Monday, November 24, 2014

Light Up The Tree

Amherst and Sister G by the Sea
 HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF YOU and happy birthday to my cute cousin ADELIDE!! 

It is very very cold here but it's funny because when Sister Coleman and I are out talking to people and we comment on how freezing it is, people look at us like "you are weird.. and from out of town, this is balmy for us. Just wait until January!!" hahaha yayy :/ it's amusing for them to see how freezing we are. And funny for us to be so unbelievably cold - however, they might be a little bit colder if they spent all day outside like we do..

Everyone in Amherst comes out for the little Christmas celebration KICKOFF.  SO HAPPY! 
On Friday there was a "light-up" . We thought there were going to be lots lights, all through the streets, that would light up like the town in Cars, but the build up was much more than the presentation. They basically just lit up two big trees but the countdown was exciting :) then everyone moved into the Baptist church and we sang Christmas carols, then we all walked up the street to a department store, Dayles, and they had cute Christmas displays set up all around the store and more carols were sung. The next day we went to a Christmas parade. It was long but fun to see all the people there supporting the community. 

Christmas in Amherst
We started teaching a 15 year old boy named Conner and his grandpa, Paul. They are from England and have been meeting with missionaries on and off for a long time. They really want to be baptized but Paul is still dealing with some word of wisdom issues and doesn't feel like Conner knows enough yet so we are looking forward to helping them. The senior couple here, the Lockheart's, are amazing and I love them so much, they are team teaching with us. 

In church yesterday there was a talk given on PRIDE. It gave me a lot of things to think about, a chance to evaluate where I am at - because we all struggle with pride - and where I can improve. 

The Book of Mormon teaches us the consequences of pride. Practically an entire nation was brought to destruction because of their pride. Many times in our lives when asked to do something we think "how is this going to help me?" That is a prideful question. We must then recognize Christ want us to turn out. He wants us to ask "what is this going to do for someone else" or "what can I do for someone else" - despite anything you may have to give up in the process. The other is evidenced in our fear of opening our mouths and sharing the Gospel. Often people think "oh they will think I am weird or pushy if I talk about my faith" Or in other circumstances we fear man, we get caught up in "what would others think of me?" That is a manifestation of pride. We should be only striving to please God, thinking rather "what would GOD think of me?" That is the humble approach. God wants me to share the Gospel. God wants me to treat others with love and kindness. God wants me to see the good in myself and others and not compare myself to the world or people around me who have more, who are better looking or smarter. Let us resolve this week to be a little better at turning out. Of thinking about what we can do for others and pondering on the question "what would God think?"

I love you all. I am so happy to have the gospel in my life. I am so happy that i get to share it and raise a warning voice of the consequences of sin and pride. I am thankful for the Book of Mormon and the examples of the faithful, humble people contained therein. I am grateful for the patience of others especially when i fall short. I am grateful for the cold because it makes me appreciate more fully the warmth.

Love you and miss you all.
Love, Sister Gochnour

Monday, November 17, 2014

We caught snow flakes on our tongues...

Hi to my favorite people on the planet.

This week it snowed which actually made me really happy. The first snowfall brought us many miracles. 

First i got a surprise late birthday package from Heidi and Tessa (Reinemer) and Katie (Nydegger) with some of my favorite things so that was a great start. 

Then simply being in the snow brought back some happy memories, it felt like Christmas time again which always makes me giddy. As we went to work..we entered the negative degrees. Luckily I learned much from last winter and pretty much have the whole layering thing down so the cold really doesn't bother me (too too much...) 

All day I walked around with my tongue out, looking up into the beautiful sky watching the snowflakes fall so gently onto the ground. None of them landed on my tongue but it was still fun to try..We were looking for a former investigator who kind of just disappeared a few months ago and the sisters who were here really wanted us to find him. We went to his house and knocked on the door. No one was home. We got back into the car, trying to figure out exactly where we needed to be next, when we saw a man pulling things out of a nearby car. We hadn't even noticed him before. We sat in the warmth of our car wondering if we should get out again and talk to him. Of course we did..We asked "hi. we are looking for Troy?" He said. "yes that is me." Sister Coleman and I looked at each other - so excited. We asked him if he would be willing to meet with us again and he agreed. So we taught him at the the Tim Horton's (it's kind of like Starbucks but way better) down the road - he is so sincere, we shared with him the articles of faith card and he told us that he believed all of them. He knows that he needs to be baptized and we are looking forward to meeting with him again tomorrow!! That was another snowy day miracle. 

I wish all of you could come and meet the amazing people in the Amherst branch - the feeling of love in that little chapel is undeniable. Each of them, despite their individual trials and weaknesses, has something unique and important to offer. It truly is like a little family. 

