Monday, September 26, 2016

Are we there yet? Faith, Trust, and Lots of Door Knocking…

Hey y'all! This week has been one crazy week. I feel like I say that every week though. Oh well, the life of a missionary. Gotta love it. This past week started out with me being really dumb. Real dumb indeed. As missionaries, we are allotted a certain number of miles for our car each month, and since we are on full car (meaning we don't have to share the car with other missionaries, thank you!) we have to take a walk week so we can meet people and get out like normal missionaries. In our mission, we are given 1050 miles a month, which shouldn't be hard to maintain, right? Well....wrong. Usually we are really good at budgeting our miles, but this month since we were living in Little Rock for a couple of weeks, our commute gobbled up our miles! By Tuesday of  last week, we realized that we had about 60 miles left for the entire month. WHAT!!  Considering our predicament, we decided that we had better start our walk week..Yeehaw!!  Well, given my current ankle issues as well as the fact that Sherwood and North Little Rock are really spread out and very hilly, we decided to forgo biking and just walk and get rides from members. Well, as I'm sure you know, members have lives, as well. What??? It isn't their job to give us rides everywhere?!! Crazy talk!!! ;) For the first three days of our week, we walked EVERYWHERE, which ended up being a  really really really dumb move. We walked so much that my whole calf and ankle were swollen and I was so sore from all the hills that I was limping because of my really bad ankle and then hobbling because of the walking. I looked so funny. I should mention that the  reason that we chose to walk was because when I was at the doctor last week we told him that we walk a lot and he said that it would be fine and actually good for my ankle. He didn't realize how much we walk….  When we went to the doctor to check on the swelling, we got in trouble because we were walking so much. Fortunately, Elder Cahoon, the mission vehicle coordinator, was so kind and he  gave us extra miles.  I was told I should forgo the rest of walk week and just drive the car if members couldn't go with us.  Blessings from heaven, right there. 

Anywhooo…..on to the good stuff!!  This past Wednesday, we had a member join us for an appointment with Dana. I must confess, I am always so stressed to take members because of the inconsistency of the investigators and the craziness that could go on. Well, let me tell you…this appointment was a doozy!  Dana doesn't sleep for days on end because of really bad insomnia, so when arrived, Dana was completely OUT and would not wake up, but her Dana’s roommate, Tammy, was there and she was downright crazy  that day.  She seriously was trying to cast out demons. She was telling Satan to go away. One minute, Tammy would be talking about something and then she would start crying and then start laughing. She told us that she had satanic rituals done on her when she was a child. Then she started to hold on to the poor member we brought and cry. We were trying to tell Tammy about the gospel, but she would just freak out. The member was a little frightened, to say the least. Oh man…the South!  

On the bright side, we have been trying to work with a lot of less active members and it has been going pretty well. We brought Sister Wright, the Relief Society President with us on Thursday to go to a lesson with Chelsea and talk about learning and serving in the church. We just love Chelsea and we are so happy that she continues to want to progress. We also got to go to the church on Saturday and watch the general women’s session which was so awesome.  I must say, general conference will be a glorious, spiritually  rejuvenating holiday to me, as a missionary. Seriously, growing up, general conference was the BEST THING EVER!! But it will even cooler out here because I will get to witness the power that general conference can bring into the lives of new members and  investigators. I am excited for these new members and investigators to hear our living prophet and apostles for the first time.  It will be amazing!  

So back to the general women’s session…the young women were so sweet and made Cafe Rio (just like my family makes every year for our annual Cinco de Mayo parties! Kind of made me a little homesick). Apparently, Cafe Rio and Costa Vida are just a Utah thing. What?!!  I would have eaten it more at home if I knew that! ;)   I just loved the broadcast and I especially absolutely loved that President Uchtdorf spoke! I was telling Sister Beckstrand all day on Saturday that I hoped he would speak, because he's my favorite…and he did!  I love that he said that God rewards those that earnestly seek Him, but those rewards are rarely behind the first door. I loved the story he shared about the young missionaries feeling inspired to enter a four-story building and literally knocking on every single door. For three floors, they had absolutely no success. In fact, it wasn’t until VERY LAST door on the fourth floor that they finally found someone who was willing to open the door and listen to their message. That someone was the family of President Uchtdorf’s  lovely wife, Harriet!! 

