Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 28, 2013, Independence, Missouri

Dear Family,

Man, this has been a crazy last 6 days. I'm not going to lie – Thursday (when I e-mailed and had just met my companion that day) and Friday were my most stressful days! I was in charge and felt very overwhelmed trying to remember all of the people we have been visiting and need to visit (members,  recent converts, less actives, investigators and potential investigators). I came to realize that Sister H and I did not keep our area book up-to-date, which really turned out to bite me in the butt.  So, with Sister A, every night after we finished our daily planning, I have been sitting down and going through the area book to update it with the people Sister H and I have come into contact with in the last 6 weeks. So now our records are up to date and help us organize and plan our days more effectively. It has been a lot of work, but it has really taught me the importance of record keeping. Things are going a lot better now!

Anyway, my new companion Sister A is amazing! She is such a hard worker I love it. I feel like she is putting me through a spiritual and physical boot camp! She really tries to make every second count, no wasting time with her! On Friday, when we did our weekly planning and as Sister A and I talked about using time the most effectively, she told me there are a lot of missionaries that can keep busy, but we don't just want to be busy; we want to really maximize our time and efforts to finding those who are prepared to hear the gospel. Missionary work with Sister A is definitely a lot faster paced, which is exactly what I had been yearning for. I have been seeing a lot more success in the area and I know it is because all of our time, talents and efforts have been in the work. It is so wonderful to see how the Lord really does bless us, when we work as hard as we truly can. I definitely look up to Sister A and am already getting sad that she will be leaving me in 5 weeks. But I am going to try to learn as much from her as I can.  I know it won't all come at once, but there is so much I have to learn from her and that I want to become a part of me.  Also, the reason I say she is putting me through a physical boot camp is because we both decided we want to shed some pounds. I have put on 15 pounds since leaving home and I want to drop at least 10 pounds this transfer. Sister Allen and I have been running every morning, and eating really healthy. She just motivates me to do better in everything I do! She is amazing.

Also, I don't know if I have mentioned this already or not, but I have decided to read the Book of Mormon again. I am only in 1 Nephi, but I have come to realize that Nephi was one of the greatest missionaries in the Book of Mormon. He always wanted to know for himself if what his father was saying was true and so he would pray to the Lord about it. Once he came to the knowledge, he would go tell his brothers. He never withheld the gospel knowledge from them. He always taught them and tried to help them understand how they could become better and what they needed to do to change and receive of the wonderful blessings of the gospel. That's something I am beginning to admire about Nephi so much. No matter what, he always tried to warn his brothers. Even though he knew that they would curse him or beat him up, he never gave up on them and I know it is because of the love he had for them.

Well, Independence is beginning to heat up a lot more. It has been a hot week and it is supposed to get hotter. I have never been so grateful to do laundry in my entire life. I'm not really too sure how to describe the people of Independence....they are definitely interesting and very different than the kind of people I am used to. They are just odd, but I love them, ha-ha! Some people are just down right crazy though, and I am not kidding. We have had quite a few laughs after meeting some people, lol! But, hey amongst some of the crazy people we find people who are prepared to listen. I'm really glad that Sister Allen and I are having success out in our area because the Visitor Center has really slowed down, but I figure it will give me some much needed time to read more of the history packet I was given and try to relate it more to us in our day.

Mom it sounds like that giant ward sale went awesome! I love you. Your diligence, sacrifice, testimony, and patience have always been such an example for me. As I take people through a video presentation about God's plan for his family, it always reminds me of you and dad and how much you have sacrificed for us. Keep up the great work. I can't believe that you are getting so many hours at work. Just don't burn yourself out. I love you so much and all the sacrifices you and dad are making to allow us kids to be able to serve our missions. This is the greatest gift I have ever been given and I am so thankful for it.

As for a package.....I can't really think of anything that I want or need, lol! I think I have just learned to live with what I've got and can't think of anything specific that I would like or need. Have a great week!

Dad thanks so much for your e-mails. It sounds like you are doing awesome and learning so much in high council. Ha-ha, I'm glad to hear I am keeping you entertained, and I love you so much. Your words of encouragement mean a lot to me.

Elder Luening, keep up the great work in Hamburg! Keep making every second count. I look up to you so much and am so proud of you and of how hard you work!

Anziano Luening, I'm so excited for you to finally be able to go to Italy. I know you have learned a lot from the MTC and in your area in the Vancouver mission. I hope all goes well with your flight and I will be praying for you that the language will come naturally to you and that the things you have learned in the MTC will come back to your memory.

I love you all so much, keep letting your light shine to the world and remember to be bold in the sharing the message of the Gospel that has blessed our lives immensely!

All my love,

Sister Luening

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 22, 2013, Independence, Missouri

Dear Family,

So, this week has been crazy! My companion was transferred to a new area to open and has left me. But before I get into that let me tell you about how the week has gone.

Well, I have had some great experiences at the Visitor Center. I took a member family and a middle aged gentlemen, who was also a member, through the history presentation and I could feel the spirit so much through that presentation. I talked a lot about preparing ourselves to be people of Zion; a kind of people that could dwell with the Lord. There were just so many great insights and afterwards, the man told me he had come to Independence on a business trip, and had wanted to stop in since he was already here. He told me this was the highlight of his trip and that I am doing a fantastic job. It really made me feel good!

Also, my companion and I had a lot of training meetings with our zone and district last Friday, so we became re-motivated to be better at planning and focusing on those we teach. We had the best planning session ever! We would look at a goal and then individually pray about it, and come together on it and every time we did that our numbers would match up and we would discuss the people that came to mind when we made the goals. Our focus for this week was the number of people we would put on a baptismal date. We had hoped to put 3 on date and really wanted to focus on the RLDS M Family. We thought about each individual and made a specific plan of what we needed to focus on for each member of the family. So we had a great plan and it felt right.

On Tuesday we received transfer calls, and my companion was transferred to a new area that she has to open up with another sister who came out the same time as me. So, she will be opening a new area, going full proselyting and training. Needless to say she felt very overwhelmed and we both felt blind-sided. We thought for sure she would stick around another transfer to finish training me. So my new companion now is Sister A. She is from Logan Utah, and this is her last transfer before going home. My first "kill" J! I am excited to learn lots from her since she is such a pro, but I also feel very overwhelmed in basically being the senior companion in respect to knowing what is going on in the area. It is a lot of pressure.

