Monday, November 11, 2013

November 4, 2011, Independence Missouri

Dear Family,

     First I want to address Mom. Mom you are amazing, and I can't believe how much you have to do.  You have been crazy busy, and work on top of it all. I am amazed at what you are able to accomplish! You are truly incredible. I know that Heavenly Father called you for this time in Relief Society because he knew you were the one who could handle it....even when you don't feel like you are doing a good job. Just remember you are pressing forward and taking care of things, when many people would have crashed or given up! I know it is because of your reliance on the Lord and your ability to work well with others, not to mention your patience and perseverance that has allowed you to continually fulfill your calling to the fullest. Mom, I love you and am so proud of you. I want you to know that even just hearing that you invited J, to the trunk or treat made me so excited. Remember that success as a member missionary isn't measured by how many people accept the invitation it is measured by your desire to share what you know to be true and to invite others. You did not fail because J. didn't come. That is personal agency! I am proud of you for everything you are doing and just remember at times when you get frustrated that you aren't doing everything that you want to be able to get done right away. Take a break and look at all the things you have already accomplished! Don't be so hard on yourself. I love you so much and I always try to remember the things I have learned from you and apply them. I feel like I have received the gift of patience and that is something my companion has pointed out to me. I know that is something I have learned from you and your example!

     So this last week has been pretty good. We didn't have too much time out in our area because we had to spend about 8hrs cleaning our old apartment that we got moved out of.....That's right we got to clean away 20 years of NASTY!! We left the old apartment feeling like our heads had been dipped in buckets of bleach, but the place is clean and we no longer have to worry about that old place, hooray!

     Yesterday we had our first roommate meeting where we discussed what each person needs to do to keep the place clean and orderly. We finally got the whole place unpacked and organized yesterday, so I feel a lot better now and our new place is officially livable :) I am really enjoying being companions with Sister S. It has taken a while for us to really develop a good friendship, but I feel like all of a sudden now I am getting closer to her than before and of course this is happening like usual.... Just in time for transfers next week. Oh well!

     We have been able to meet with the Bishop several times this week to coordinate some things and for him to get some of our ideas of how we can get the ward more excited about missionary work. Bishop Banks is so amazing!! He always lets us know how much we mean to him and how excited he is to work with us, it is wonderful! I love the work and it is going so well!!

     The Visitor Center is going well and I am still taking presentations. Sister S. and I have been really working well together at helping families get more excited and involved in missionary work in their own lives by reminding and inviting the members to take on Elder Ballard's Challenge of Reaching out to one person between now and Christmas. I love the missionary work. It is amazing and I love how the Spirit can really help create unity if we pray and listen to its promptings. I love this gospel and am so thankful for how much I am continually learning. Learning never stops, but it is neat to be able to look back and realize how much we have learned in such a short time.

      I can't believe that once Christmas rolls around that I will already have been out for 6 months and only have one year left, time flies! We have also had the opportunity to talk about missionary work in Primary and will be at Seminary this week with the Elders. It should be fun!

     Kass, it sounds like you are doing great and that nannying is fun. Did you hear about Frances? Apparently she is pregnant!

     Elder Luning, I loved the pumpkin carving pictures and I love hearing how the work is going. Keep bearing the powerful testimony you have. Tell Oma and Opa hello for me. I love hearing how they are doing!

     Jeremy, keep working hard and don't forget the routine you learned on your mission. It is better to keep it going than to lose it and then have to get back into it later. Love you and remember to help mom out with cleaning the house. She is a busy woman!! Love you!

     Dad, I was surprised to hear about you,  but change is good and I am excited to hear if things change. I will be praying for you! Also would you be able to send me the other workouts I requested? Thanks, love you!

Sister Luening

October 30,2013, Independence Missouri

Dear Family,

     Wow, it sounds like everyone has had a really crazy week; filled with busy activities and assignments, but it sounds like everything turned out well. This last week has been amazing!!

     So, last P-day some of the sisters and I got to go to the National World War I Museum, which was amazing and a ton of fun. I think we spent 4 hours there. It was great! The following day on Thursday, Elder and Sister Benchley (the Visitor Center directors) took us up to Adam-Ondi-Ahman! It was amazing! We got to see the amazing beauty that is up there and feel of the joy of the spirit in that sacred land. We were privileged to be able to go to the sectioned off area of the land that isn't open to the public. We were able to go to the Preacher's rock, where Adam would have blessed his posterity. It was so neat. We also got to go to Far West, the last place the Saints tried to settle before the extermination order was issued 175 years ago on October 27,1848. We were able to see the original cornerstones of the planned temple that was never built. Also we got to go to Richmond to Oliver Cowedery's grave site where the three witness monument stands. We also got to go to the site in Richmond where Joseph Smith was kept in prison overnight. In that Jail he rebuked the guards, and later was transported to Liberty Jail. Anyways, it was an amazing day.

