Monday, June 23, 2014

DC Week 71!-- June 23, 2014

Okay. So this is it folks.

I never knew 18 months could hold so much adventure. So many lows. So
many treasures. So much growth. So many broken hearts. So much change.
So many ripple effects. So many miracles....

I never knew that I would love it here so much. That I would make
lifelong friends. That I would reconnect with old friends from another
time and place. That I would change them. That I myself, would be
changed because of it.

I never knew I would be a minority. Or learn so much about other
cultures. Or learn so much about my own nation. Or speak fluent
Spanish. Or become a fan of Inca Kola. Or hear the sound of cicadas.
Or get so many bug bites. Or spend so much money on tights. Or learn
how to cook arroz con pollo in a hundred different ways. Or see
fireflies. Or learn how to tell the difference between Japanese,
Chinese, Korean, and Thai. Or learn how to drive and stay alive on the
495. Or how to get lost so dang much.......Or how to find myself

I never knew that I would be okay with messing up. That God is so
merciful. That Christ's Atonement has no bounds. That it is never "too
late". That He never, ever leaves us to "fend for ourselves".

I never knew just exactly how God was going to use me. That He could
ever use someone so imperfect, to polish and perfect another's sins
and flaws. That that is exactly how He works. That the secret, is to
simply allow Him to. That the trick to success is to let Him in. That
forgetting myself and submitting my will to His ultimately earns us
both a win.

I never knew my capacity to love would increase tenfold. Or my
patience level. Or my to-do list. Or my organization skills. Or my
ability to daydream.

I never knew I would be exposed to so many religions. Or find so much
solace and conviction in my own.

I never knew I would get rejected so much. Or testify so hard. Or
defend my God so fervently.

I never knew that in one year and a half...I could live decades and
centuries. I never knew time could pass so quickly. I never knew that
in that fleeting time...I could even make a difference...

But I have.

...What I did know was that I would have to leave home to have all of this....
...What I didn't know was that I would be leaving home twice.

I love being a missionary. There is nothing better. Nothing. I love
this Gospel. It is true. It is real. It is fulfilling. It is
satisfying, and it is saving. It is essential for our Eternal
Salvation. And it is essential that we, as privileged holders of this
truth, share it.

Family, as a set apart representative of Jesus Christ, I leave you
with my conviction and sincere testimony that this is His divine
church, restored to the earth once more through the power of God. I
testify of the truthfulness, and the power of the Book of Mormon. It
is another testament of the living Christ. There is no flaw in it.
Through the prophet Joseph Smith, the impossible was made possible,
and a new and brighter hope once again filled the earth. We have a
living prophet on this earth today, who guides Christ's church under
His instruction, and He will never let us fall. We....are in the last
dispensation. The dispensation of the fullness of times. This is it.
Now it's just a waiting game. And what a fun and exciting game it is.
There is a lot of work to be done. And so, until that glorious day
when we shall again meet our Savior face to face, let us thrust in our
sickle with our might, and deliver those elect into the Hands of The
Lord of the Harvest, that they are not wasted.

The following hymn has stuck really close to me throughout my mission.
It also seems to fit nicely with my thoughts for this final email. So
I'll share it:

"It may not be on the mountain height or over a stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle's front my Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice He calls to paths that I do not know,
I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine: I'll go where you want me to go.

I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain or plain or sea;
I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;
I'll be what you want me to be."

Well, family. It's been good. It's been really good. Save me a spot in
the car for the ride home.

Sister Graff
(Alma 26:29-31)

Monday, June 16, 2014

DC Week 70!-- June 16, 2014

On Tuesday, I got a call from Elder Giles, one of the assistants.

He briefly explained to me that there was a woman in the Potomac ward
who was in need of a few sisters to sing at an event. (President had
given him my name for some odd reason). I tried to ask for more
details, but all he had for me was her name and number, and apologized
for the lack of info. So I took what I could get, thanked him, and
called Jalynn that night.

She was grateful I called, as she had no way of getting in touch with
me, and seemed a tad desperate to get something in place before it was
too late. I simply told her that I didn't know all the details yet,
but that I would be willing to help with whatever she needed.

Jalynn proceeded to tell me the story of a woman from their ward:

She had traveled from the time she was a young girl. Very accomplished
in both the political and social scenes. In addition to that, she was
a strong convert to the church, and although she married later in
life, had successfully raised one son in the gospel. Jalynn continued
to explain how in 1993, while only in her early forties, this woman
suffered an immense stroke which would alter her future forever. Life
as she knew it had changed completely. As a direct result, she became
completely paralyzed on one whole half of her body. In following
years, she suffered two more strokes, and though they were not as
detrimental at the first, continually weakened her mortal body, until
she had to permanently be placed in a resting home shortly thereafter.
She was cared for by her husband and own mother, until her sweetheart
passed away just two years ago. Following his death, her nonmember
sister, Diana, began to take care of her at the rest home. She was
there almost every day to offer comfort and support in that desperate
time of need.

