Monday, April 17, 2017

He is the Prince of Peace

Hello again! Happy late Easter! I  hope that y’all had a great Easter. I know that I had a wonderful day! It was so amazing. I absolutely loved sacrament meeting. Something that is so wonderful is that Easter is just so focused on Jesus Christ. I adore Easter. It was so much fun, we woke up on Saturday to the sound of knocking on our door. Apparently the Easter Bunny came to the Seaman's house- to quote them, Saturday is for Easter, Sunday is for Jesus-and the Easter bunny brought us treats. I think my favorite thing I got from the Easter bunny was....TOILET PAPER!!!! Yup. Never thought that I would say that. But then again, my mission has brought with it many things that I didn’t think I would ever say. We were worried about our dollar store toilet paper running out before the end of the week. BUT THEN THE EASTER BUNNY SAVED THE DAY!!!

Some amazing stories this week. 
So we tried talking to a lot of people and a lot of people did not talk to us. That can be a bit discouraging, but the Lord truly does comfort us. The thing that I have absolutely loved about the Prince of Peace initiative that the church shared this Easter is that as I talked without others about how Christ brought peace to their lives, I FELT PEACE. I knew that my Savior, my Redeemer, my older brother was by my side and helping me along the way. I felt that He truly loved me and wanted to help me. I just needed to ask Him. 
We had a lot of people that gave us referrals this week which was awesome because that doesn't happen too much. The sad thing is, our ward is changing and about 97 % of the people we are working with will probably be in one of the Bartlett wards. It is sad, but probably true. We find out about the change this Seamans. EVEN THE SEAMANS (the family we share a house with) MIGHT BE IN A DIFFERENT WARD! WHAT!? NO!!

This week we went to an investigator's home and she had texted us and said that she was struggling and that life was a bit hectic so the time wasn't great to come over. I really wanted to listen to that text and go somewhere else, but Sister Van Orman told me that the gospel CAN bring peace, so why not? Well, we decided to pray about it. So we did and I just felt that I really needed to listen to whatever prompting sister V. Got. So I did, and she said we needed to go somewhere else. We went and we actually saw someone that we had been trying to see for a really long time and she was super interested and super nice and cool. She said she really wanted to learn and that she was going to read the Book Of Mormon. NICE!  Also, I totally picked three four leaf clovers on saturday, so my luck is totally going to change and my health is going to be great! No, I'm not superstitious, but I am a little stitious. Hehe. 

Let me share some thoughts.  
 I really love Alma 8:10 where it says, “Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with God in mighty prayer, that he would pour out his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.” As I pondered this passage, I realized that I really needed to be praying more that Heavenly Father can pour out his spirit to the people here and that I may be able to be an instrument in his hands to help those people to feel that Spirit. 

Here are some other great quotes that I loved this week!
Tad R. Callister in the August 2012 New Era taught: When asked those questions, I usually responded by saying, “If you feel the Spirit—when you pray, read the scriptures, teach, testify, or at any other time—then that is your witness that you have been forgiven or, alternatively, that the cleansing process is taking place, for the Spirit cannot dwell in an unholy tabernacle” (see Alma 7:21 ). In most cases, the cleansing process takes time because our change of heart takes time, but in the interim, we can proceed with the confidence that God approves of our progress as manifested by the presence of His Spirit.

Sheri Dew in November 1999 Ensign shared, “‘Unto whom much is given much is required’ ( D&C 82:3 ), and at times the demands of discipleship are heavy. But shouldn’t we expect the journey towards eternal glory to stretch us? We sometimes rationalize our preoccupation with this world and our casual attempts to grow spiritually by trying to console each other with the notion that living the gospel really shouldn’t require all that much of us. The Lord’s standard of behavior will always be more demanding than the world’s, but then the Lord’s rewards are infinitely more glorious—including true joy, peace, and salvation”

I have really felt the spirit so strongly this week and it truly testified to me that Christ Lives! That He loves me and that He knows me personally. I know that He is my Redeemer. I know that this church is true. I felt such comfort and love this week and I knew that Heavenly Father has been molding me and working with me to help others and to become who He wants me to be. I know this is a great work that I am a part of and I feel an even greater desire and fire towards this work. I feel a great sense of urgency in the calling that I have and that there is so little time. I know that there is much to do and that I am truly called here for a reason and for this time. I know I am where I am supposed to be and that I truly need to help others to feel of my Father in Heaven’s love. 

I love all of you and hope that you have a great week. Thank you so much for all that you do!

Sister Esplin

Luckiest Sister in the mission

 So grateful for “The Prince of Peace” this Easter Season!
 Happy Easter!

