's the proof I'm Jeanne Pickett's daughter--drawing during general conference! 

So the only water that makes it to the second story is the rain...
But I had a creative moment, and we have a rainwater collection system! Crazy what you can do with a poncho, mop, broom, some hairties, and a few strips of old pillow case.

Hey, I completed another month in the mission! That means I've got 15! Is that NUTTY or what?

We had a lovely week, full of good times and surprises. The climax of both good times and surprises was a visit from the Sister Leader Trainers, Hermana Porter and Hermana Ugarte. Here's the surprise: owing to the fact that Hermana Porter and I have gone out on exchanges in the last two consecutive changes (very unusual), and we spent three straight days together when I was in bed with a sprained ankle, I was pretty sure I would be spending this exchange with Hermana Ugarte. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and the two of them said one last prayer before telling us who would be going with whom, and with laughter in their voices said "Ok, Pickett's going with Porter." But that's okay! Hermana Porter and I always hoped that we would be companions in the field, but that hasn't proven possible. So we think the Lord is answering our prayer on a small scale, one day at a time.

We had a very funny day, in the which all of our lessons were clustered around two points, the two of which are at opposite ends of a stretch of highway. We started at one, and they all told us to come back a little later, so we went to the other end. While we were there, here's a surprise: Navidad, the mother in fam. Quintanilla Garcia, listened very attentively to our lesson on the restoration of the Gospel and then said to our baptismal challenge "Hermanas, I'll be honest. I can't get baptized again. I already got baptized in the church in Choloma." But then, before we could get too disappointed, "Your church, I mean." What? Turns out she's already a member. Surprise! But what a blessing she will be to her family. We did another lap back to our earlier lessons, and within that neighborhood we were doing loops as certain families were coming and others leaving. But it was a fun time, and we spent the afternoon with a woman who is just like my sister Annie, so that was wonderful, of course :) All four of us got caught in a very powerful rainstorm in the evening, but we came home to dry clothes and arroz con leche knowing that we had passed another day in the service of the Lord, so it's fine.

Hermana Porter and I have too much fun. But at the same time, it is such a strange mirrior for us to be together and to look back to 15 months ago when we were just starting out. We're both a lot different than we were then. As a sister leader trainer, Hermana Porter has the responsibility to conduct a companionship inventory at the end of our exchange, in the which she points out a few areas in which I could improve. We always mean to have that talk, but we usually get distracted or tired. This last attempt went like this.

Pickett: Ok, what can I do better? After all, I've only got three more months to become the perfect missionary, so I need all the tips you've got. What 'cha got?

Porter: I don't know. What do you think you need to work on?

Pickett: Porter! This is your job!

But we got around to constructive comments eventually. Sure do love that kid. I am grateful that it will be so easy to keep in touch with almost all of the people that I meet in the mission, but even more that a lot of my good friends will be relatively close by.

Another good surprise this week: President and Sister Dester came to church yesterday, and President conducted interviews. I've heard that other missionaries in other missions get really nervous about interviews, and I just don't get that. I love interviews. They're my favorite. President and I talked about the incredible potential that this area has, and the miracles that are ready to come to pass here. President listened to the 50 baptisms goal and told a story about a solitary companionship of missionaries that had 25 baptisms in just one month, so he believes in the goal. I believe in it, too.

But this was my favorite part: I asked President what I could do, now that I only have three months left (ugh, I hate saying that sentance. It's scary) and he, in a very President Uchtdorf move, started talking about airplanes. He told me that I am one. He said that right now, my engines are kicking into a new gear, and I am not going to walk or even run through the rest of my mission, I am going to fly (yes, Hermana Behan, that made me think of you). He said that, according to my faith and diligence, all of the obstacles are going to fall away and I am going to soar to heights so much greater than I had ever imagined. He said the Lord is ready to lift me up.

Do you get why I love interviews now?