Jalynn explained how it was during this time about a year and a half
ago that several of the sister missionaries had received her new
address, and had begun to pay her weekly visits. Diana mentioned that
upon their arrival each Monday, her sister's face would just light up!
The sisters would hardly ever do more than sit on the edge of the bed
and listen to her tell stories from long ago. Stories of Rome, and
Paris. Stories of Ambassador Galas, and Relief Society quilt tying
activities. Then, at the end of each visit, before they would leave,
they would always sing to her. Normally just one or two hymns. Always
a cappella. They had to sing quite loudly because her sister was
almost completely deaf in one ear, and all the noisy machinery didn't
make it any easier. Either way, she would listen. Intently. Captured.
Diana confided in Jalynn that she never saw her sister so happy than
on those days the sisters would come. Their singing quickly became
"tradition" and even, expected, at the close of each visit. The sweet
harmonizing would almost lull her to sleep. Then they would carefully
lean over the hospital bed and give her a goodbye kiss on the cheek.
It was like clockwork. Beautiful clockwork.

I kept listening to Jalynn:

"...So we felt it only fitting to select a few sisters who would be
willing to come and sing at Pagie's funeral this Saturday morning, and
would love if you would be willing to help us with that. What do you

And then it hit me.

"Pagie?" I asked. "You mean Paget Hinch? She passed away?"

"Yes, sweetheart, she did," came the soft reply. "Did you know her?"

"................I was one of those sisters."

I almost didn't believe the words as they were spoken from my mouth. I
thought it all sounded too familiar. I knew I had heard that story
before...but whether from a dream or reality, I couldn't recall until

"...Really??....We had wanted to ask one of them but had absolutely no
clue where to start to get in touch with them, and then realized that
they wouldn't even be out on their missions anymore," Jalynn

"I leave in two weeks," I informed her as the tears began to spill
over my cheeks.

They didn't stop for about 20 minutes either.

"Oh Honey.....Honey I'm so sorry," Sister Prince began.

I didn't hear most else of what was said over the phone--poor Jalynn.
It was a very bittersweet moment. I guess, I just always assumed those
kinds of crazy non-coincidental experiences were only for other
people. Everyone else, actually. Everyone else, but me. Don't know
why. I still don't know how President decided to give my name. Of all
the sisters in the Washington DC North mission. But one thing's for
sure, I have no doubt there was a very small dose of revelation in
that choice.

This was my miracle this week family. And yes, it was sweet to be able
to sing at Pagie's funeral. I was joined by Sister Weber, another
sister who had the opportunity to know and sing to Pagie after I left
White Oak. It was very touching. We sang I Am a Child of God, Families
Can Be Together Forever, and I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go. A good
portion of the congregation were not members of the church, including
Diana, and Pagie's mother. You couldn't mistake the strong Spirit that
accompanied us that summer morning. They were able to feel something
different, sparked by a few simple primary songs, and a hymn. Don't
underestimate the power of music. Or of the little things. That's
something I have gained a strong testimony of since being here.

I distinctly remember sitting at the foot of Pagie's hospital bed
listening to her talk for almost an hour, all the while smiling and
wondering to myself as a new missionary...."What is my purpose here?
Are we just wasting the Lord's precious time?" I remember singing with
Sister Nakatsuka, and thinking, "What is this really doing for her?
And really, let's be honest, how much is she really hearing? And
aren't there prepared people right outside this rest home just waiting
for us to leave so we can teach them?" As much as I wanted to
understand all the ripple effects of what I was doing in those
precious moments...I wouldn't find out....not until I had learned the
lesson. I wouldn't truly benefit from knowing if I hadn't figured it
out for myself. But they come. The ripple effects come.

Family, remember the little things. Cherish the small moments. Because
those small flecks of gold will begin to pile up in your personal
treasuries...and then, one day, you will look back....and you will be

I love you all.
Sister Graff

PS--If you want to re-read one of my first experiences with Pagie, it
was in an untitled email, which should have been "DC Week 15!"
(5/22/13). I have a picture of us together somewhere, but couldn't
find it. Remind me later, and I will.

1. Diana, Sister Weber, Me, Jalynn Prince, Pagie's mom.
2. Circa 5:30 am this morning :)
3. Last city trip...
4. Best part about big cities: there are tons of hidden places.
5. It was a humid one's me in front of the Capitol.

DC Week 69!-- June 9, 2014

It's weird. On this mission, I have gained a testimony of something
very un-ordinary. Something you wouldn't think anyone could have a
testimony of. Well I do. I have a testimony of dropping people.

Over the course of these last 18 months, I have been through multiple
companions, experiences, relationships. I have fought many fights, and
I have met and said goodbye to many wonderful people. People that have
truly become like my family. Friends. Brothers. Sisters. I have come
to realize that our purpose is to help these children of God find
their place in this world. And in eternity. To help them receive the
restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. If after we have done all we can do,
they still exercise their agency to choose otherwise, then we must
step back and let go, and let God. Let God work with them in ways we
never could. It then becomes our duty to allow them the time to feel
that absence of light in their lives in order to measure the ever
present difference in spirit. I have come to understand that in almost
every case, this small and often times painful step, is necessary for
a true conversion. And, I have come to be okay with it.