So yesterday, Sister H (my old companion) and I went to the M Family’s house for dinner to teach lesson one and invite the family to baptism like I mentioned before. I was really excited and telling everyone about it, I knew the Lord would help us in that because we had received the direction and confirmation from Him through the Spirit. So, before the dinner appointment Sister H and I had even done a role play of me inviting the M's to baptism and them saying no to the invitation. I had to find out what was holding them back, address their concern and try and help them understand why baptism and setting a baptismal date now was so important for them. The role play went awesome! Sister H was being really tough on me and throwing at me a lot of concerns that I'm sure they would have, but I felt the Spirit guiding me in what to say and how to help them see that the gospel would help them and change their lives. It was such a cool experience. Unfortunately when it came time to go see them it turned out J, the mom, had to run out to help a patient, so we were only able to quickly eat dinner, briefly ask if they had read the Joseph Smith pamphlet and then leave. I was so upset. I was trying to figure out why our opportunity to finally teach them a lesson and invite them to baptism had been taken away from us. As I thought about it I realized that the Lord knows Sister H is leaving and that my new companion Sister A should be there from start to finish in teaching the M family, so that we are on the same page and can be a more effective unified companionship in teaching them. I'll just have to continue having faith and trust in the Lord and work according to His timing.

Otherwise things are going well. I feel like I am getting a better grip on door approaches. We had a neat experience where I chose a door to knock and an old lady lived there. She mentioned that she has been an active Presbyterian for 60 years. I love it when people say that. They always think it will deter us, but it doesn't. Instead we talk them and ask them how they have seen their belief in God influence their life or done for them. We always end up having a great discussion. Anyway, this lady, Betsy, was very nice and at first I could tell she wanted us to move on, but as I was more personable with her she opened up. We mostly stayed on common ground of beliefs, and we invited her to come to the Visitor Center. She said she isn't interested in learning more, but we are definitely going to pop by every once in a while to see her, because I see some potential there.

The Visitor Center has been kind of slow, but it is giving me more study time which is awesome. I have started reading the Book of Mormon again and reading it more to gain insights for my investigators, which is awesome. Sister H and I talked about the Book of Mormon and how it really is a source of personal revelation. A lot of times we think of specific passages to address specific concerns. For example if you want to teach someone about faith, Alma 32. But we discussed how no matter where you are in the scriptures if you liken them unto yourself and you have a specific question or concern, the Book of Mormon, no matter where you are, can answer that. So I have been trying to put that to the test more. Reading from the beginning of the Book of Mormon to end, and each day thinking of a different investigator we are teaching and seeing how what I read relates to them and new insights I can gain to help them. So far it is going really well and it is so cool to see. I feel like this is going to be a really great transfer and I am excited to learn so much more and become an even better missionary so I can really help others.

Elder C Luening, I am so excited for the two baptisms you had and that Opa was able to perform that sacred ordinance.

Elder J Luening, keep up the great work in Vancouver and I can't wait to hear about how things go in Italy once you get there.

Kass and Scott, I hope things are going well!

Auntie Kirsten, I'm glad to hear things went well at family camp, even though the trip to and from camp weren't the most pleasant. Wish Jocelynn and Laurel the best of luck from me and thanks for all your insight into 2 Nephi 33:2. I hope the move with Jocelynn and Laurel went well and with those two gone that things will calm down for you.

Mom and Dad,  I'm glad to hear that things are kind of getting back into order for you and your callings. I love you two so much and you both work so hard. I know the Lord is blessing our family so much because I feel it and see it every day I am out here. I'm so thankful for your testimonies and all that you do to fully consecrate your time, talents and efforts to the Lord and helping build up his kingdom. I feel so blessed to be in a place that will one day truly be Zion. That this is the place that is being prepared for the second coming of the Lord and I am able to have a direct work in establishing and preparing this place for the Lord. It is just so cool! There is so much history here and it makes me gain so much appreciation for the pioneers and for Joseph Smith. They had to be so strong, resilient and filled with so much love to be early members of the church and go wherever the prophet asked. They were an amazing people!! And I am so blessed to learn more and more from their examples and their history. I love you both so much!

All my love,

Sister Luening

P.S. My P-day has been changed to Wednesday!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August 8, 2013, Independence, Missouri

Dear Family,
Thanks so much for the e-mails and letting me know what you have all been up to and how your week has been going. I definitely needed to hear that. This last week has just been kind of slow and my companion and I have been struggling to know how to help those we are teaching.

We have a less active woman who invites us over to teach her son who is turning 8 soon and so she wants him baptized. But ultimately having him baptized while she isn't active isn't going to do him very much good if he isn't going to have the support to help him in the church. So, we have been trying to figure out how we can teach her son, but also help her build her own testimony and allow the power of the spirit conversion work in her. Also our non-member family we are working with we are finding it really hard to know where to begin teaching them. They are RLDS and so they have the same foundational beliefs, so really what it comes down to is the proper authority and the fact that our church has the Priesthood Keys. Figuring out how to get to that point with them, is the tricky part.
The last few days I have been focusing on how to teach with the Spirit, and how to create an environment in which the Spirit of Conversion will be present. I came across a scripture in Preach my Gospel while I was focusing on the personal study on page 93. The scripture was in 2 Nephi 33:2. I have come to realize I love the last chapter in the books of the Book of Mormon, because it really is a final testament and pure testimony from those prophets of old and are just filled with so much power. It reads: "But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught."