    On Friday we moved into our new apartment with the help of our amazing elders and the Assistants to the President. We had Stake Conference this last weekend and it was amazing. Elder Robins of the Seventy was there and he spoke on missionary work. He really emphasized that the members need to be more willing to engage in missionary work. He also emphasized the importance of not just having member present lessons with investigators, but having "the right member present"; someone who can really connect without investigators so that they can have lasting friendship and fellowship. It was so good!

    On Monday, Sister S. and I were on exchanges, so I went into a different area and served with Sister E., who is from Idaho. We had such a great day. We had decided the night before that we wanted to lead using the Book of Mormon. We set a goal to hand out 4 copies of the Book of Mormon and get 3 new investigators. We had 3 hours out in the area to tract. We saw miracles. We worked up until the last second and the last house we knocked allowed us to reach both of our goals. We were able to hand out our 4th copy of the Book of Mormon and set a return appointment. It was so fun being able to have time to just be out and share the gospel. Sister Erickson is so positive I love it! The only thing that I don’t like about exchanges is the fact that the people you find together you don't get to teach because they aren't in your area, lol! But I can't wait to continue following up and finding out how things are going with them. I'm especially excited about this one lady we found. She didn't seem very interested because she wasn't making eye contact and was fidgeting a lot. I thought she wanted us to leave, but when Sister E. introduced the Book of Mormon and shared a scripture with her, she got really emotional. She told us she had a lot of stuff going on in her life right now, but that she would like to learn more. She took a copy of the Book of Mormon and we set a time to come back and teach her more. It was so awesome and it is amazing to see how through the scriptures the spirit is able to touch their hearts. 

     Okay, now here comes THE MIRACLE OF MIRACLES THIS WEEK!! So, on Sunday after Stake Conference, Sister A. came up to us with her non-member 20 year old niece. They are both Samoan. Sister A. is also Lesi's sister in law (my first convert). Anyways so she comes up to me and says, “Hey, Sister, my niece is ready to take the discussions and get baptized.” What!?!?!?! It was a huge miracle and there are two reasons behind it. So first of all who just comes up to you and says, “Oh yeah, hey, my niece wants to get baptized!?! Secondly, it was an answer to prayer and faith! I'll tell you why. So during our weekly planning, sister S. and I were setting our goals, and we were looking at our goal slot for “investigators with a baptismal date”. I sat and pondered about what goal we should set. I looked at Sister S. and said I think we should set our goal at 2. She kind of looked at me and said, do you really believe we could get two? I firmly told her I think it was attainable but would require a lot of work and a miracle from the Lord. But I assured her that I knew as we put forth our effort Heavenly Father would bless us with a miracle. We thought about it and decided with the help of the Lord we would be able to put our only investigator, I. on date this week, and God could provide us with a miracle! Well, it happened. We received A.!! We had our first meeting and lesson with her yesterday and it went so well. She told us she wants to learn and wants to get baptized. She moved to America 3 years ago. She grew up Methodist, but since moving to America and living with her aunt and uncle (the Atatai's) and coming to church with them, she has already begun to gain a testimony of the church and how much it blesses families. We were able to set her on date for November 16th! Sister S.  and I have so much love for her and can't wait to see how much she really progresses. Sister S. is an amazing teacher. She really speaks from the heart and knows what to say. People just automatically are able to feel of the genuine love she has for them.

    Anyway, I'm really excited to keep teaching I., who has committed to live the Word of Wisdom. He gave up coffee and tea this week, and then we will work on alcohol and tobacco. He is beginning to make progress which is amazing. The Elders in our Ward are also seeing miracles. Our Spanish set of Elders have 5 people on baptismal date right now and our other set of elders have 2 people on date. The work is really moving forward in our ward, it is incredible! It is really cool how well all six of us missionaries try to help each other and try to share the work load. It is really becoming a team effort! We are really putting our investigator's needs before our own and have started realizing that if we think a different companionship could help our investigator progress more than we are able to than we should hand them over to a different companionship. It isn't about us as individuals and companionships, but it is all about the work of the Lord. As we work together as a team, and in unity, the work will begin to explode as we are already beginning to witness.