A baby egg that I boiled. My first time!!
 Easter with the Seaman Family!!! 
We loved the toilet paper that the Easter bunny gave us!

Rachel gave us Easter baskets!!! 

 Spring 🐣 

A picture of Christ that I really love. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

SURPRISED?!?......So were we!! (My Sweet Week)

To start off this week, I have some big news. We had a baptism last Friday! Yeah, it was pretty awesome! But have you ever planned a baptism in one day? Well, now I can say that I have. Check that off of the bucket list. Hollie, our new convert, is seriously awesome. She had been attending another ward in the other stake! Her fellowshippers were there. But the elders were teaching her and she actually asked to be baptized. WHEN DOES THAT HAPPEN!?!? Hollie is seriously what you would call a golden investigator. She really loves the gospel and truly feels that it is true. She is just amazing. When the elders that were teaching her got transferred out, because it got whitewashed with some new Assistants to the president (We now have two sets of APs to prepare for our new mission president.), they realized that we needed to be teaching her, which is precisely what we and everyone in our ward have been saying for about a month now. She actually lives about 2 minutes away from us. Honestly, there were seriously so many little miracles that happened this week. THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!!!

So this week. Oh my goodness. If you think that miracles have ceased to exist, THINK AGAIN!!!!
We had our first and only lesson with Hollie on Monday night and we were super stressed because we knew we had told the ward there might be a baptism on Friday, but we had only met her once at church and it was hard for us to tell anyone that she was ready because we had never talked to her and gauged her testimony. WE went in and, HOLY COW, she is golden!! She just has a fire. Seriously. She was telling us these incredible spiritual experiences that had brought her to this point and she was just amazing. I just remember the spirit testifying to me that she was ready and that she truly had a strong and pure desire to be baptized. So when sister Van Orman and I got back in the car we just turned to each other and said, "She's ready." But she still needed to have her interview and we only had a few days so we set up the interview for Wednesday. CUTTING IT CLOSE. Oh no, we would cut it closer. So we show up at the church a bit early for the interview and we don't see the interviewer anywhere. Hollie shows up and we still don't see anyone there. We are at the church for 30 MINUTES waiting for her interviewer, all the while we are calling and texting him and no one is answering. So we are stressed out. WE HAVE ONLY TWO DAYS UNTIL THE BAPTISM. All of a sudden, the Arkansas Assistants to the President (not the Memphis ones, the Arkansas ones. Weird) walk around the corner and shake our hands and ask why we are just standing there looking worried. We tell them our predicament and they say that one of them can do the interview. WHEW! It was so weird though. Talking to them, they said that they were preparing for zone conference the next day and were trying to find a church building (ours is definitely not the closest or best one) and they just felt that they needed to go to our building. They also had thought they would only be there for a little bit, but things kept happening that made it so that they were there longer and longer. They finally finished at that moment. HOW GREAT IS OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN! That was such a testimony to me about how much our Father in Heaven knows each and every one of us and truly understands our circumstances. Well, the APs  do the interview and it took forever. They come out of the room finally and Elder Taleni turns to us and tells us that he will let us know TOMORROW MORNING if the baptism will happen. what. What.WHAT! So we had to stress out ALL night about planning it. We finally sent some texts asking people to help saying that a baptism would probably be happening. But poor Hollie. She had to wait, as well. We met together at zone conference the next day and Elder Taleni came up to us and told us that Hollie was good to go for her baptism on Friday! We freaked out! We sent Hollie a text and she was super happy,  as well,.

It has been a really awesome this week because I have been feeling really awesome. I think that I have finally shaken mono. *she says as she furiously knocks on all the wood she can find* . We went out so much and talked to as many people as we could. It was awesome. We went to this lady's house to follow up on a referral from the elders and she wasn't there. So we thought, dang waste of miles. BUT. I saw this young girl getting something from her car and she was starting to run inside. Well, not really caring what I looked like and what anyone thought, I kind of chased after her and yelled, "CAN WE GIVE YOU A PICTURE OF JESUS CHRIST!?". She stopped and walked over to us, obviously not too terrified of me. She introduced herself and accepted a Book of Mormon and actually told us that she had met with missionaries before but that when she moved they stopped coming over to her house to see them. It was super awesome to find someone lost! We set up another followup time to come and see her. We also went to see Vennice this week and what was awesome was that she had a friend over and she told him to listen to the discussions. We taught Vennice’s friend, Lavern, and he was great. We are seeing Lavern this week at Vennice's house again so we are excited! 