In our mission, we  definitely encounter a lot of closed doors that won’t open.  In fact, we had to start our area book completely over this week. We had to drop Lindsey and a lot of the potential investigators, because they weren't interested. It was really hard to drop Lindsey, but she wasn't showing up to any appointments that she was setting or keeping any commitments. It is so hard, because we love her and we know she wants the gospel but she just won't do what she has to do to be baptized. All too often, it feels like very few people ever want to talk to us. So when President Uchtdorf shared this story, it truly gave me some hope. The other night Sister Beckstrand and I did something called “praith”, which means Pray In Faith. As we knelt and prayed about where we should go,  I had the name come to mind—Victoria.  I checked on the GPS to see if there was any Victoria Street, Drive, or Circle close by, and there was one in Maumelle! So last night, we knocked there and we actually found someone! We gave him a Book of Mormon and prayed with him and it was simply awesome! I know that sacrifice brings forth blessings, that Heavenly Father takes the steps that we cannot take, and that He provides a way and prepares people! 

I love y'all!

I hope everyone is doing well, I love hearing from you and I can definitely feel the prayers from y'all.

Love,
Sister Esplin

Ash
Sister with a three inch blister that wraps around my toes (ew,ouch, ew)
Faithful door knocker
Missionary to those who have seen "demons"


Dinner with the Piersons


My red face


Quality time with Donna


The other night, as we getting ready for bed, we smelled rotten eggs and we thought it was a gas leak.  As a result, we were up super late while the elders tried to figure out what it was. It stunk so bad. We were not amused!!


Cute getup with the brace!

Our board with goals at the bottom. Notice how long it has been since I had an accident. Kuzco is code for “get back into the groove” (from the movie, Emporer's Groove). Satan has definitely thrown off our groove!!



Monday, September 19, 2016

The Week of the Ankle

Well hello there my lovely family and friends!

This week-as every week out in the mission field has been proving to be-has been a weird, spiritually charged, growth inducing, week. Every week is filled with disappointments, joys beyond compare, and an overall well-rounded range of emotions. This week seemed to be chock full of moments that brought me to my knees in gratitude and in despair. Maybe despair isn't the right word, but I can't seem to find the right one. One thing you can be sure of—a mission definitely doesn't provide a shortage of chances to grow closer to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Alrighty, let's start out with last Monday, for that is where the saga of the ankle begins. On Monday we had a dinner planned with a sister in the ward. We went over to her house and we saw that she had her nonmember friend over (side note-her friend wants to feed us next week!! YAY) and we had dinner with them both! We got to do a member present lesson, which is always so great, but in this case it was not just a member present, but a FRIEND who is a member that was present. So after we had dinner and shared our lesson, we walked outside and it was SUPER dark! Well, a couple of weeks ago, I sprained or did something to my ankle but it got better. Apparently, I need to learn from my mistakes, because when we were walking on this little board walk by her house to get to the car I stepped on a rock and rolled my ankle again. This time it did not recover as quickly. Dun dun dun!!!