I pondered that scripture and reflected on my own life and in what ways I "harden my heart against the Spirit" and if I "cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught". Thinking about it in that light actually helped me a lot in figuring out what small things I can do better each day to more fully have the Spirit with me. It will take time, but I am excited to see how hopefully I will be led and guided more and more by the Spirit and help others also feel of the spirit as we teach.
Some things that have been really awesome this last week are: On Sunday,our ward mission leader told us our ward correlation meetings are going to be changing and become much more productive and effective in really helping the ward missionary effort. Sister H and I had been praying to know how to make those meetings more effective and had planned to bring up a few things in that meeting, but obviously Br. B had been inspired as well and addressed all the concerns we had had, which was really cool to see. So sister H and I are really excited to see how our correlation meetings will really help strengthen and unify member and missionary efforts in the ward.
Also on Sunday Lesi was confirmed and received the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost burned within me and witnessed to me that the ordinance that was taking place was truly of God. It was so amazing. Also later that night, we invited Lesi to come to the Visitor's Center to bear her testimony at President's Devotional. It is something that happens every Fast Sunday and gives new converts the opportunity to share their conversion stories and bear their testimonies. It was the first one I had ever been to and it was a lot bigger than I expected. There were a good 60-70 people. It was so amazing to hear the simple, yet powerful testimonies of these new members and just re-affirmed to me of the importance of the missionary work we are all doing.
Mom and Dad, I so glad to hear that your trip has been an amazing experience and I agree that you two have to go on a couples mission when you are older. It is so cool to hear of your re-union experiences and how your missionary service has touched people’s lives.
Elder C Luening, I am so excited to hear about the investigators in Hamburg. Keep up the great work and I can't wait to hear more.
Elder J Luening, woohoo!! Italy next month, that is awesome! Don't allow the negative things of what others say about the church get you down. I find it funny that people would exert so much effort to be negative and down other people's beliefs than just simply share what they themselves believe to be true. Just keep that in mind though when you meet those people who are very negative, don't argue, just bare your own testimony and leave. Keep trying to work with those members, if you pray and really ponder about how you can get the ward more involved I know you will be inspired and lead by the spirit in knowing what to do.
I love you all so much and can't wait to hear from you next week. Keep letting me know how things are going!  Know that I am doing well and pressing forward in the work J!

Sister Luening

August 1, 2013, Independence, Missouri

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am glad to see that you have been having and amazing trip!! It sounds like you have been able to do so many things over the last couple of weeks and that is such a blessing for you. You two definitely deserve a break!! You two are seriously amazing. I mean you read all of our e-mails on your trip and still write each of us back. That right there is dedication and love towards your children, ha-ha! I have been really fortunate here in Missouri. Apparently this is one of the coolest summers on record, ha-ha! It really hasn't been that bad. I hear it has been crazy hot in Kelowna reaching 40 and it sounds like Europe is really hot too. The humidity hasn't been bad at all. The weather has been wonderful. I think we had one really humid day this last week, but otherwise we had a few rainy days which helped Independence cool down.

Well this last week has been incredible!! On Friday we had an interview with President Keyes and we had such an amazing District Meeting. We focused on what our missionary purpose really means and we talked a lot on how we can help the ward members in the missionary work. The largest thing I got out of it, is that we just really need to have that love and desire to help the members in whatever way we can. Once they see that we really do want to help them, they will open up. I think a lot of the members feel like we aren't there to serve them, and that if they ask us for help that they are taking precious time away from us or something. But the whole point of us being in the Ward is to help them, and especially to help them with non-member friends they are working with every day to bring into the gospel. So a goal Sister H and I have is to really come to build a relationship with the members.

On Saturday, I had a really cool experience in the Visitor Center. Sister H and I took a guy through the VC. He wasn't a member, but he said he came because his member friend told him he should really come here. At first he really wanted to take a look around by himself, but then he decided he wanted to go through the "God's Plan for His Family" video presentation. I was so excited because that is one of the most powerful resources in the VC that helps people to really feel the spirit. As we were taking him through, he actually started to cry a little bit, and just as we were moving into the next room of the presentation he said that last clip hit him hard because his wife passed away two years ago and his mother passed away 4 years ago. I really felt for him, and once the presentation ended just bore my testimony with all my hearts that families can be together forever and that God has given us a way that we can see them again. We then took him through the history and we were able to have a great discussion on faith in Jesus Christ and why it is so important to act on faith. It was really cool! It was just really neat to see how at the beginning he was so closed off from us, but by the end of the presentation we had come to learn so much about his personal life and beliefs. I really hope we gave him a converting experience.

Sunday, was awesome. In Sacrament meeting and Relief Society the bishop and R.S President really chastised the Ward. The Bishop talked a lot on self-reliance and that the members need to be continually doing all that they can. He said there are bees and mosquitos. He said the bees work hard and are very productive. But he said a lot of us are mosquitos. They look busy, but are really just sucking the life out of the bees, ha-ha! It was kind of harsh, but he got his point across. He really emphasized getting proper education, continually trying to learn, and really building up our own testimonies. He also told everyone to exercise. He literally said "drop 20 lbs". It was quite the sacrament meeting. Then in Relief Society the R.S. President said there is way too much complaining and negative, hurtful talk amongst the Relief Society sisters; that there really isn't the love and unity that should be there because people get upset and offended about some opinions that are voiced. She said we need to remember that what people say, their opinions, aren't doctrine, but that they are opinions and we need to remember that. Also some sisters have a feeling of entitlement and have been getting their noses out of joint if they have not received meals when they are sick. She tried to remind the sisters that doing service like meals is not a responsibility in the handbook, but is an act of kindness, and should not be expected, but when it does happen that they receive a meal they should be grateful and see it as a blessing. So there was a huge hammer just kind of slammed on the Ward this last week to really evaluate themselves and repent. It was kind of intense, but definitely needed, ha-ha. 
Lesi's baptism went great! I felt the spirit so strongly, it was incredible to witness that. I can't wait until she receives the gift of the Holy Ghost this Sunday.
 Monday was kind of a tough day. Being out in the area was great! It was raining, but was really nice because it cooled down the area a lot. So it was nice being outside in the cool fresh air. Once I got into the visitor's center I just felt really off. I felt like my tours weren't going very well and just wished that we could have had longer in our area to find people. So, I was really looking forward to Tuesday, which was our full proselyting day. TUESDAY WAS AMAZING!! I LOVE FULL PROSELYTING DAY!! Sister H made it a goal to go see the referrals we have been given over that last few weeks, since we finally had a full day we could devote to our area and not have to go to the Visitor Center. We also made it a goal to teach 7 "Other Lessons". That basically means teaching investigators, potential investigators or others we come into contact with who aren't members of the church. So far we have reached are at 6 other lessons! We are super proud of this because we usually only have 3 since we only get about 1 hour in our area every day.
But anyways, Tuesday was full of miracles. Before knocking on the door of each referral we had, we would say a prayer that these people would be open to listening to us. It was so cool! The first referral from a member we went to see was a woman named R. She is legally blind and 3 months clean so far from a meth addiction. She said she is ready to make changes in her life and wants to learn more about the church. We were able to set up a time to meet with her next week. Then we went and saw a part member family. The mom is an inactive member, but has a son who is turning 8 years old soon so she wants him to be baptized. With talking with her though she said she isn't ready to change and come back to the church. So we are excited to work with her more and hopefully help her to gain a desire to change and come back.