Sister Coleman and I were privileged to speak in sacrament meeting yesterday. I spoke about repentance and forgiveness. I talked about the prodigal son (Luke 15) and how beautifully the Savior illustrates these two principles in this parable. He truly is a master teacher. The younger son who went to a foreign land and wasted away all that he had recognized that he had sinned, he was starving and he needed help from his father. So as soon as he humbled himself and returned, intending to apologize and be a servant to his father, he was welcomed home with open arms. His father RAN to him and kissed him. He gave him the "fatted calf" and so quickly forgave him. He said to the other, less forgiving son, "he was dead and is yet alive, lost and is found!" That is a testimony to me. We are all in need of forgiveness. Like Elder Christofferson said in conference, "Christ did not to save indiscriminately but to offer repentance." 

We all have the privilege and responsibility to repent and we must remember that Christ is so willing to forgive us. I don't think we always comprehend that, He died to grant us forgiveness for our weaknesses and sins. When one of us loses our way, Christ is the good shepherd who will leave the ninety and nine to find us. Then "when he hath found [us] he layeth [us] on his shoulders rejoicing" and carries us back to the fold. Our Heavenly Father rejoices when we humble ourselves and repent. He grants us freedom from the burden our our guilt and shame. He forgives us. 

I am so grateful for every day that I can strive to be more kind and forgiving or more humble and repentant. I am grateful to know that we can be welcomed home with open arms as we strive to live the higher law each and every day. I am grateful that we have charge over our brothers and sisters here on earth to lay them on our shoulders and carry them HOME. I am so grateful for our perfect example and Savior Jesus Christ.
I love all of you. And I hope you have an unforgettable week.
Love, Sister G

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Monday, November 10, 2014

God Loves You, Even If You Are Weak And Simple...

HI - hope everyone is working hard and having fun!! 

Happy Birthday to Sara this week - I love you and am so thankful for your love and example. Hope you have the best day!! Also Happy Birthday to Sandi yesterday, I am so grateful for you and your unfailing support. LOVE YOU BOTH!

There week was sort of a blur..they just keep going faster and faster i can hardly keep up. Luckily I have become quite the packer so it wasn't too difficult to get everything packed and ready to leave Summerside. The day before we left we had some major breakthroughs. It was an unforgettable day. We taught a new investigator and as we taught her about God's love, about the Restoration if the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the potential for each of us to obtain eternal happiness, the Spirit was so strong. I sort of felt like God was speaking to me through ME. It was an amazing feeling. Those are the lessons when you KNOW the Spirit is there, when your testimony grows 10x stronger. I left in awe that Heavenly Father allows us - the weak and the simple and the imperfect - to be part of the greatest work in the world. 

To testify to people every day about what I know and see their countenances light up as they feel the Spirit, or to see the tears flow from their eyes. It is incredible. There have been so many experiences when I feel like Ammon who meets up with Alma after his mission among the Lamanites and is so happy that "his joy exhausts his strength" - HE LITERALLY WAS SO HAPPY THAT HE FAINTED. That joy is only found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it is the best feeling in the world.

We also were able to help our struggling less active see that she does have a testimony. I love that family home evening idea you told me about mom - that was so profound. It goes along perfectly with the talk "Lord, I Believe" by Elder Holland. Simply desiring to believe is enough. There are things we DO know and as we live the Gospel and pray and study and strive to become more like our Savior - our knowledge grows..brighter and brighter until the perfect day. We must hold fast to the faith WE DO HAVE. She has had a hard life, she so badly wants to believe in the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith but she kept saying that she wasn't sure - we bore testimony that God loves her and is proud of her for simply desiring to believe. That is what life is about - enduring - we are never going to know everything and we are always going to face trials but as we are patient and diligent, we receive blessings and our testimonies become unshaken, sure foundations of faith. 

On Wednesday we spent the night in Charlottetown because we had to get up early to drive to transfers. So I
Sister Lewis and GG (taken earlier this year)
got to spend the last night of her mission with Sister Lewis. We talked about the incredible memories we have made and all we have learned on our missions. It was the kind of conversation that you never forget, the kind you want to have with everyone. We talked about the most important things we can do - loving people and striving full heartedly to become more like our perfect Savior. I love her and miss her already.

After a bit of driving and several goodbyes, Sister Coleman and I arrived in Amherst. It is a beautiful place, the architecture is amazing. The people live in the old, huge, Victorian style homes. It is another small area, there were 17 people at church but I am sure it is where I am meant to be. As soon as I arrived we came up with a vision of what we want to do as a companionship and how we can help the sisters. Then we ate a quick lunch and went to donate blood!! We were able to talk to a lot of people and it was a great service opportunity. 