The reason being, because I know, as stated by Maria VonTrapp:
"Whenever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." I know that
when one particular individual hits that roadblock to progression,
another, (perhaps more ready to "move on") discovers the sweetness of
our message and is placed in our path with expectations from on high
to be coached along that road. That's where we come in. They cannot
progress if we are not there willing and waiting to receive them. We
must constantly be aware of those unexpected, unplanned moments where
God trustingly places such a precious spirit in our hands. And we must
be willing to let others go to focus on the elite.

Every single one of us need to be converted to this gospel. We cannot
merely slip into heaven riding on the coat-tails of another's
testimony, no matter how strong. It simply cannot be. We must have our

I know God is aware of every single one of His children. No one is
forgotten. No one falls through the cracks. I have a testimony of this
great work, and that in time, everyone will have the same opportunity
to partake of eternal life, and live.

Love you, family.

Sister Graff
D&C 18:15-16

Pictures: Had to say goodbye to this beautiful family. They are
amazing, but need some more time to figure things out. The only way
Sister Hansen and I were gunna leave them, was if we could be certain
they were in good Hands. And we know they are. In time their family
will be an eternal one.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

DC Week 68!!-- June 2, 2014

On Wednesday, I got to go back to White Oak on exchanges!! There's
something sweet about returning to your first area on the mission.
Sister Chapman and I had some pretty good times, and some pretty
awesome miracles. (Remind me when I'm home and I'll share a funny
story about how a couple of young homeowner guys saved us from a
pretty intensely passionate French 7th Day Adventist. It was
hilarious). Anyway, at the end of the night, the biggest miracle of
all (for me) was getting to see the Kortu's again! It had been over a
year! I can't describe to you the way my heart leapt when I saw Kady's
reaction upon seeing me at the door. We embraced like the best of
friends, and I never wanted to let go! The kids totally remembered me,
and just glommed onto me the whole evening! I never knew I could know
such love. Such love for people I didn't even know a few years ago.
They have been coming back to church this whole time, and still have
some work to do, but I know one day they will be an eternal family.

Friday evening at the Visitor Center, I had a random experience with
Sister Holland, one of the other sisters here. We had encountered a
pretty rough looking fellow with a pretty persistent and prying
attitude toward the church. He demanded to be shown around, so we took
him to the prophet wall in the back. He would ask a question, and
before we could fully answer it, he would ask another and another,
trying to throw us off, as well as the spirit. Well we couldn't do
anything more than wait patiently while he ranted, and then testify.
When we could. After about 15 minutes, poor Sister Holland just looked
like she was sweating bullets. But she stood strong and just testified
her heart out. I was so proud of her. After an eternity, our friend
turned to us, and said, "Well done." Haha. I knew something was up. I
had wondered why I wasn't so scared or nervous, and was starting to
think I was finally getting the "hang of things". Nope. I'm not that
lucky haha. He was baptized back in '87. It was all an act. He faked
his membership. Totally threw us. Well, after allowing us to get over
the initial shock, he then relayed his whole life story to us in under
five minutes. Pretty sure our jaws were hanging open a little by the
end. It's too long to explain here. Just remind me and I'll tell you
in more detail later. What we did learn that night, was that the
forces we are up against are real. Satan is just as existent as
Heavenly Father. As is his power. However the only thing their power
has in common is it's ability to influence us. You see: Satan can only
have us is we give our selves to him. Likewise for Heavenly Father. He
can only have us if we give ourselves to Him. Tony Moreno helped us to
understand our crucial role as Later-Day Saints. It was cool.

Saturday, I called some Elders out of our mission to confirm their
tour appointment for that afternoon:

"Oh well, Hi Sister Graff! Your Uncle is going to be the member
present in our lesson at he VC today. We are actually on our way from
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia right now!"

That was not the response I had expected, but I figured, that works!
Haha. So Yes, I did get to see Mark and Marci and the kids, and it was
cool to be able to testify to them and their recent convert. I also
got to talk to his wife in Portuguese a little. Well, I mean, I could
understand it, and then she could understand my EspaƱol so it worked!
She was a sweetheart. Then after too short a time, they all headed
out. It's been such a blessing to have them so close this last year
and a half. I've loved it :)

Sunday, I bore my testimony in church for the last time out here. It
felt good. Felt good to have some closure with that special branch. I
love DC 1st. Love it. Everyone just came up to me afterwards and
kissed me and hugged me. I was a mess, haha. Nope, in case you haven't
wondered, I haven't changed much in that aspect. What made my day, was
sitting down from bearing my testimony, and seeing Jose Cruz walking
up to bear his own. He began to speak, and then lost it. He shared
about how his life would be totally different with out the Gospel in
it, how he'd been lost, but then found again, and publicly thanked us
in front of everyone. I was probably a nice shade of pink, but also
beaming at the same time.

The miracles just keep coming don't they?
Love you guys.

Sister Graff
Moroni 7:36-37

1. And I took the road less traveled by :)
2. Personal study in the woods by the temple.
3. The Kortu Gang!
4. Tony Moreno. His eyes were closed haha.
5. Zone Activity. Most intense game of capture the flag EVER.
Paint/water balloon war in the woods. I barely survived....