The last family of the day we went to go see was a miracle!! On Sunday we got a text message referral. It was from a missionary serving down in Concepcion, Chile. He asked us to go visit his non-member parents. So sister H and I went over to the house and we knocked on the door. A large man answered the door and we told him who we were and that his son sent us. He was thrilled to know that his son made it safe to Chile, because apparently he had just caught the plan from Utah to Chile two days ago. We chatted with him for a few moments and then his wife came to the door, she saw who we were and immediately invited us into their home. We spent 40 minutes in their living room talking to them about their beliefs and about their son who is on his mission. It turns out they started out RLDS (Community of Christ), but didn't agree with some things so they branched out and have gone to some other churches like the Restoration church and stuff. But they said they agree bits and pieces of each one, but don't really feel like they belong anywhere in specific. That in itself is a miracle for Sister H and I. They said their son joined the Church back in November of 2012 ( just last year) and in January began his papers for his mission. So cool!! They also have a 16 year old son, who joined in on our conversation. They were so nice. We asked if they would mind if we came by again and talked to them some more. They said that would be great and asked if we would like to come over for dinner next week. So now we set an appointment to have dinner on Tuesday with them. Such a miracle. They seem so ready and I can tell they are just looking for the church that really does have ALL the truth. I can't wait to meet with them more and teach them. I know that the only reason sister H and I were successful that day in finding people who are ready to hear about the gospel is because we prayed for  each person specifically before knocking on their door. In D&C 10:5 it says, " Pray always that you may come off conqueror...". Well we definitely came of feeling like we conquered that day and I know it is because we prayed earnestly with the ability to connect and help those we would come across. This is the greatest work ever!!

Also yesterday I was able to take an older couple through a tour. I assumed they were both members, and as I was getting to know them better, I realized that the older man was actually a recent convert. We had great discussions about the faith of the pioneers and how they had the desire to act on what they knew was right. I could have sworn they were life-long members, and at the end of taking them through the history I asked how long they have been members. Turns out they were both baptized just in March!! CRAZY!! I asked how they came into the church, and they asked me how much time I had to listen, lol! I told them I would give them as much time as they needed because I wanted to hear the story. So we got upstairs into the lobby and sat down. It was so neat to hear their conversion story and they said they can't wait to be sealed to each other next year in the temple. They were so adorable! I also got to take a huge group of YSA through the VC. They were from Texas, I asked them for referrals and one of the guys actually gave me his mom's info, so I could call her and teach her if she would be open to. It turns out he was baptized a year and a half ago, and just got back from his mission in February. So none of his family are members, but he said he has taken his mom to church a few times. So hopefully I can call her this week and talk to her. I'm really nervous, but excited!

I am so thankful for all the miracles I have been able to see this last week. I am so thankful for all of your prayers. Mom and dad I love you two so much and thank you for your prayers and your boosts of advice and encouragement they always help me so much!!

 Elder C Luening, keep up the great work and I can't wait to hear how things are going in Hamburg.
Elder J Luening, I hope the work is continuing to go really well for you. Ha-ha, I was wondering why I wasn't hearing from you, then again I am the more terrible person because I always wanted to write you and then would get caught up on replying to other people and never had time to write you, so I am glad to hear that you made it to Vancouver. Not going to lie, I definitely miss seeing you every morning at breakfast. Keep up the great work in Vancouver. It might be kind of rough going right now, but just like you said, the Lord is always preparing people for you.  
 Auntie Kirsten, thank-you for the letter and sending me the cold packs for mom. They did get to me and that is really cool that Uncle Glenn has been in Kansas and Missouri. I hope you have been able to get over the virus that Craig gave you, and that family camp went well. I want to hear all about camp J!

 Well, I love you all and I am sorry that I did a combined e-mail this week, but it’s all I really have time for today. I keep you in my prayers and keep up the missionary work. You are all amazing and I love you all!!


Sister Luening

July 25, 2013, Independence, Missiouri

 Guten Tag, 

This week was kind of a whirlwind, but it was good! I'm plugging along and really tried to focus this week on getting better at tracting and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ from door to door. Something that my companion and I discussed the other day to help us figure out how to improve in our teachings and conversations with people was by reading over Alma 22. This is when Aaron teaches King Lamoni about God. I think it is just so cool how much of an example he is for how we should teach. He builds off the king's understanding, and doesn't answer his question right away about what the Holy Ghost is, but starts from the beginning and builds his way up to it. He teaches King Lamoni about God and who he is (Lesson 1);  then he talks about God's purpose for us (Lesson 2: Plan of Salvation); then he goes on to talk about Jesus Christ and His Gospel (Lesson 3: The Gospel of Jesus Christ). He went through all the lessons that we as missionaries teach today. After teaching King Lamoni in Alma 22 vs 16, he tells King Lamoni that if he wants to know if what he has been taught is true that he needs to pray and ask God. I just think it is so cool, how much the scriptures really teach us and apply to our own lives today J!

Tracting has been kind of slow. We have an old map and the lay out is crazy. There are often times multiple roads with the same name but in completely different sides of our area. It makes for a lot of time wasted, especially since we have to walk. But Sister H and I have been trying to make the most of it and take hold of any opportunity we can to teach people we come across. We had an interesting opportunity yesterday. There was a guy on a bike and he saw us walking and asked if he could have one of our pamphlets. I told him he could and began to teach him what it was about. We realized fairly quickly that he really wasn't as interested in the church as he was in us. He asked where we were from, and intially thought my companion was from Canada. However, once he found out I was the Canadian, he kind of directed his attention to me, and said when I'm done my mission we will have to travel to Canada together, ha-ha! It was kind of funny, and I'm not too sure how serious he is about learning about the church, but he also referred us to his parents. But hey, at least I got a teaching opportunity out of it, because for the 3 hours we tracted, nobody was home.