The next day (Tuesday), we had specialized training! It was so great to be with the zone and to receive instruction from President and Sister Wakolo and also from our zone leaders. Leaders sure are great! Well,  before the training started, we got flu shots and since the mission nurse was around,  Sister Beckstrand insisted that I talk to the mission nurse about my ankle. I reluctantly agreed because it was really hurting, but after the mission nurse told me I had to get a x-Ray, I had second thoughts because I did not want to go to the doctor. (Don’t worry, I did schedule an appointment)   Anywhooooo, back to the training. We talked a lot about clearly teaching repentance. During the entire training, I felt as thought the spirit was telling me that I needed to talk to one of the returning less active members that we have been growing really close to about how she needs to live the law of chastity. I have been feeling so stressed about that and pushing it aside for a couple of weeks because she has a little girl and I didn't want her to not want to meet with us. But the spirit just slapped me in the face and the thing that I heard was (maybe not quite like this, but it sure felt like it) “You big dummy! If she really is repenting and wanting to come closer to Christ, she is going to WANT to follow that law. So stop being a big baby about it." I left the meeting feeling like I really needed to teach that to her. Oh man!  President Wakolo also talked about teaching family history to people who have slammed doors in our faces. He challenged us to talk about family history at a door that wants to close. AND IT WORKED!! We went to lots of people this week and handed out cards and pamphlets on family history and they were much more happy to talk to us!  So cool. After our training, we blitzed Conway and I was with Sister Duffin for an hour while we did that, which is so awesome. Sister Duffin came out a transfer before me and she just started training and she is simply the best. That afternoon, I felt so alive knocking on doors! For some reason,I felt like I was able to act like the missionary I really wanted to be, the missionary that had been dying to come out! It was awesome! I absolutely loved it. It was really cool, as well, because our ride to the meeting left early so President Wakolo drove us home! 

On Wednesday, we  had a really cool lesson scheduled with Lindsey in our less active member’s house (the one previously mentioned), but she did not answer her phone, our texts, or the door when we went to remind her and she didn't show up to the lesson. So we decided to just continue onward with what we were going to teach, the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, the spirit decided to change the plans. And THANK HEAVENS FOR THAT! We started talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ and she blurted out, "I want to live the law of chastity. I feel like this life I am living is just holding back my progression". We just sat there in awe. Sister Beckstrand and I just looked at each other and then dove right in and taught the law of chastity lesson. She really wants to get married and to get to the temple. But she said that she would get to the temple with or without him. She is the best. She is really interested in the temple. Actually, she kept asking us if garments felt weird. We were laughing pretty hard about how excited she. The one thing she really wants though is to be sealed to her daughter, which she needs a husband to do...so we will see if we can teach her boyfriend soon. We have our fingers crossed!

This weekend was a little rough. By Friday, I had pain. Pain ALL over. On Saturday, we received a Pork butt from a member and we had to go to the church to get it. By this point, I was in so much pain and Sister Beckstrand kept telling me that I really needed to get a blessing, but I just felt awkward asking for one since we aren't very close to the Elders in our district (so sad, because I tell great jokes and they will never get to hear them. JK). By the time we reached the chapel to get our pork butt, I knew that I should get a blessing. Since our church building holds the mission office, the office elders were there, so Sister Beckstrand asked the elders to give me a blessing, and in pain, while I just flopped in a chair and commented that I truly didn’t care who did what, but that I really NEEDED a blessing. I don't remember what was specifically was said, but I know I felt great comfort and peace.  Well, today I went to the doctor and I got an X-Ray and I also got a new brace. The diagnosis was a bad sprained ankle and, let me tell you, I am so glad!!!  All week long, I was SO nervous that I would have to go home to have surgery, and I DIDN’T want to do that. Nope. Not at all. I said I would defy doctor’s orders and continue on if that was the prognosis. It's my ankle, not my heart. It could survive 16 more months. Fortunately, I was told that I would just need physical therapy 2-3 times a week for the next few weeks, so let's hope I don't get called to train because that poor greenie would be spending her first few weeks in a doctor’s office. Actually, I’m pretty sure I'm not going to train. I truly can’t imagine myself training. I am a BABY.  A BABY MISSIONARY! I am still in my diaper name tag, but if that is God’s will for me, then I will go and do. Kudos to everyone who trains after 12 weeks. You are amazing!!  Any whoo..  I feel so blessed to be a member of the church that has the authority from God. I am so grateful for the priesthood. I seriously love it! Even though I don't hold it, I feel the blessings of it every single day!


