Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DC Week 7!

Hello Hello Everybunny!

Well I got the call from President Sunday night about Grandma. I smiled to myself, because as soon as he called with the "bad news..." I knew exactly why he was calling--except it was such good news to me. Oh I shed some tears for sure, but I couldn't help but smile. My companion probably had no clue what was going on on the other line based on my mixed facials, but we had a sweet talk together afterwards as we held hands on our knees just smiling at each other as we silently exclaimed, "Guess what?? She's in the Spirit World!" It really helped to give us the perspective we should have when teaching those fundamentals about the gospel. In fact, the next day, I had the spiritual thought in District Meeting, so I shared some of my feelings about temple work and the joys that come from the knowledge we have, and how to teach this knowledge to investigators. There is a hymn Carly and I sang for our Christmas performance in Rexburg called Oh, What Songs of the Heart (286) about loved ones passed and this great Plan of Happiness. I read some lines from it, as well as those famous verses we read in Malachi about turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. I then talked about striving to have the Spirit of Elijah and to stress the importance of temple work with our recent converts and less actives. It was a sweet little meeting. Anyway oh how we will miss her, but I honestly couldn't have been happier to hear the news. Love you Grandma!

This week has been a good one. Monday, we woke up to a thick blanket of snow. No clue where that came from, but everyone's saying the Cherry Blossom Festival is supposed to start next week. We'll see how that goes according to schedule. Mother Nature may have a different idea in mind...

Last week, we had a family of three come into the Visitor Center: sweet couple from Guatemala and their young daughter, Yasmine. I made the assumption that they were members and soon found out they had simply "taken the exit" because they wanted to get a closer look at the "beautiful white building". This wasn't the first time an experience like this has happened to me, but for some reason, it was in that moment that I realized Heavenly Father literally dropped them on my front doorstep. It was in that moment that I realized just how much He trusted me with His children. To teach them what they needed to hear and help them feel what they needed to feel in that very instant.  Suddenly, I felt a responsibility for them...I felt a love for them. I testified of families, and the wonders of going to the temple, and bore my witness that Jesus Christ is my Savior as well as theirs. I knew they felt the Spirit that day. Before they left, I got their information to send them missionaries, and they were very excited about it. God is so good.

Anyway, yesterday, Sister Lawrence and I didn't have a shift at the VC, (which was different) so we had the whole day to proselyte! It was SO awesome!! We did, however, manage to make the mistake of somehow aligning our schedule so we had four consecutive meals in a row. I cannot honestly remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas in all my life that I ever felt so dang full. We grabbed lunch at The Noodle King again--so good, plus we're beginning to make friends with the Chinese gang there, (gave out a couple more pass along cards). Then we decided to have an unplanned visit to Kady Kortu again, (picked up a new investigator there named Abduli, a good friend of Kady's) and she, out of the blue, made us a native meal of hers from Sierra Leone. Can't remember what it was called but it was good. Then we had an actual dinner appointment with the Lemke family from the ward. They've been here since '74 but said they don't remember any Graff's having served here. Anyway, worth a shot. Then to end the night, we had another appointment with Iris and Paul. They had planned on feeding us in addition to the lesson, but we totally forgot. the time Iris was dishing me up a heaping second of chat curri and goat meat, I was just about ready to POP. But, in all seriousness, Sister Lawrence and I just looked at each other, smiled, and dived in for the fourth time that evening, with an encouraging "whatever-we-can-do-to-build-up-the-Kingdom" look on our faces. I even used the nan bread she had made to soak up/completely wipe clean my plate after our meal. They seemed pleased with our performance, so we proceeded with our lesson on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It went very well, but we have some concerns we want to address next time, mainly the role of the priesthood in baptism. Sister Lawrence and I had anticipated their objection to our invitation to be baptized, knowing that they had "already been baptized".  So we decided to talk about the priesthood first, kind of as a preemptive strike. When I extended our big invitation, they still responded with what we had assumed they would. So I made the big mistake of asking if their church had the priesthood. To which Paul responded in his thick Indian accent, "Yeah, yeah, sure! They had this 'priesthood'". I kind of looked at Sister Lawrence and then we had this, "Oh-oh really?...Oh he did, did he?" moment. Sooo that will definitely take some fixing and I apologized to my companion for it after we left. But at least we know how we are going to side-step THAT landmine next time.