The Visitor Center was super busy yesterday. We did tours for 5 hours straight with one 30 minute dinner break. Usually though, it dies down every once in a while. Yesterday we had about 350 people come through, so it was go, go, go go! It made for a really fast day, though. I met a couple who were from Germany. The wife was English, born and raised in Preston. The husband was German, but I can't remember where he was from. Their two sons are living in Austria and going to school there. It was cool talking to them. Anyways, my companion and I finished teaching L and she will be baptized this Sunday. I am so excited for her. She is already being such a great example for her family. She took her husband to a fireside that was happening. Her husband didn't really want to go (he is less active) but she dragged him there anyways, ha-ha! She is so strong!

Keep having a great week. I love you all and miss you so much! Know that I am happy and I am learning more and more every day. The Lord is truly with me J!
Love Sister Luening

July 11, 2013, Independance, Missouri

Sister Luening

Dear Family,
Hey mom, thanks so much for your e-mail it made me cry because I knew what you were saying was true. It’s all about pressing forward with faith and really trusting that God will be there. I have tried to remember that this week and, wow, God has definitely been with me this week. The Visitor Center is actually so cool. I was a little stressed out to learn the history, but I actually have memorized the history fairly quickly. Now the challenge that I am working on is really applying the gospel to the tours so I can fulfill my purpose of inviting others to come unto Christ.
 I also had the best experience so far on my mission happen on Friday. On Friday I taught my first lesson to a new investigator and invited her to baptism. She is a Samoan woman and her husband is a less active member. She agreed to be baptized and we set the date for July 28th.  She is motoring through the Book of Mormon and said she knows Joseph Smith was a prophet. She is awesome! Her English isn't too good, but her member family sits in on the lessons and help to translate some things and then they discuss the lesson with her after we leave to make sure she understands what we taught. It was a little hard at first because she doesn't say much and so we weren't sure if we were really addressing her needs. We prayed to know how to help her more and on Monday when we went to teach her lesson 2,  I was very apprehensive about teaching because I had never taught lesson 2 before - not even in the MTC. But Sister H, my companion, had faith in me and told me I would do fine. I really wanted her to take the lead on this lesson, but she told me I had to. We taught pre-earth life up to death and then stopped because we had another appointment to get to. But we set up to see her the next day and teach her.

The next day we prayed to know how to teach L (the Samoan investigator we taught the day before) better. We weren't sure how much she was understanding. As we headed to her house, Sister H told me that I had to lead the lesson. I told her I wasn't very comfortable teaching life after death and would butcher it. I begged her to take the lead and she told me no. I realized as I was praying in the car to go teach  L that I needed to change my attitude and have faith that the Lord would help me. He definitely did!

Thankfully when we got inside, only L and her husband were there. Usually she would have about 5 family members sit in on the lesson who were members, which we felt was why L was so quiet during lessons and didn't speak up. She probably felt intimidated by them. So having only L and her husband there was the answer to our prayers of being able to understand L's needs. She spoke up so much, she asked questions about lesson one that we were able to clarify and she asked questions about what she was reading in her Samoan copy of the Book of Mormon. It was awesome! The lesson was going so well that I continued from teaching lesson 2  straight on to lesson 3. After the lesson Sister H expressed to me that she was impressed and happy that I taught the second part of lesson two and all of lesson 3, because that is what she felt prompted we should do as well. So our companionship is truly in unity with the Spirit, which is great. L's 8 year old son is also being baptized on the same day as her. It is so cool to see her progress and see how much understanding she is gaining of what this life is truly for and the blessings she is already receiving.
On Saturday I gave my first solo tour, which actually went really well. Most of the people we get in the VC are members checking out all the historical sites. They usually go from Palmyra, New York to Kirtland, Ohio to Independence, Missouri, to Liberty Jail (20minutes away), then up to far west, and Adam-ondi-ahman. But it has been fun to tell people about the history and show them pictures from 1907 and really get to know the history of the area.
On Thursday night (p-day) we had actually been asked by the bishop to speak on missionary work on Sunday. We were so busy that it wasn't until an hour before church that I really had the opportunity to sit down and write my talk. But the spirit directed me to the missionary broadcast notes I had taken and some scriptures to use. The talk went really well and Sunday was really great to meet the people in the Ward. So far we have eaten twice at the R's house. They are so nice. They are a couple in their mid-late 30's and have 4 young children ages 9 to 10 months. Actually the other day they gave us a whole box of pizza and a bag of grapes. They are amazing and gave us some referrals. Actually, every time I give a tour at the VC I ask for referrals and the other day I got my first to referrals from a 16 year old girl, which was awesome. The only problem is I am so busy with everything I never get a chance to call the referrals I get, so I need to try and be better at that.
Yesterday, we had a huge miracle. So we only had about 2.5 hours to tract between studies and the Visitor Center. To get to our area it is about a 45 minute walk. So we  knew we only had about 40 minutes of knocking on doors. It was super hot outside that day, and we were sweating buckets, but I didn't even care, I was just so excited to go do missionary work. So as we were walking I had a prayer in my heart that we would run into people we could teach on the way to our area. Well, my prayer was answered. As we were walking there was a lady heading in our direction a ways up the road and I made a goal that I would stop and talk with her. So she came by and I said hello and asked how she was doing, she smiled said good and walked right past us. I turned around not sure what to say next and she glanced back and asked if we were the Jehovah's Witness people. I said no, but that we were missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She said she believed in Jesus and God and all of that, so I asked what her religious background was. She said she didn't really attend any denomination but had been baptised as a baby, but felt the need to be rebaptized. She asked if it’s common to be re-baptized, so I told her about our belief on baptism and the necessity of accountability.

