Monday, July 25, 2016

Singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain...


I cannot believe that I am in Arkansas! Our departure from the MTC was an early one. We woke up at 2 AM on Tuesday morning to get ready to catch our early morning flight. I couldn't believe it when I landed in Little Rock. It was like coming home. Everyone is so nice and I love it already.

IT.IS. SO. HUMID! And so so so hot!   If you don't know what a heat index is, look it up. Basically, it is a measure of how hot the weather really feels when humidity is factored in with the actual temperature. So, even if the air temperature reads 98 degrees outside, when the humidity is factored in, it feels like it is 115 degrees. There are times when I sweat so badly that I feel like a human swimming pool. There have been times when people will get mad at us, but then look at our dripping red faces and offer cold bottles of water to us. Pity water. Not quite the dunks in water that I was envisioning on my mission. Everyone says it gets even hotter. Oh goody! But as my mission president says, "Sweet is the Work"

I really experienced the significance of this mantra on Saturday afternoon when after knocking on a bunch of doors, we had to walk across town to get to an appointment with James. We found James while knocking on a member's neighbor's door. The neighbors didn't answer but we saw James at his mailbox and we gave him a card and asked if we could talk about Jesus with him sometime. He said yes, and gave us his phone number and a time to come by. We were really excited to meet with James but as we started our walk across town, all of a sudden, BOOM! Rain. And when I say rain, I mean sheets of rain. A total DOWNPOUR! Sadly, we decided to not use a car that day. We had planned to walk or get rides with members instead. SWEET IS THE WORK! Well, when the rain hit we had five minutes to get there and it was a 25 minute walk. We walked and walked and sang songs and smiled the whole time. I felt like the Penguins on Madagascar where they say, "Smile and wave, boys... smile and wave...".  Every time a car passed, we just smiled and waved. By the time we reached James' house, we were sopping wet and I was so scared that he wouldn't even be there. We prayed and when we got there he still wanted to talk to us! It was simply amazing!! In the MTC they tell you that you always are standing on holy ground because the MTC has been dedicated, but that once you get out to the mission field everywhere you walk is holy ground. I hadn't really felt that until that moment. It was like God had prepared James. We were talking about scriptures and we gave James a Book of Mormon and we asked him to read it to know if it was true and he mumbled that it probably was. We also asked him how he felt when he talked to us and he said that he felt terrific. He said that he wanted to be happy, so I invited him to be baptized and he said YES!! I had to hold myself back from squealing. I hope that he continues to work towards baptism and even further, the temple. I just want him to be happy. 

I am currently serving in the areas of Sherwood, Maumelle, and parts of North Little Rock. My companions are so sweet. They are both super tiny ( five two and five three) and wonderful missionaries. Sister Evans is from Bountiful and she is going home in five weeks and Sister Beckstrand is from American Fork and she has been out for six months. They both are great and I love them both.We have been through a lot in the past few days, so we are getting to know each other fast.

I have bedbugs in my apartment, so we haven't even gone there yet except to show the exterminator in. GROSS! We have been in a hotel for the last several days. I don't want bedbugs but apparently they want me. SWEET IS THE WORK. The church is true, the book is blue. God's got a plan for me and you!

I have felt my Father in Heaven's love for His children while being out on a mission. WOW. If you haven't recently felt His love, ask to feel His love for others. I love this gospel and I love my Savior so much. The absolute joy that this gospel brings to me is indescribable, but I want it for the people in Arkansas. There is so much sadness and there are many going through hard times here and I just want to give others a bandaid to fix everything. At first, it made me sad that I didn't have one, then I realized that I DO! The ATONEMENT! Watch the videos "Because of Him" and "Because He Lives" .  They bring the spirit and really make you think about our Savior. I love that I can do anything through my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I am nothing without Him. I enjoy reading The Book of Mormon and growing my testimony of it. I love this church! I love that my Father in Heaven listens to my prayers and answers them. I love Alma 26:11-12. That is my mission scripture. I can do ALL things through Christ. Remember who you are and what you stand for! 

Lots of love from a HOT, HUMID PLACE,

Sister Esplin
Hotel resident
Missionary to the southerners
Human swimming pool
Sister who has started talking with an accent...I can't help myself!!

 We were featured on the front page of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. I barely missed being in the picture.

Picture of President and Sister Wakolo with all of the incoming missionaries with their trainers.

Sister Beckstrand, Sister Esplin, Sister Evans

Funny story- We woke up at 6:30--our typical wake up time--so that we could get ready for the day, and all of a sudden a sister comes in and tells us that we are leaving in fifteen minutes! AHHHH! I threw my hair in a pony tail, swiped some mascara on, and called it a day. One of the APs and another elder came and picked us up and as we got in the car he said that we were taking pictures that morning. MAN!  So much for making a great first impression.  One sister left so fast that she forgot her name tag!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Life with District 37E

Hello Family and Friends!!