I love this gospel. I love this state. I love this area. I love y'all.
Keep up the good work back at home. Love ya!

Sister Esplin
Survivor of sprained ankles

Someone with trainer phobia






Blitzing Conway!



We totally were matching the other day and didn't mean to. Ha!


Love this! Reminds me of my favorite fella!  This is for you,  Parkman!


There are days I still can’t believe that I’m a missionary! With a tag and everything! YES!!!


Seriously!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Healing on the Sabbath

Hello my lovely family and friends!

I hope that everyone's week has been a good one filled with beautiful weather and happy people. Forgive me, but the fall just brings out a sentimental, nostalgic side of me. I just love the trees changing colors and the calm that is present in the air as everyone is in school and getting into their schedules. It is simply the best. I also really love Halloween, and even though I don't get to celebrate it,  I sure do love all of the cute decorations! Speaking of the fall and my love for it, here is a pretty funny story that happened yesterday.  Sister Beckstrand and I were driving in the car going to an appointment and as I saw all of the trees that were just so beautiful,  I commented, "I just love the fall!!”. To which sister Beckstrand said, "Dafall? Who's Dafall?”… "No, the fall!”… "Dafall?”… "AUTUMN! I LOVE AUTUMN!". Since we have encountered so many people with crazy names, she thought I was talking about someone! It doesn't help that one of the people she met in her last area was named Duvall. I was laughing so hard though.

This week was great.  WE ARE IN A NEW APARTMENT!!! Or condo, I guess. I really love the new apartment though! It is so nice! And we get to stay there and not move! We are both SO happy!!! There seem to be no bed bugs that have followed us and we are thrilled to finally just focus on missionary work....once we finish unpacking everything (and I mean everything). I have moved 5 times in the 2 months that I have been in Arkansas, which I think is a record even for missionaries.  It is so nice to just be in one place and know that we get to stay put. This week was crazy though. Earlier this week we decided that we were going to devote more time to visit less active families and recent converts and so we went down to North Little Rock to see someone and when we knocked on the door it wasn't the family we were looking for, but they said that we could come back on Friday to share a message about Jesus Christ, so on Friday that is exactly what we did! Unfortunately, as we pulled up to the duplex, she was outside with her mom and they both gave us crusty looks, so we just crossed our fingers that we wouldn't get yelled at to leave. We got out of the car and started to talk with them, but the conversation was stained. Shanice, the lady that we initially met, was kind of ignoring us, her mom was sort of listening, but thankfully,  Shanice’s daughter, Kimonie really wanted to talk to us and get some pamphlets and Book of Mormons. Great! The only problem is that Kimonie is 3... Just then, I remembered that when our sister training leaders had come earlier that week they had shared that they had tried praying for their companion while the other one was teaching, so I decided to do that. I started praying that Sister Beckstrand would have guidance and be able to teach. And she did! She used Kimonie to help teach her mom and grandma! It was so cute. Kimonie was acting like a little sister missionary. Her mom and grandma started getting really interested and they shared interest to read the Book of Mormon! Then, Shanice's sister came out with her baby and she asked for a Book of Mormon, as well! We didn't have any more in our hands, so I ran back to the car and got a Book of Mormon for her! It was such a great lesson, and Yolanda (the grandma) said that we could come back next Friday night! The lesson totally started out rough, but I truly believe that praying for Sister Beckstrand really helped.   I am so grateful for the power of the spirit!