She told us about a lot of the struggles she was having with a friend, but she said she knew God was doing this for a reason. I bore my testimony to her that God loves her and was giving her these trials to learn and grow. To really test our patience and that if we endure it with patience and faith in Him we would receive so many blessings. As I bore testimony of this I felt the Spirit so strongly. All of us were sweating like crazy because it was so hot outside, but as I bore my testimony, the lady kind of interrupted and said smiling and agreeing with what I was saying," Man, I'm getting goose bumps even in this hot weather". I knew those goose bumps were really the Spirit testifying of the truth the spirit was speaking through me to her. She had relayed a story earlier of receiving an answer through prayer from Heavenly Father and she had said she got goose bumps, so I know she slightly recognizes those goose bumps as a sign from God. Anyways, it was a really neat experience. We asked if we could meet with her on Saturday and discuss more about Jesus Christ and his gospel and help her come to know him more. She agreed and we gave her a Restoration pamphlet which she said she would read. I can't wait to see how things go with her, because she is so ready for the gospel, she is searching for direction J I know the Lord heard my prayer in wanting to find people and he answered it. We had about a 20 minute chat with this lady and after that knocked a few doors but nobody was home. She was our miracle that day!

I am so glad to be on a mission. I know that God truly does hear and answer my prayers. I know that it all has to do with attitude and acting on my faith. I know if I hadn't recognized that I needed to change my attitude and go forward into L's lesson with faith that it would not have gone well and the Spirit would not have been there. I am thankful to be a VC sister. There is almost no time to study and I was getting bummed that I didn't feel I was getting the spiritual nourishment from the scriptures that I felt I needed, but the Lord is always with me. Even though I live a crazy busy schedule between VC, finding and teaching and don't get in all the personal study time that I think I should; I know the Lord sees how hard I am working and as long as I continue in diligence and do all that I can, He will continue to bless me. I have made a goal to the 5 lessons you need to memorize from 12 week, done in 5 weeks. So far I have all the points memorized from lesson one, but I need to get scriptures to memorize along with them. My goal is to pass off the lesson tomorrow. I am beginning to doubt I can do it by tomorrow, but we'll see, I am going to try really hard to. I have also started focusing more on how I can apply the doctrine of Christ to the history tours that I give, so that people leave the VC not just having had a great experience, but being more converted and determined to come closer to the Lord.

The senior couples in the VC are so kind. The other day I was a little in the dumps and trying to figure out what I could to more fully have the Spirit with me and recognize it because I really want to apply the doctrine of Christ to my tours. Sister Jones came and sat down by me and shared a message with me that basically said as long as we are working hard and doing as much as we can the rest is in the Lord's hands and he will help us. It was just what I needed to hear and of course, I started crying, lol! I have become such a baby on the mission. She told me she didn't know why but she felt impressed to come over and share that with me. Although she didn't know why she needed to share that with me, I did. It was the answer to my prayer and she was able to be the angel for God that spoke the words I needed to hear right then. It was amazing!! I am truly happy hear.

I have only had a few brief moments of doubt when I first approach things, but I have realized very quickly it is all about attitude. As soon as you change your attitude to an attitude of faith and move forward with steadfast faith in Christ, that is when miracles happen because God is with you and will bless you. I have been moving forward with courage and faith and I know that is why we are able to see success. Something they said in the MTC was go out every morning saying, "A miracle is going to happen today and it will", as long as you have a great attitude with a prayer in your heart to teach and find it will happen. I love it out here so much!
 Thank-you so much, mom and dad, for your support and your words of advice. They really do help me and I love you so much! I love Helaman 5:12 which says "...remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation...a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." It is so true! If we have faith and have our foundation steadfastly built on Christ, God will not let us fall. He will be there to help us and to lift us up. He will show us the way and help us see past the mist toward his vision for us. I am so thankful for these experiences I have had, so far. For the faith it is helping me develop. I love missionary work and I love my companion. We are getting to know each other more and she is truly amazing!!

I love you so much and pray that you will continue to have fun in Germany. Let me know what you are all up to J Also, I found a few Dear Elder letters that I guess I forgot to open at the MTC so I have to read those later, ha-ha!

All my love,

Sister Luening

July11, 2013, MTC, Provo

Dear Mom and Dad,

I hope your vacation in Europe is going really well and that you are enjoying spending time with Oma and Opa! Tell them I say hello and love them sooo much!

Missouri is wonderful! It is pretty warm and mildly humid, but nothing like I was expecting. I straightened my hair the day I flew in and the entire day it was fine it didn't frizz up or anything, lol!  It is pretty flat here, a few rolling hills, but lots and lots of trees, which makes up for the fact that there are absolutely no mountains here. But maybe you could send me some pictures as a reminder of what mountains look like, ha-ha!. The trees are beautiful! So far everything has been great!

I want to catch you up on some stuff that happened last week. So last week on Saturday, we went to Temple Square to give tours. Right away once I was signed up with one of the sisters serving in Temple Square, Sister Yu from Hong Kong China, we went and gave Cantonese speaking tours to a group of 20 Chinese people. I had no clue what was being said, but any opportunity Sister Yu gave me to bear my testimony on the temple, pioneers, the Book of Mormon, etc., I did! As I bore my testimony in English she would translate it into Cantonese. It was so cool! After that tour we went up to the North Visitor's Center and went up to the Christus Statue. We were hoping to take a group through the Eternal Families video tour, but nobody really wanted to go. However an Indian man did want to talk to us and ask us questions. His first question was who we follow, Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ. I honestly was sitting there thinking about it, but Sister Yu without hesitation said, “Jesus Christ”. As soon as she said that, I was just shaking my head at myself for even having to pause and think about that for a second. Of course we believe in Jesus Christ. Yes we know Joseph Smith was a prophet, but ultimately everything is done through Christ! He said that our Christian faith is similar to his faith. We found out he is of the Bahai faith in India. He said most Christian faiths believe and talk of Christ, but none of them truly act like Christ and live his doctrine. He said he is really impressed with the LDS church in the fact that they truly live and try to emulate Christ in all aspects of our lives. He said he is so impressed that our church truly tries to better communities. For about 20 minutes he just was saying how proud of us he is and that us being on a mission serving Jesus Christ is incredible and we will be so blessed for doing that. He was so nice!! He did receive a copy of the Book of Mormon and said he would read it, and even gave us his information so we can keep in touch. Oh my goodness, he was just such a nice man! That was all that really happened at Temple Square, but it was such a great experience.