This week Sister VanOrman and I made an exciting discovery. After discovering that we both have “Christensen” in our family tree, we decided to compare our family trees and see if we had any common relatives. After we discovered that we aren't related through the Christensen line, I noticed that someone in her family had “Tew” as a last name. Since this is not a common last name, we both looked farther back and…WE SHARE THE SAME FIFTH GREAT GRANDPA AND GRANDMA! My fourth great grandpa is her fourth great grandma's younger brother. Not only is she my sister in the gospel, Sister VanOrman is my cousin!!! IT IS A SMALL WORLD. FOR REALS!!!!

I still can’t believe this, but I totally stepped in three potholes this week and twisted my ankle…AGAIN…THREE TIMES!!  What a testament to me that SATAN DOES NOT WANT ME HERE. Just  as I start to get better from mono, I start getting re-injured. I don't believe in Coincidences. I really don't. I must confess, part of me gets really motivated from these trials because I can’t help but wonder  what work I personally need to do here that Satan doesn't want me to be here to do. I will keep working, but I will also be wise. I might need to pull my boot out again, and I will do so with minimal grumbling. But I really want to work harder than ever.  I am halfway through with my mission and I want to look back and truly say that I have given it my all here in Arkansas and Tennessee. Even if I come home all battered and bruised I will know that I fought my hardest to bring others to Christ. 

This week I was studying in Alma and in Alma chapter 4 I was interested in how Alma gave up the judgement seat to bear PURE TESTIMONY to his people. I think about how much we give up to bear testimony to others as a missionary. From an eternal perspective, It really isn't a lot, but  if I am not bearing PURE testimony to others, why am I doing this??!  I cannot waste anyone's time with half effort. These people deserve and need my all. I think about how we all serve in the church so that we can truly help others. It doesn't matter what capacity we serve in, we must keep our eye single to the glory of God. Nothing we do is for our own gain. If we do something for the attention and praise of those around us, then that is our reward. I would so much rather have rewards in Heaven. So this week I am going to really try and bear PURE testimony. No fluff. I just want to focus on sharing as much about Christ as I can, especially with it being Easter this week. 
I love y’all so much! I hope you have a wonderful week and a great Easter!!! 

Sister Esplin
Striving to Bear pure testimony
Clumsiest sister in the mission

Someone who yells at satan sometimes

 Hollie's baptism! 

 Hollie with the Elders who also worked with her. 

 Rosie and her new puppy, Samiye.

 Money, Cam, and Mia

The Kiddos

 Just me and “my sticks”!!

 The field is white already to harvest

 Scripture study on the deck by the pond :)

Look! Sister VanOrman and I are related!!! 

 Sister Guthrie and I with our matching photos at the doctor's office 
throwing up our peace signs. Coincidence?  I think not!

 Snake in the front yard. Yikes!

Beautiful spring morning in Tennessee

Monday, April 3, 2017

My Mission President is a General Authority? What?! Yelling at general conference and making animal noises

Hello everyone!!!!! I hope y'all had a wonderful week and a great conference weekend! I know that I did:) One of the highlights had to be when President Wakolo was called as a general authority seventy!!!! What in the world?! He is seriously such a spiritual giant, it doesn't even surprise me. It just surprised me that it was so soon! Seriously. Sister VanOrman and I were sitting at the Young's house with some investigators, watching conference and President Uchtdorf got up and starting making announcements. I turned to Sister VanOrman and I nudged her and said, “Watch, President Wakolo is going to be a general authority in the next couple of sessions". And then he said, Taniela B. Wakolo.  What...What! I'm sorry to say that I stood up off the couch and yelled. I had to explain myself to everyone. Partly because no one was paying attention. So cool. 

Just to give you a glimpse into the heart of my incredible mission president, here is a story that Spencer J. Condie once shared about President Wakolo back in 2010:

“While serving in the South Pacific, I received a letter from the First Presidency with an assignment to travel to Fiji and deliver a letter to Taniela Wakolo, president of the Nausori Fiji Stake. After I handed the letter to him, he read aloud the call from the First Presidency to serve as an Area Seventy, and tears flowed freely from his cheeks and those of his lovely wife, Anita. After discussing with him the nature and duties of his new calling, I observed the tattoo on Brother Wakolo’s large right hand. Now, tattoos are very common throughout the South Pacific, and long before he joined the Church, Taniela Wakolo had the back of his hand tattooed with a large, garish design. I said: “Brother Wakolo, in your new calling as an Area Seventy, you are going to be speaking to the youth on many occasions. I would suggest before such meetings that you put a large Band-Aid on the back of your hand to cover your tattoo. It’s hard to discourage our youth from getting tattoos when the speaker has one himself.” He smiled a broad smile, and with a radiant expression he said, “I’ll take care of it. I want to be a good example.” A few weeks passed, and the next time we met, his hand was heavily bandaged as if he were preparing for a boxing match. I asked, “What in the world happened to you?” He smiled with glistening eyes and said, “I followed your counsel and had the tattoo removed.” “Was it laser surgery?” I asked.  “No,” he replied with a big smile, “they don’t remove tattoos with lasers in Fiji. I had it surgically cut out.” A month later Elder Wakolo and I were assigned together to reorganize a stake presidency in American Samoa. As we met at the airport, I immediately noticed an unsightly scar on the back of his hand where the surgeon had removed several square inches of skin and then very crudely sutured the gaping wound closed. This had not been performed by a plastic surgeon. I apologized for having been the cause of the large scar on the back of his hand. He responded with a radiant Christlike countenance: “Not to worry, President Condie; this is my CTR ring. Now the Lord knows where I stand! I’ll do anything the Lord asks of me.’” Elder Wakolo has become a disciple who keeps his covenants and strives to do good continually.”  