Another really cool thing that happened this week was that we went to Dana’s house and we taught her. She has been taught for a really long time but she has really progressed these last several months! It is crazy, because she kept missing appointments and not calling us, we decided to put her on the back burner for a little while, and since we did that she has called us to set up appointments!! She asks us to come over! Also, she is reading the Book of Mormon and she loves it! She will call us and tell us about an experience that she had while reading it! It is so cool to see her progressing so much! She just needs to move out so she doesn't have a male roommate and then she can get baptized! Also, I had an impression to ask Dana if there was anyone that she knew that might be interested in the gospel and she recommended a neighbor down the street and he was really interested! We went and talked to him and he was great, although when we were explaining the concept of prophets he kept telling us, "you is prophets because you help me get closer to God. Don't say that yous isn't a prophet. That you are just a servant. You is a prophet!". We tried explaining to him that there actually is a prophet that is over everyone, but he really seems to struggle to understand the significance of that!! He has a return appointment and Dana is going to come with us to teach him!! 

We also had stake conference this week, and the craziest thing happened! We called Donna that morning to remind her about church and she didn't answer. So we sat down for stake conference and we saw that we missed a call from her so we went to the hall and called her back. We asked if she was doing okay and she said, "no, I'm not feeling great. I fell down last night and I have been on the floor since 10:30 last night". We ran to the car and drove over to her house (she is really close to the church). We went inside and helped her up into her bed and then we ran back to the church. I felt so guilty. I thought that President Wakolo would be mad at us because we left stake conference (plus he knew where we were sitting because we sat next to his 13 year old daughter jasmine), but then I was reminded  that we were doing something that the Savior would do. I remembered the story in the Bible where the people were getting mad at Jesus for healing on the sabbath and I thought, "that was something that Jesus would have done. She needed that help".  And fortunately, President Wakolo didn't get mad! It was fine, but it was a great experience for me to realize that sometimes you have to change things a little bit.

There are so many things I could share with you today, but I have such limited time, so I'll just end with this thought from the October 2000 General Conference address given by Dallin H. Oaks. He said, "the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes." How can we make charity who we become? What do we need to change in our lives to help so that we can have charity be something that we are instead of something that we do? That is what I have been thinking about for a while.

I love y'all! I hope that you have a wonderful week! I love all of the emails, pictures, and cards! Thank you for your love and support!


Love,

Sister Esplin

Ash
Healer on the sabbath
Expert mover

Lover of the autumn


Moving day!!!


Young adult broadcast with Lindsey (Elder Cheney is in the background)






Exchanges with Sister Decker



Back with mi companion! Sister Decker on the bottom left and Sister Hirschi on the bottom right.


Taken a while ago (before Sister Evans left).


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Still in Sherwood...Hooray!!

Hello everybody! 

This week has been a crazy one, but then again, all of them are crazy. We had transfers this past week, but I fortunately am still in Sherwood,  which is oh so exciting! I am also still with Sister Beckstrand! Hooray! I honestly love my mission and I love this area so much! I can't believe that I get to stay here! Sister Evans went home last Tuesday and it has been so weird to not have her here! We miss her!!

This week has been a bit of a struggle. It has been so hard to find people to teach and it has honestly been a little hard to stay optimistic. It seems as though everyone we talk to is happy with the life that they have and they don't want to even accept a card from us. Almost all of our appointments cancelled this week. Plus, we were stranded at the church without a car for a day so we couldn't go to appointments that we had set. It was just so frustrating! It felt like Heavenly Father was punishing us for something but we just couldn't figure out what! But I just have to say, the power of fasting is so amazing. I absolutely HATE fasting. Those of you that know me well know that I end my fast as soon as possible and I am not happy when I have to fast longer than I have to. Growing up, I always saw fasting as a punishment or a hoop that we had to jump through to be happy and receive blessings. Well, this last Sunday (9/4/16) I truly witnessed the power that fasting can truly have in our lives. Because we were feeling so discouraged and lost, we decided to fast and pray for help to find those people that are looking for the gospel. During testimony meeting, I kept feeling like I should go up and bear my testimony but since there were so many people lining up to bear their testimonies, I got nervous about taking up the ward’s time and didn’t end up sharing my testimony, which ultimately made me so mad at myself. After the meeting closed, a mom and her two daughters came up to us and introduced themselves. They were visiting from Tulsa and they invited us over for lunch so that we could meet their grandma who was a very very very less active member and her husband wasn't a member at all. They wanted us to meet them and have a foot in the door so we could see them again! What a beautiful miracle! It was so nice to have lunch with them and to meet their grandma! We can't wait to visit her again soon. 