Yesterday at around 1:00PM (11:00AM Trail time) we landed at the Kansas, Missouri airport. President and Sister Keyes greeted us at the airport and took us on a tour of the area. First we stopped at the Kansas Temple which was just dedicated last year. It is beautiful! It has the same kind of structure as the Rexburg, Idaho temple, except it has a steeple at the back of the temple as well as in the front. The intricate designs make it so beautiful. We got a picture in front of the temple with the 30 new missionaries that arrived to Missouri from the MTC. Then we went to Liberty Jail and had a tour there. It is such a small visitor's center, but really neat! After that we went to the Main Visitor's Center in Independence. We had a tour there; it was really interesting hearing about the revelations that were given to Joseph Smith concerning Missouri and Zion. After the tour we went to the mission home and had a meeting with the Zone Leaders and all of the Mission Leaders. We had dinner, which was delicious and then we had more meetings and our interviews with President Keyes. In the Interview President Keyes told me I would be start off serving with Sister H in the larger Visitor's Center in Independence. I am also assigned to serve in the Independence Second Ward, which apparently has a lot of Samoans, hooray!! A member in the MTC Presidency, actually told Sister Anderson and I that the average weight gain in our mission is 30 lbs!! Apparently the Samoan people really want to keep us well fed.

Today is P-day!!  Kind of funny that my first actual missionary day here turns out to be my P-day, haha! It is a good thing its P-day though, because I was feeling a little over-whelmed I think. First thing in the morning we had breakfast and a quick meeting with President Keyes in the mission home where we stayed last night. After that we headed to the mission office to meet our new companion and start our first real missionary day. It was kind of overwhelming to see so many new people, leave the people and companions we did know and then just go and do whatever it was that we needed to do. I just felt very lost! I had no clue what we were doing or what we were going to be doing. Sister H is awesome though, and she told me we would go pick up some sisters, do laundry, plan, have companion study, etc.
 The thing I felt most overwhelmed about is the fact that Sister H told me I might have to give a tour tomorrow all by myself if it is busy. I don't know anything so that kind of scared me. She gave me Historic Information booklet (it is like the size of Preach my Gospel) to read and that is the information I need to get familiar with for giving tours. So I have to trust that God is really going to help me, because I have to teach about church history and then relate it all back to the doctrine of Christ according to the needs of the Visitors. But hey, all things are possible with the Lord's help and with His Spirit. That is what faith is, right!

Tonight we have dinner with the R family (don't know anything about them, ha-ha), but I am looking forward to it. Tomorrow we are at the Visitor's Center from 9am-3pm. Then we have companion study, a dinner appointment and two teaching appointments with progressing investigators. Apparently we have a baptism scheduled for next week. Oh yeah, I think I forgot to mention that our mission was split. So we basically lost all of the state of Kansas and Nebraska. So now we just cover the Missouri part of the map.

Anyways, I love it here so far. The sisters are great and I am slowly adjusting. Pray for me that I am able to pick up on the history quickly and pray that I will know how to relate it back to the doctrine of Christ. I know I can't do this alone and I need God's. I love you so much!

Mom and Dad, be safe and have a great time in Europe. I hope you are able to see lots of your friends. I know this church is true. I am so thankful for your examples to me and for the way you raised me with love in the gospel. I am so thankful for the family I have and I don't know how I was so lucky to be blessed with such strong and loving parents and with siblings that are so grateful for their Saviour Jesus Christ. I am so thankful for Christ, for His atonement, death and resurrection. The hope and joy that brings to my heart to know I have a way to get back to my father through repentance is incredible. I am so thankful for God's love and sacrifice in sending His Only Begotten Son. I can't even imagine how hard that must have been for Him. I am so thankful for trials. I know that trials are a way for us to not only prove to God, but prove to ourselves what our true characters are. Are we willing to go forth in faith down the right path that may seem difficult at times, or will we cower and shrink, abandoning the path that leads us to God's Vision of whom we can become. I know being on a mission is where I am supposed to be. I know that serving the Lord and inviting others to come unto Christ. And I know that doing all I can to serve the Lord, pressing forward with faith will allow me to truly transform and become God's Daughter!

I love you and pray for you,

Sister Luening

Friday, August 16, 2013

July 9, 2013, MTC, Provo

Dear Mom and Dad,

Hey, So I don't know why my e-mail didn't send last week. President gave me permission to send it today. I leave the MTC tomorrow; today is my last day! I will call home around 8:30 AM from the airport. Hopefully you are home, if not I will call dad at work. I don't know the Dollarama number, so that will have to do  J Can't wait to hear from you. I will fast for Jeremy on Sunday and Mom, it is great that you were able to escort Caroline through the temple for her own in endowments. MTC is great! I will miss it, but am so ready to get into the field.
Love, Sister Luening

Last Week (July 2):
Thanks so much for your Dear Elder letter and for your e-mail. I am glad to hear that you are doing awesome with Relief Society. Mom you are amazing!! Dad I love you so much and really appreciated your e-mail last week; it made me cry, lol! That is so awesome that you have been able to meet up with old friends, like Tom Walker. It gets me excited to have those experiences later in my life. Meeting up with my mission buddies will be so awesome! I heard from Chris and got some other unexpected e-mails which was so awesome! Also, please tell the Champagnes thank-you from me for their Dear Elder letter. It was so sweet of them and I love them so much!