This week has been a crazy week and district 37E has been HIT. Last Thursday night one of our elders went home for medical reasons and it was so hard for everyone to see such a great missionary go home. Then this last Sunday, our District Leader went home. It was so hard to see everyone struggle and only be able to give them a short handshake. You just want to hug 'em! They may be elders but they are like temporary brothers. I'll start this email off on a bit of an Ashley note and end it with a Sister Esplin tone. 

So, it turns out when you are a missionary, you still get sick! Also, when one person gets sick, everyone does. I got pretty sick on July 8th and I went to the doctor's office to get it figured out before it got worse. He basically just told me to not cough on people and that I was contagious and then he sent my companion and me to the student health center down the road to get a prescription. Yay for field trips! Also, I was really excited to try the Chicken Cordon Bleu at the MTC because Uncle Nathan said it was really good! Well, I finally ate it last Sunday for lunch and what happens? I got food poisoning. But it was totally worth it. It was amazing!! But I was the only one who got sick from it! Some kind of sick joke, right? Did you get the joke? teehee. On Sunday I really found out that I am my mother's daughter.  My mom always gets the worst cough attacks at the worst times ever and on Sunday that happened to me in Sacrament Meeting...twice. Really fantastic. Not embarrassing at all. Especially since it had just been announced that Sister Van Orman and I were the new Sister Training Leaders (basically Zone Leaders for the Sisters). Oh yeah, I'm a Sister Training Leader. I don't know what the Branch Presidency was thinking. The thought that kept running through my mind when they asked me to do it was the scene in Tangled when Rapunzel tells Flynn Rider that she has decided to trust him and he just says "that's a terrible idea, really". That's how I feel. Unqualified but so happy to serve and love the sisters in Branch 37. I also get a cell phone so that I can call the front desk or so they can call me, and let me tell you, I HATE IT. I have to answer the phone during class and go get sisters and I also always get a call during TRCs (fake investigators) and I miss calls all.the. time. Ugh. I never thought that I would say that I dislike phones, but in the MTC cell phones are the worst thing ever. 

Okay....Sister Esplin Time. Because I was really sick, I needed a blessing. I have always had trust in blessings and I have never hesitated to ask for one from my dad, but I was sort of hesitant about a bunch of elders just giving me a blessing. I asked my district leader to do it before he left, and oh my goodness, the spirit was so strong. He didn't have fanciful words and it wasn't long, but what he said really spoke to my spirit. One thing that really stuck out to me was he said, "I bless you to be able to take one step after the next and when you no longer can, that He can take the next one". RIGHT TO THE SPIRIT. I needed to hear that. It was so neat to have my whole district around me. I felt so much love and so much unity. We haven't been the strongest, tightest knit district, but at that moment we knew that we were all there for the same reason. It was also so amazing for me to realize that the Priesthood is the same, whether it be a newly ordained Elder, or a High Priest. I love the gospel and the truth it brings. 

During our TRCs this week, we have had a really difficult investigator that just asks super hard questions and doesn't even believe God is alive. I was so upset on Wednesday and I just broke down. I didn't know what we would teach her and I almost wasn't even caring because she didn't want to be baptized at all. I prayed with my companion and prayed so hard by myself and I felt like we should show her the Because He lives video. Well, we got in the lesson and I showed the wrong one. I showed the Because of Him video. That was even better. The spirit was so strong and Sister Van Orman and I were on the same page and Kristen believed that Christ is her Savior! I was saying things that were definitely from the spirit, Sister Van Orman was doing the same thing. WE FINALLY HAD A LESSON LED BY THE SPIRIT!!!! We went in with broken hearts because we honestly only knew that we were going to show her the video and we had nothing else planned because the last lesson had left us heartbroken. Heavenly Father definitely knows who we are and He wants to help us. We just have to ask Him. He is there. I am reminded of the song, "A Child's Prayer", where it says, "Pray, He is there. Speak He is listening. You are His Child, His love now surrounds you." How true that is. 

I love the mission field. I love that it breaks me. I love that I am given the opportunity to love and serve wonderful sisters in my branch. I love that the mission makes me lie down in bed wanting to sleep for five years and makes me cry out to my Heavenly Father because I can't do things alone. He wants to help us. He wants to see us grow into who He knows we can be. I love my savior. I can't believe that He loves me so much that He died for me, but I am so grateful for that. I LOVE THE GOSPEL!!!!