Here is  another miracle—We have seriously been trying to visit our investigator Lindsey all week long. She has a baptism date set and she claims that she really wants to see us every day, but she has been missing all of our appointments and not answering any of our calls. Well, on Saturday we happened to be driving by her house and there she was on the front porch! We pulled over and we talked to her for about 30 minutes and then we asked why she hadn't been keeping appointments. She said she wants to come to church really bad so we told her that we would call her before church and remind her. We called about 4 times Sunday morning and she didn't answer. Well, then she called us back and said she would be at church! And she came!!! It was so exciting to have her at church and Lindsey seems so much happier.

Miracle number three. A while back (maybe 5 or 6 weeks ago), Sister Beckstrand and I had been tracting while Sister Evans did splits with a member. That day, we found a less active family that hadn't been to church in five years. We were invited inside, but immediately the wife went to her room and we chatted with her husband (Fortunately, Sister Evans quickly came back with the member  to join us in the discussion). He talked about his conversion story and how much he loves the gospel. He told us that he couldn't go to church because he can't drive because of a medical problem and he wouldn't go to church without his wife and she won't go to church and she never talks to missionaries. Well, yesterday we decided to go to their house to talk to them. Sister Beckstrand prayed really hard that we could talk to his wife and get to know her. When she finished I looked at her skeptically and told her that we would probably only get to talk to her husband. I had been so beaten down that week that it was hard for me to think positively. Crazy things happen to those who pray!! We were invited inside their home and the wife said that she was busy working on printing things for school-she's a kindergarten teacher. Well, I just piped in that I was going into elementary education and she started talking and talking and talking about how much she loves teaching and especially how much she loves teaching in the inner city schools. She serves those children so much! We talked for probably 30 minutes! We then were able to get her to sit down with us and her husband and to share a spiritual message with her. It was so great! We then told her that we love to do service and that we would love to help her any time she needs a lot of things cut out or laminated or anything! She told us enthusiastically that she would! YAY!!!

Here is my spiritual thought for the week— Honestly, there are going to be days or weeks or even months when we are going to feel discouraged. There are going to be times when we wonder, "why are you doing this to me? I am trying my best! I am doing all that I can do! Why is nothing going right?!". I have learned through the bed bugs, the slammed doors, the missed appointments, the nights with no sleep, and the heartache that Heavenly Father truly does love us. He love us so much, in fact, that he trusts us with those trials! He knows that we can endure them well!  It is when we are humble that we are able to come closer to Him. It is when we truly rely on Him and ask for His strength, because we know that we are weak, that we can grow stronger. Sometimes we think that life is going to be a staircase right to heaven, but that is not the case. I think that there are many downhill slopes. The great thing tis, even when you are going down, going through the lowest points of your life, you are progressing. You are moving forward. There will be  a point that you can climb up. I just love the atonement. I love that Jesus Christ is there walking with us. I just love that he is the one that we can rely on.

Funny story. I totally hurt my ankle last Monday walking back from a (missed) appointment. How? I tripped over my other foot and hurt it. So I walked around with an ace bandage around my ankle with people asking what happened and I had to tell them that it was because I literally tripped over my own two feet.


I love you all so so so so much!!! The bed bugs didn't follow us to the transfer apartment so we haven't been bit by them for a while, just really bad mosquitos (yay for trailer parks). We are hopefully moving into our new apartment in Sherwood this week!!


Love y'all. Have a great week!

Love, 
Sister Esplin
Ash
Believer in fasting
Tripper of feet



 There is nothing like a great smoothie to brighten up a tough week!  



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