Seriously, President Wakolo is SO AMAZING!!  

Alrighty!!! THIS WEEK! I am starting to feel a lot better, but I am still recovering. As President Wakolo always says, fast is slow and slow is fast. The more I try and take it fast the slower my recovery. The slower I take it now, the faster I will recover. Ahh balance, I really wish that I could find you. So on Tuesday and Wednesday we had two sets of elders blitz our area and we went to the Sister Training Leaders area in Bartlett for those days. So fun. Sister Guthrie and Sister Lloyd are awesome. Sister Lloyd actually goes home this transfer and it is so funny because her first area in the mission was actually Lakeland (my area), so we talked about Lakeland and all the people there. 

On Thursday we went over and saw Shannon. Her family has been really struggling so we brought bread over to her house and talked with her. Sometimes it is so sad to see the difficult situations that people are in here. I love that we can share the gospel so that they can have some hope. The church is true. 

Saturday and Sunday were GENERAL CONFERENCE!!!!!! I love general conference. It is seriously my favorite holiday. ;) Something that has really strengthened me and helped me a lot is that every single time that I go into conference with a question and pray about it and ask my Father in Heaven to help me, my questions are answered. That has happened so many time and this time was no exception. There were moments where I thought  to myself,  “Oh my goodness. They wrote this just for me!” I loved it. I truly felt the Holy Ghost testify to me that the things that were talked about were true! 

It was awesome because Saturday morning and Sunday morning we spent conference at the Seamans and it was like I was home! Except without the fun treats all over the air hockey table. On Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon we went to the Young’s house! We had Becky and Rachel come on Saturday and it was great! I think that they really enjoyed it. On Sunday Eddie came to the Youngs' for both sessions but we were there for only one with him. We asked him if he had a favorite talk and he really liked the talk about the Book of Mormon. Yay! He  was smiling the whole time we watched. He was so happy. 

This week we haven’t had too many super big spiritual experiences but there have been so many moments where I just know that God is watching over me and being mindful of me. I know that he cares about me. I know that He hears me when I talk to him and that He understands how I feel and what I am going through. I love that Jesus Christ is walking this path with me. Every day when we talk to others about Christ, He is with me. 

Funny story.  Last night as we were trying to sleep we kept hearing a really weird noise. So I mimicked it and then the noise would happen again. So late last night we were freaking out and running around our little apartment with me making the noise. We didn’t find anything, but we think it was a raccoon. The Seamans probably think we are crazy. Oh well. 

Anywho, here is my spiritual thought.  This week they released the prince of peace video on and I would invite y’all to watch it. It is amazing and really helps us remember the real reason for Easter.  Earlier this week, I was reading in  Mosiah 27:36 which teaches: “And thus they were instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea to the knowledge of their redeemer. And how blessed are they! For they did publish peace; they did publish good tidings of good; and they did declare unto the people that the Lord reigneth.”   I LOVE THAT! I love that Christ truly is peace and we can help others to feel peace by teaching and sharing about Christ. One of my very very very favorite things about serving here is that EVERYONE will talk about Christ and their relationship with Him. It is amazing. I know that Christ is our redeemer and he is the Prince of Peace. I know that this church is true. I know that God truly knows and loves each and every one of us. I love this work and I love y’all. 

SIster Esplin
Master raccoon caller

Daughter of God

Elder Taniela B. Wakolo and his wife, Anita
Elder Wakolo was sustained a General Authority Seventy on April 1, 2017

Celebrating NINE months with Sister Van Orman

In case you didn’t know, Sister Van Orman and I started this journey together
We were MTC companions!!

 Catching  a frog
His name is nine  because we caught him on our nine month mark
(I didn’t touch him)

What? Sister VanOrman holding a snake. Gross!

Gretchen made a fairy garden