Okay I have rambled on way too long and need to run--we're heading into the city to go the the Zoo! I want to share a quote by President Monson that has helped me a lot this week:               

"The Lord's purposes are often accomplished as we pay heed to the guidance of the Spirit.  I believe that the more we act upon the inspiration and impressions which come to us, the more the Lord will entrust to us...His errands." I love him. I know he is a man of God. Hope you're all getting excited for Conference!


Love you all beyond words! Sister Graff


(3/25/13) No one knows why or how...but look how pretty!! :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

DC Week 6!

Hey Everybody!

Just to start, I was skimming emails and read about the crash. Caty, I am so glad you are okay. Scared me half to death when I saw the picture, but I will keep you (and the whole family) in my prayers. When Carly and I had the accident in Idaho, you wouldn't believe the tender mercies we counted that icy night. Our hearts tend to drop in a moments like that, when we begin to see glimpses of eternity, and what truly matters most in our lives. Our Heavenly Father is so aware of all us. He is always mindful of all that happens in this universe, and He has more power to prevent, than a mile's length of metal engine in front of you. (I never thought the day would come that I would actually appreciate "The Boat". May it rest in peace.) shift gears (no pun intended) things are wonderful here. We had transfers today, and I will be staying with Sister Lawrence in White Oak. It really is such a great ward/area. The people here are willing to listen to you.  It was really surprising at first, because I think I had just expected them to shut us down from the start. Not only do they stop to hear you out, but most times, will offer some sort of spiritual contribution to the conversation. It's like taking a breath of fresh air. However I do feel that half an hour south of here as you start to get into the district, individuals shy away from such talk and get too lost in their busy lives. Then just north of here, you get a bunch of retired elderly people who don't think they need religion at all; almost like it's beneath them. It's sad to see. But I feel like this first lransfer has been the perfect mix. It's actually the "dumpier" parts of cities where we seem to find more sucess. People there are much more humble. They acknowledge the need for Jesus Christ in their lives and eagerly come unto Him.
If I can leave a closing thought with you, I have learned to really value the asset of time in the mission field. It is precious. It is limited. Kids, listen to Mom and Dad when they tell you to budget your time. The older you get the faster it flies. There is a quote from one of the bretheren: 
"Time is never for sale. Time is a commodity that cannot, try as you may, be bought at any store for any price. Yet when time is wisely used, its value is immeasurable.  On any given day, we are all allotted, without cost, the same number of minutes and hours to use. We soon learn, as the familiar hymn carefully teaches, "Time flies on wings of lightening. We cannot call it back." ~Elder Arden of the Seventy.   

I love this work. It is so real and wonderful and rich. And it is His...
I have a testimony of the Restoration of Christ's true church through the prophet Joseph Smith. I know we have a living prophet on the earth today. His name is President Thomas S. Monson. And we get to hear him next month! I can't wait. Family, go into General Conference this season with a very particular, personal question in mind...Pay attention to the speakers and their words, and the Spirit. It will get answered. I promise.

I love you all. You are in my prayers every morning and night.

Sister Graff
The one and only Amy Perkins :) It was wonderful to catch up on life and future/etc...What a treat to see her :) (3/16/13)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DC Week 5!

Well Happy Wednesday!!