I am loving it here. This week has had its ups and downs, but definitely a lot more ups than downs. On Sunday we watched an MTC Devotional from 2011 by Elder Bednar about the Character of Christ. He really emphasized that missionary work has nothing to do about us, it is about others. He pointed out that the character of Christ is that in situations when the natural man would normally turn in and only think of themselves and be selfish, Christ would turn outward and only think about others and how he could help them. IT was soo good and really changed my perspective and made me realize that I need to be less selfish and less self-centered.
On Monday evening we had to say good-bye to the Elders in our district. It was so hard. They are such great men and have treated us sisters so well. We took pictures with them and have their e-mail addresses. They are going to Carlsbad, California. They are so amazing though. I had them write in my journal, if they wanted and they are so sweet. At the end of the day we shared what we all love about each other and then they walked us back to our dorm. In front of our residence hall we sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again" and by verse two I was bahling like a baby and even Elder Daniel and Elder Parker cried. It was so sad!
The Elders leaving really made me start wondering if I was really ready to head out into the field, and I was worrying way too much about it. Luckily in classes we learned more about how to teach better and my confidence in teaching started to improve. I began to realize that I need to have more faith and trust in the Lord and I can't demand the Spirit to be with me, because then He won’t come. The way to receive the Spirit is to prepare; and then have faith that the Lord will help you know what to say; listen to the investigator intently instead of worrying about what you will say next and then the Spirit will prompt you in what to say.
We also went to Temple Square this week and received a tour and were taught more about what we will be doing in the Visitor's Center. It was re-emphasized that our purpose as Visitor Center Missionaries is the same as any other missionary: To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. The only tricky part is we only have 5-7 minutes to get to know them, figure out what their spiritual need is and help teach to that and help them see how it applies to their life. Our goal isn't to have them leave the visitor's center having a "great experience", but it is to have them leave feeling CONVERTED unto Christ! It has been really amazing gaining a better understanding and testimony of the doctrine of Christ and how everything in life comes back to it. I have been enjoying having opportunities to see how the doctrine of Christ can truly help us in any situation.
I love it here so much and I feel so blessed. This week in visitor center training, one sister told us the process of how sisters are assigned to visitor center missions. It is so cool! So our picture comes up and then looking at our face, the apostles can tell if we should be in a visitor center. Elder Perry (In Quorum of the 70) said that they know because of they can see in our faces" the light they see in your smile and the testimony of the atonement that shines in your eyes". That is so cool!! That makes me feel so special. They know that we only have a limited time with the people we meet and we need to be able to influence them to come unto Christ. After they set our pictures aside to be Visitor Center sisters, they then do the process again in deciding which visitor center we should be assigned to.
This week we got to work in the referral center. So we went online and actually talked to real people who had questions about the church or wanted to learn more. Sister Anderson (my companion) and I got to talk to an investigator and we also talked to a less active member. In short we invited the less active member to attend church this Sunday. He has just moved to Texas and his wife is not a member. The missionaries stopped by his house a few weeks ago, but his wife was very opposed to them coming in and she sent them away. He is schizophrenic and because of that changes religions on almost a daily basis. He said he has a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and prays about it every day. He wants his wife to learn more about the church but knows she is not ready yet. We invited him to come to church, read the Book of Mormon and pray to Heavenly Father, because God can help work with him in softening his wife's heart. He said he will continue to read and pray and he will come to church on Sunday. I asked him why he became less active and he said about 25 years ago he was baptized but after he was baptized he was struggling to support himself and so he wasn't paying a full tithe. The ward members judged him for that and basically shunned him. I thought that was so sad. I told him I was sorry to hear that and that wasn't right of the members to do, but I told him if anyone knew about what he was going through the Savior did. I emphasized that God loves him and wants to hear from him, so he can always pray. What I said I didn't think would impact him as much as it did. But he was so thankful and appreciative of what I told him and testified of. It is crazy that he was able to feel the spirit even through a computer screen, ha-ha J!
Well, the 4th of July was awesome. We got to cut class early and watch 17 Miracles, sing national anthem songs and then we ended in watching the fireworks. Us 4 sister missionaries coordinated our outfits. So all of us wore red, white and patriotic! The fireworks ended at about 11:00 PM, and we talked for an hour. Curfew is usually 10:30 PM, but the whole MTC received permission from the MTC president to stay up past it to watch the fireworks. We didn’t get to bed until midnight! Thank goodness today is P-day, because getting up at 6:00AM would have been brutal to get ready for class. So we were able to sleep in until 6:30AM (the stated arise from bed time). Itis so sad to hear myself say that 6:30AM is "sleeping-in", lol!
Anyways, I am still loving it here and I can't wait to use everything I am learning in the field. I honestly feel like Ammon in Alma Chapter 26. I am just amazed at how much God has blessed me and how much love missionary work really brings me! At the beginning of the week I felt kind of sick of being here and just wanted to get out in the field to use what I have learned. I know I felt that way because of seeing the Elders go, but at the same time I was feeling very inadequate. I have been having such great teaching experiences that are helping me to humble myself and truly trust and have faith in the Lord. If I prepare and don't demand the Spirit to be with me, but go into teaching by listening the investigator and being prepared the Lord will bless we with the Spirit and it will prompt me in what to say.

Actually Brother Green acted as an RLDS Investigator on Wednesday. That was interesting. We asked what his views were and then tried to teach him. The problem is we went about teaching him entirely wrong. We weren’t really getting anywhere with him, because we were focusing too much on trying to help him see how wrong his beliefs were instead of focusing on what beliefs we had in common and then building on that. We were teaching for about 15 minutes and then Brother Green stopped us and asked why we though it wasn't going anywhere, we told him we felt like we were trying too much to convince him, instead of enlightening his view on some truths. With that in mind he invited us to start over again. Sister Hunter blew our minds. She taught totally out of love, she built on top of his faith and testimony on the Saviour and God. This RLDS member also had a firm belief in the Book of Mormon, but they believed in the succession of prophets through lineage. Sister Hunter invited him to pray about the Book of Mormon and to pray to know if Brigham young was a prophet. ( in the RLDS faith they believe that Joseph Smith's son is the prophet, not Brigham Young). She told him that if he was sincere in his desire to know that he could find out for himself, because it would be revealed to him through the Holy Ghost. It was very humbling to us, to see that when we teach we need to go about in love and really ask ourselves how can we help them come closer to Christ and how will the doctrine we are teaching him, help him (the investigator). It was just amazing!!

The Visitor Center training is bringing back my fire and desire to continue to learn J I am so excited to have the opportunity tomorrow to spend 6 hours at temple square GIVING TOURS!! I can't wait to apply all I have learned and use it on REAL people in Indepenence. I still see Jeremy every day, which is awesome, and I hope everything works out with his Visa. Oh yeah, also I fly from Utah to Missouri on Wednesday at 9:30 AM. So I will try to call you from the airport at 8:30 AM J Just “Dear Elder” me and let me know if you will be home. Mom if you won't be home, I will call dad at work J Anyways I can't wait to talk to you and let you know more about how it has been here. It has so hard to really explain everything that is happening here and what it really is doing for me. The spirit is amazing and I love learning more about the Doctrine of Christ. I love you all so much!

Love Always,
Sister Luening