On Sunday, though there were few of us, it was one of the most Spirit filled testimony meetings I have ever attended. One man who said he hadn't born his testimony in years told how grateful he was to be here in this little branch because each member chooses and sacrifices to be there. They don't just follow the crowd and 'go to church', they make a special effort to be there every week. It was a sweet testimony. I bore my testimony about conversion - something I have been thinking about a lot lately as I have read the chapters in Alma when Ammon and his brothers are teaching the Lamanites. It says (of the people of Ammon) "those who were converted, NEVER DID FALL AWAY" no matter how hard their lives became following their conversion. Despite the fact that their brethren tried to destroy them, they gloried in God, they never lost faith, they NEVER FELL AWAY because they were converted. They had the truth and they would not deny it. That is the same with each of us. Life is hard, even after we are baptised we face trials and we are tested but if we are truly converted. Our faith in Christ will allow us to have the strength we need to overcome and we won't ever fall away. I am thankful for my mission and the opportunities I have to bear my testimony every day - because each day is a chance to be more converted.

Thank you for your love and examples. Remember that God lives and loves us. That he works through the weak and the simple because all of us need to feel the joy that comes from sharing the Gospel. Don't forget that simply desiring to believe is the best place to start. LIVE THE GOSPEL AND NEVER GIVE UP.

Love you - hope it is not as cold there as it is here...
Love, Sister Gochnour

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Severe Mercy

 This week has been a happy and a cold one...there is snow falling outside.

Yesterday I found out that I am being transferred to Amherst!! 

Can't believe I am leaving so soon but I am grateful for new adventures and change. 
My companion is going to be Sister Coleman, she is from BC (British Columbia - Canada) and I am so excited to work with her. She is an incredible missionary. 

We also had the opportunity to do some great service this week, one day we were out working and we passed an older couple who had piles and piles of leaves in their backyard and more leaves covering the ground so we offered to help. We spent an hour and a half helping them rake and bag the leaves in our skirts and it was the happiest part of my day. They were so grateful for the help and we had a wonderful conversation with them. It is amazing to see service truly soften hearts. 

We also had the opportunity to help a member put siding on the shed she had just built. We put the pieces together and nailed them up..SO FUN! 

We also made cookies and delivered them to our investigators which made them very happy. 

I got a letter from dad this week AND Sara AND Grandma and Grandpa AND Nana and Papa - BEST WEEK EVER. Thank you!!!

On Monday, Sister D and I were invited to present a Family Home Evening at one of the members homes and we decided to spend our P day creating a board game about the Book of Mormon. The kids loved it and we had a lot of fun. Reminded me of mom getting us all together for a lesson and the struggle that was for her some nights but I am so grateful for those times we spent together. Dad leading the tearing up and everyone fighting over duke. I LOVE AND MISS YOU ALL!!

This week was full of lessons and moments of "awe" and gratitude for my Heavenly Father and my Savior and the power and peace they bring to our lives. I wanted to tell you the story that our stake president shared with us in stake conference yesterday. 

It is the story of Agnes Caldwell from the movie 
"17 Miracles" however, it is not the part when she and her friend skipped across the snakes. 

This account begins when the rescuers come. Only the saints who were very sick, nearing death, were able to ride in the wagons. So, frostbitten, tired, starving and determined to fit on a wagon - Agnes and her friends thought that if they could run after and catch up to the wagons, surely the men would let them ride. They ran as fast as their aching legs could carry them. One by one Agnes' friends gave up and stopped but she pressed on. As she finally approached the wagon, the driver called out to her "Would you like a ride?" Of course she did, she held out her hand and the driver reached out and grabbed it. Immediately the horses sped up, Agnes was forced to sprint even faster alongside the wagon. She must have thought he was purely evil, she might even have hated him but she had no choice but to sprint, he wouldn't let her go. Just as she was about to collapse. When she had reached her breaking point, the driver whipped her up, wrapped her in a blanket and placed her comfortably in the wagon. Because the sprinting had increased her circulation - Agnes survived. She realized that the man was not evil but that he had literally saved her life. That is what we could call "severe mercy." 

I love that story and oh how beautifully it applies to our lives. God stretches us to our limits, He places us often in a refiner's fire, He demands us to give our all - like Christ did, and there are times in our lives when He is holding onto our hands making us sprint almost to our breaking points - but right before we fall He lifts us up and saves us. 
I am so grateful for that "severe mercy" that God does make us sprint because most of the time 
it's the sprint that saves our lives. 

A missionary who is going home this week bore his testimony at district meeting on Thursday. He said (I believe quoting from Elder Holland) "Our missions are hard because what comes next will be so much harder." I am thankful for the things that I am going through that are hard because they are helping me and preparing me for the rest of my life. 

I am thankful for our Savior and His Atonement. I am thankful that it helps us change and progress. I am thankful that because of Him we can change our natures. I am thankful for God's "severe mercy" and that He stretches us and expects much of us so that we can truly grow. So that we can help others press forward. So that we can understand a little bit more of the pains our Savior endured. So that we can have confidence in ourselves. So that we don't give up early - but finish the race and sprint through the finish line. So that He can save us and eventually grant us ETERNAL LIFE. 

Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for believing in me and telling me that I CAN. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for being my friends and biggest examples. I love you and miss you all. 
Love, Sister Gochnour