I'm going to make this a quick one. This last week has certainly been a roller-coaster with investigators but we're willing to tackle anything or anyone the Lord sends our way! We met with Michael again (recent convert) and he confided in us that he relapsed with smoking several times. Sad. But we are encouraging him to exercise the Atonement now in his life. He is diagnosed with severe bipolar tendencies and so every day used to be up and down. Now it seems that shift is more on an hourly basis, but we try to offer solace in finding the constants in his life such as his Savior Jesus Christ. It's a work in progress. The members are still a little hesitant to help with the missionary work in our area, but we're trying to help them come out of their shells a bit and encouraging them to invite any friends and loved-ones of their to Conference next month.  So far we've had pretty positive responses.

With street contacting, I have found that the Lord likes to place me in situations that test my self control a lot. I think I'm beginning to see a pattern. There have been several experiences where my excitement about a certain gospel topic or principle will get our individual all fired up in negative ways and then comes the Bible bashing which I always hate.  So...Sister Lawrence has been helping me to practice asking "inspired questions" and holding my tongue--which has always been hard for me, especially when talking about things that I love! That is also a work in progress haha, but I will update as I learn.

In other news, I went to the city for the first time on the mission today! We just got back and what an awesome experience. My companion and I got up at 4:30 am to meet with some of the Spanish sisters for "Sunrise Pictures" at the monuments. So neat. We are exhausted but it was SO worth it. The District is so different anywhere else. So much history. And it's impossible to drive 10 feet without seeing some sort of statue or modern art form or Embassy. While waiting in line to get into the National Archives (which was way cool--Little kids, I got to see the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights! Wasn't sure who was studying what right now in school, but there was a group of several dozen kids all your ages on a field trip and it made me think of you!) we saw the President drive by with a train of police vehicles and motorcycles and tinted SUV's, twice. The entire road seemed to shut down for them to race by. Wild. Anyway, there are a lot of "storybook-type" homes and houses with cherry-blossom trees and picket fences, and all kinds of ivy growing up the sides of these century-old brick homes,(the kind that you might see Gipetto living in) that line every corner. But in addition there is such a vibe like I've never felt before. And I don't just mean in the city...I love it.

Got to run! I will share much more later. Thanks for all your sweet letters! I'm getting around to answering them--PROMISE :) This church is absolutely, positively, undoubtedly TRUE.

I love you all. Until next week!

Sister Graff
Moroni 10:3-5. DO IT.

PS--I got to see Mark and Marci and boys on Saturday!!!!! They were so sweet to come visit, and loaded me up with all the necessities. Mark said as he loaded a bag into the car, "These are hardly groceries," which I was very grateful for as I munched on the contents for the last four days. The Graff's know how to roll when it comes to the good stuff in life, that's for sure! ;) Anyway, we had a sweet visit and I was thrilled to see familiar faces.

1. After singing at Night of Music and Inspiration.
2. Sunrise pictures at the Lincoln Memorial.
3. My so-excited-to-be-a-missionary jump :)
4. The man himself.
5. Good morning!
6. Gettysburg address.
7. ...
8. Getting creative.
9. Love her!
10. '91. The year of the ram! Woohoo!

Friday, March 8, 2013

DC Week 4!

Hey Everybody!! 
Gosh, sorry for the delayed email! --Mama to answer your question, yes my P-day is typically Wednesday but allow me to s'plain myself... I want to laugh so hard because people here don't know what snow really is! For the last three days, everyone has been warning us to "brace ourselves" for the storm. When it finally "hit" we got one fat inch of nothing but slush. Nonetheless, everything still shut down (including the public libraries where we usually email from. President said we could send off an email as soon as we got the chance this week so I'm in the Visitor Center now doing just that).  The good news, is that people are actually driving at the same speed as me--the actual speed limit. I guess living in snow for the last two years really paid off after all--thank you Rexburg! 

In other news, HAPPY BIRTHDAY BIG ROB!!! :) Dude I can't believe you are 12! Priesthood, passing the Sacrament, and going to the TEMPLE and all that jazz! I am so proud of you, Bud. You'll have to write me to tell me all about your celebrations, okay? --By the way I sent you off a letter a few days ago so be looking for it in the mail!

