April 12, 2016
Thank you for all the birthday wishes. They meant a lot. Today I was filled with love for me. This morning sister winn and I ran my favorite route and then while I showered up she made me a kale smoothie (a favorite of mine) and some french toast. It was so thoughtful of her. I then opened the package you and mom sent and it was all so wonderful! I loved everything you sent and I loved mom's card with the gift cards inside too. The package was awesome!! Later our district leaders sent us an address and told us to go there at noon. So we did and it was an address to a Thai restaurant (Since being on my mission I have this new obsession with Thai food) and my whole district and my zone leaders as well were all there to surprise me! We had lunch all together and then went to the church building to hangout. My district leaders then surprised me again as they played "play that funky music white boy" on the guitar and sang to me, except they rewrote the lyrics to say happy birthday sister neeley and about how it was my birthday! It was so hilarious. My face was bright red as they sang around me and everyone was laughing so hard. Sister winn got it on video, she will have to send it to me one day so I can show you. It has been a really great day. I feel really loved. Being 21 is awesome. Oh yeah!!! So also on saturday some elders texted me from Modesto and said they had flowers for me. I was so confused...who sent me flowers...? They met us at our apartment and they gave me the biggest, most beautiful vase of flowers. As I opened the card to see who they were from, my face went bright red and my mouth hung open. They were from ANTHONY! How did he do that?! It was so sweet of him and SO unexpected. It was a really great surprise. My whole birthday weekend has been really awesome.
This week we had two exchanges, oakdale sisters then stockton. I first worked in Ripon with sister Turner from oakdale. We had the most crazy street contact that day. We stopped and talked to this guy who invited us in to meet his wife. We were stoked! We met his wife and then he just started playing for us all of these country ballots he wrote on the guitar- he was way good but way crazy. One right after another! It was hard not to laugh at first, but then some of them got way deep and sad. He wasn't exactly looking for us to share our message, but he is really interested in family history work so hopefully we will get him into the family history center at the church soon to help him make his family tree. It was a funny time. I even played some songs back for him on the guitar. For the Stockton exchange, I was working in Stockton with sister Smith. I love working in Stockton. It is so fun to be in the city. We had a lot of miracles on that exchange. There is this kid Ben who is wants to be baptized, but has some other family things keeping him back from doing. It all fell into place as we were there teaching him. I actually have been there to teach him a lot from splits and exchanges, so hopefully I can make it to his baptism to support him in May. Exchanges were good this week, it is always a good time to be out with the sisters working with them.
Sunday was the best sunday of my mission. Hopefully I can express it all to you. So first background, Sister winn and I have been praying and fasting for a baptism this transfer. Not much has happened here for a long time and we just felt so strongly that the Lord is preparing people right now for us to find, help, and teach. There are only two more weeks left in the transfer and our faith was really starting to take a hit. We have been praying so hard, and trying to be so obedient and diligent so that we could be blessed with miracles. On thursday President Palmer called us and said he had a referral for us, a couple and their young son have been looking for a church for 10 years and will be showing up to church on sunday. President and sister Palmer would as well be showing up to our ward. He told us at the end of the call this is exactly why we are placed in Ripon. We could hardly believe it. We were so excited and happy that we knelt right there in the kitchen to thank Heavenly Father for this answer to our prayer. On saturday we met with our ward mission leader and shared with him our goal and our miracle and he was so excited for us. He said he knew that as we get the ward praying and fasting behind our goal too, God will see our faith and will give us miracles. His faith in us was so inspiring and encouraging to us. Saying our goal out loud made it a reality for us. He prayed as we ended our meeting and I felt the spirit so strong during it telling me to keep working and keep having faith. The next morning before church in ward council we found out that two more visitors would be at our ward for the first time. It was fast and testimony meeting, so no planned talks- only people bearing their testimonies. It was the most spiritual sacrament meeting I have ever been in. We were sandwiched in our church pew between two investigator families and with President and Sister palmer. We have been struggling for months to get anyone to come with us to church so this sunday was a true miracle. I had the opportunity to get up and bear my own testimony in front of my ward, my mission president and his wife, a member of our stake presidency, and these two new families about the Savior's love and how now matter where we are or what we have done it is always there for us, it doesn't matter if we think we deserve it or not, it is always there. It was really powerful. Both families had a really amazing experience there and want to come back next week. President Palmer also said this week he is going to have the one family over for dinner at the mission home here in Ripon, and then after sister winn and I will teach the first discussion there. This weekend was an answer to many weeks of prayer, fasting, work, and faith for us. This week my scripture is Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." I do not have perfect faith but that is just fine because perfect faith is not required for miracles. I am trying so hard with all I am capable of, to trust the Lord. Some days my faith is more than others, but the fact is that I am still having faith and Christ fills in all the gaps. He knows my heart and He knows I am trying my best. As I continue to give to Him all I can, He will continue to give us miracles and help us reach our goal. I am choosing to trust.
I am so excited for what is in store for this week. I love you and I am praying for you all always.
all my love,