So here goes the flightcraft H. Pickett, revving up the engines and spinning propellers. I'm ready to take off. Stay tuned for news on the flightplan--it's a figure it out as I go sort of thing.

Last thought: we were in a lesson with Bairon and his family last night, and we talked about progression. Not the way that missionaries talk about progression, but the way the Lord talks about progression. Acting on the Spirit and an idea from President Dester, we started describing a long hallway with various doors. The first is labeled, a knowledge of Jesus Christ. The second, a knowledge of His true church. The next, repentance. The next, baptism and confirmation, then entering the temple, then serving a mission, temple sealing, vicarious work, serving in the church, etc. We explained that as we travel along this hallway, which in the end will take us to the goal of becoming like God and being with Him always, we have to keep opening doors. If we never open the door, we can't progress. We beat against the wood, yelling at someone on the other side to let us through. But the only person blocking our progress is us. We have all of the power to turn the knob, go through, and joyfully continue to the next door. So we invited Bairon's famiy to come to church and get to know it better. But then we turned to Bairon and said, you are already at a different door than your family. We know you want to progress more before you are baptized, but you won't. You are already at the door. If you want to go forward, you've got to go through. Bairon's got a baptismal date for Nov 8, so his friend Johnny can baptize him before leaving on his mission.

The church is true. Jesus is the Christ. God lives and loves us. I love Him, and I love being in His service. Ask yourself what door you are at, and go through. Go forward. Go toward the Savior.

Have a wonderful week!
Love, Hermana Pickett
We figured out that the storage cabinents in the church are big enough for a person to squeeze into

Turns out our DL needed a little help squeezing in :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice

Let's just all take a minute to bask in how great General Conference was...

Now then, hello! This really has been one of my favorite weekends of the year. I spent the whole week telling EVERYONE "And you should come to church on Sunday, because we're going to listen to the prophet! That's right, a real, live prophet, and twelve apostles to boot! It's the best thing ever!" And then, to make it even better, for the first time in my mission, I am in an area with a satelite. Yes, that's right: I finally got to watch general conference in English.

3 big thoughts:

1. Elder Robbins was not kidding around. We can't go half way on obedience. Decide which way you face and don't settle to let the world turn you around.

2. It seems like the time is coming that we're going to have to have some pretty serious trust in the counsel of the prophet and the apostles. The good part is that, after three consecutive talks were directed toward President Monson, he then directed us toward the Savior. The prophet will not lead us astray, because he will always lead us to Christ. Start strengthening that testimony now, because it seems like we're all going to need it soon.

3. Questions get answered in General Conference (for example, Dad, have you considered using Elder Oaks' talk to resolve the issues in your seminary class?) Trust in the Lord and His ability to answer you through the voices of His servants.

What made conference even better was that eight of our investigators were able to accompany us there. Bairon was there to hear Elder Bednar say "I will address myself specifically to those who are not members of our church" and also said that the priesthood session was awesome. Fam. Tabora Sorto, oneof the families I mentioned last week, showed up Sunday morning, even though the wife had said she would never come in pants (she came, pants and all). We also had a family called Quintanilla Garcia, who has heard of the Church previously from their member (and temple married) cousins in the States, and came a couple of times a couple of years ago, but are showing a whole new interest. We haven't had the opportunity to visit with these families yet, but I am so excited to ask them what impressions they felt as they saw and heard for the first time a true prophet of God.

I am so grateful to be a part of this Church, and especially a part of the 88 thousand missionaries bringing this message to all the ends of the earth. Each time someone spoke of the missionaries, I smiled and thought, "Hey, I'm one of those." I am so glad to be serving my Father in His vineyard, and so amazed at the richness of blessings He never ceases to pour out upon me as I can put in my small obedience, as imperfect as it still is. I love Him and I love this work.

I hope that everyone has a great week! Enjoy the leaves changing colors and never hestitate to go back for seconds and thirds of the spiritual feast we enjoyed this past weekend!

Hermana Pickett