I love you all so so so so so much. I am doing GREAT! 

Much much much much much love,

Sister Esplin


Thursday, July 7, 2016

One Week Down...

Wow. Everyone said that a mission was going to be hard, I had no idea how fast that was going to become true. Seriously, I was fine the first day or two, but then, BOOM! All of a sudden, homesickness. No offense but I really thought that I wasn't going to get homesick until a little bit later in the maybe halfway through. But dang was it a hard couple of nights. I cried myself to sleep one night just thinking about all of you and that it is going to be eighteen months until I see you again! That is 548 days. I was so worried about not being able to handle fast Sunday, but it was seriously the BEST SUNDAY EVER. It was mission conference and I just felt so much peace and love from my Heavenly Father, I was almost sad to end my fast. Crazy, huh?  (Although Uncle Nathan, the MTC did NOT serve Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner on Fast Sunday...I was so disappointed!).  It has been so much fun getting all of your letters! I seriously feel so loved when I get a letter in the mail *hint hint hint hint* *cough more mail* *send pictures*. 

The MTC is so weird, it is so crazy to have literally NO TIME! Everything is planned out and I feel like I am rushing from one thing to another and remembering to breathe when I sit down. My companion is great! Her name is Sister Van Orman and she is from Mapleton, Utah. Every sister in my room is from Utah and we are all going to Little Rock, Arkansas! YEEHAW! I don't know why I said that. We are very very very different. She is quieter and reserved....I'm not. She is tall and skinny....see aforementioned answer. She likes to plan things out to every detail for a lesson, whereas I would so much rather follow a loose outline with some scriptures so that the Spirit has some room to breathe. But we get along really well. I tried really hard to hide from everyone that I am not your normal gal, but that lasted until Sunday. Now they know that I do voices and know really weird Disney songs.

One of my teachers is British. GUYS. It is crazy. She sounds just like Kiera Knightly. Marlin K. Jensen spoke to us on Tuesday about faith and it was so amazing, one of my favorite things he said was "to believe deeply enough in Christ to repent is a remarkable stage". Mom & Dad-I feel like I have heard that name before, does it hold any significance? (NOTE FROM MOM & DAD...Ummm YES....He MARRIED US!!!)  On Saturday we had a Celebration of Freedom devotional before we went to the parking lot to watch the Stadium of Fire Fireworks. Well, we were sitting in the front, center, floor section and guess what I learned about myself? I'm claustrophobic. Like the the point of a panic attack claustrophobic. It was so scary, My heart was beating so fast and I was hot and I could barely pay attention. I seriously just had to take deep breaths and take a sip of water. I really have never felt so alone and scared. I was just praying so hard for some peace. Sister Jolene Swenson and Brother Joe Swenson spoke at the devotional, and I took notes for Sister Swenson's talk, but the only thing that I wrote down for Brother Swenson's talk was "Now it's your time, your history". That brought so much peace to me. It's  interesting, sometimes amazing talks aren't what can help a person, but rather a comment or one line of your talk. 

I have to tell you, now that I have said that I was super sad and also had a panic attack that I am now fine! Other than having a cough and also getting cold sores on both sides of the back of my mouth (Stress anyone?!!), I am doing WONDERFUL!!!!! I love the mission now. I watched the Character of Christ by David A. Bednar and oh my goodness, it is literally the best thing in the whole wide world. If you can find the talk online I would invite you to read it because the video is only available at the MTC. He talked about how Christ turns out when we would turn in. We need to turn out in love, service and compassion when instead we would want to turn in and ask for how the Lord can help us, what God can do for us, what he can give to us. I personally experienced that on Monday night when I was having a lot of anxiety about going out into the mission field, thinking that I can't be away from you all and that it was such a long time and that I was inadequate. So I went to the bathroom with my companion and I cried and prayed to Heavenly Father to give me peace to help me so that I can do the work that I was called to do. In my patriarchal blessing it says that I will have challenges and trials but that I will be able to endure them and learn from them to help others. This was the time. I was so ready. Just as I was starting to study for one of the investigators (one of my teachers), I was searching in the scriptures for scriptures on comfort for her. Let me tell you. I was overcome with a feeling of peace and love that I cannot adequately describe. I looked in 2 Corinthians 13:11 and I felt so much love. But then my companion said to look in 2 Corinthians 1:2-4. Oh my goodness. Verse 4 totally applied to me. I needed to feel comfort from Heavenly Father so that I could help others feel comfort!! THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!!!!!!

I love you all so much!!! 

Sister Esplin

P.S. I seem to be having problems getting the computer to attach pictures. will try to send pictures next week! XOXO