Anyway...So I just want to share a few experiences that I had this last week.  
Sister Lawrence and I decided to check on a referral of ours that we had some trouble getting in touch with earlier. Paul and Iris Ghand from central India.  

They have been here for about a decade now and have since converted from Muslim to Christianity. They both have such deep testimonies of Jesus Christ and the Bible. And the spirit when you walked into their humble home was so strong. So neat. Everywhere you looked there were pictures of Christ, and various Indian trinkets. It smelled sort of musty sweet. We commenced to teaching them lesson one and had a great discussion about Christ and what He has done for each one of us. We then turned our focus to the Book of Mormon. This was a struggle for them, especially Iris who strongly believed that anything added to the Bible was false doctrine. But the Spirit was with us, and we testified boldly. We explained that the Book of Mormon was not meant to take away, twist, or even add to the Bible, but was meant to enhance it. That the Book of Mormon was another testament of Jesus Christ from an ancient record found.  That it depicted those dealings with the ancient inhabitants in this land...the Americas.  That our Heavenly Father loved us so much, He blessed us with multiple accounts of Jesus Christ's ministry..including the crowning event in this book...which was when Christ visited the Americas. This seemed to intrigue them, and we left them a copy to begin reading. We meet with them again tomorrow!
On Tuesday, we met with a less active, (Kady Kortu from Sierra Leone) and her daughter, Nadia. She is Ashy's age and hasn't been baptized yet. Sister Lawrence and I have begun teaching her the lessons and have a B-date set for her on the 14th of April! It was so funny because as we were talking with her, (I was sitting on the floor) all of a sudden I feel little fingers on my feet. They started pinching and pulling and snapping my sheer black nylons I was wearing. So I look down out of the corner of my eye and see Kady's other two little children (Dalton and Susu, 4 and 2 years old). They were looking from my feet to my face in awe, apparently bewildered that a person could be "two different colors"! The innocent thought made me smile and I tried not to giggle as Sister Lawrence and I continued to teach Nadia.
On another note, we had a small media team come in from Salt Lake City last week to take some still shots and video footage of the Visitor Center for training purposes in Salt Lake. We learned that this video is to be shown to many of The Twelve for analyzing purposes (just to see how things are doing at our humble VC out east :) So exciting.

The spirit the mission wonderful. Where the surroundings and people and cultures all mesh...the gospel is that constant golden thread woven into the material. Every single day, we see ways our Heavenly Father shows His awareness and love for us. This is, of course, dependent on our willingness to serve and do His work. Our mission here in DC North is an obedient one. Obedient to exactness. I have never understood that term as well as I do now. Nor will I understand it better now than I will a year and a half down the road. The blessings (and miracles) that come from being obedient are priceless.  Elder Bednar said, "Miracles are the natural result of the correct application of true principles."  Kids remember that. I'll tell more stories when I'm home.   
Oh it's time to run again. I love you all so much. Every time I get the chance, I share my testimony of my family and the knowledge I have that we are forever, and the importance of temple attendance. You are always in my heart and thoughts.

Make it a good week! This church is so true.

Sister Graff

PS--I was on floor in the VC today and things were running a bit slower than usual, when in walks Ann and Steve Tucker! They had no clue I was serving and we had a pleasant conversation before they left for a temple session. Carly! They mentioned that Emily was just set apart as a temple worker in San Diego! I told them to have her look for you! This world is so small. I love it :)  

Pictures: (Stole some of these from Sister Matsumori)
1. (3/6/13) Zone activity!
2. (2/12/13) Our first day in the Mission! Leaving the airport.
3. (2/12/13) Temple pic with the new arrivals.
4. (2/12/13) Mission tradition: Lunch at IHOP the first day with President and his wife. 
5. (2/12/13) Dinner at the mission home our first night.
6. (3/1/13) Vietnamese! 
7. (3/1/13) The ambiance...of "PHO AN"