    I love this work, and I love the transformation that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is truly a transforming power and brings forth so many blessings. I am thankful for all of you and the prayers that you say in my behalf. I am so thankful for the resources we have at our finger tips to help us learn more about Jesus Christ and his gospel. I am thankful for our church leaders who are truly inspired and called of God to lead us and guide us. I know that there are so many people seeking for the truth and I am thankful to be an instrument in the Lord's hands in this great work! I know that Jesus Christ is our savior and redeemer. It is through Him that we are truly able to be changed and molded into our loving Father's sons and daughters with divine potential.

     Mom and Dad, you two are amazing! I bet your presentation was awesome. I'm always so amazed at hearing how much you two are busy doing and then on top of everything except another challenge, ha-ha! I hope you get some really great sleep the next couple nights to catch up with the sleep you missed. Also, dad thanks so much for sending me some of the exercises already. I know you had a really busy week. I really appreciate it!

     Elder Luening, the Spirit is amazing! I love hearing how you are able to apply what you learn in PMG and how much success you are able to see as you diligently put forth the effort and have the faith that changing your regular patterns and behaviours will produce greater miracles. Missionary work is amazing and the transformation that can take place in ourselves and in our lives is truly miraculous to see. Keep enjoying the work, you are a huge example to me!

     Jeremy, I'm glad that you were able to go to the Youth Conference. Your experience with prayer is so cool! Did you find a job, it sounded like you have, but nobody said what job you got, lol!

     Kass, congrats on the nanny job! Send an e-mail and let us know exactly what the job is and how it is going. I would love to hear

Oma and Opa, it sounds like you two are doing great! I am so proud of you for the steps you have taken to come back to church and be able to feel the blessings of the spirit so much more in your lives. Opa, I heard from Elder Luening that you gave a talk the Sunday before conference and that you did a really great job! I am so excited to see that you two are just becoming fully immersed in the gospel and taking on different assignments. You two are amazing. Keep going! I pray for you and hope you are having a great week. I don't think I have ever told you this, but I am so thankful for you two listening to those missionaries that came to your door. For making the changes necessary in your lives to be able to accept the gospel and follow Jesus Christ by being baptized. It was because of you two that all the other events came about to have allowed me to be raised in a gospel centered home with two amazing loving parents, who raised us and taught us about the gospel no matter what. Thank-you for having such great testimonies, and thank-you for always showing your love to us. I miss you and love you!

      I love you all and pray that you are aware of the miracles going on daily in your lives. Have a great week and I can't wait to hear from all of you next week. My P-day next week will be on a Monday by the way because of a special zone training happening next Wednesday.

All my love,

Sister Luening

P.S., mom I don't know if I told you or not but Sister Keyes said that all Christmas packages need to be sent no later than December 2nd to have them arrive on time for Christmas. Also there have been some changes in back-pack regulations. Back-packs are no longer allowed (I have been using a free back pack since I got here). Only side bags are allowed. I know we bought those two cheap side-bags that were more like purses, but they are too small to hold all of my materials and the straps are really uncomfortable on my shoulder once I have weight in it. So, if I could get a good quality side bag, with a shoulder strap that has padding, that would be great. I think if you go on to the missionary dress code and look at the elders accessories section you could see good examples of shoulder bags. Thanks so much, love you! 

October 23, 2013, Independence Missouri

Oct 23
Dear Family,

     Thanks so much for all the e-mails; it really is great hearing from everyone and seeing what changes are happening in everyone's lives. This last week been CRAZY!!  So on Thursday, Sister S. and I sat down for 3 hours to do our weekly planning. Well, in that time, by the end of our planning session we had 2 of 4 of our investigators drop us, one of which was on baptismal date. It was discouraging, but we went on with our day and went to see our 87 year old investigator. At that visit, she also dropped us telling us that she was RLDS and knew our intent was for her to eventually be baptized. She said that would never happen because she had seen to many miracles happen in her life in that church. We asked her to pray about it and asked if we could come back, she ultimately told us that wouldn't be necessary. So in the course of 4 hours three of our four investigators dropped us. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I also looked at it in a way that God was blessing us with the time we desired to now go out and find those who are truly prepared to hear the gospel. He is making room for us to see more miracles, ha-ha! J

     Although, this week we were struggling out in our area, I was able to see a lot of miracles at the Visitor Center. Over the weekend I have taken some of the best presentations I have taken my entire mission so far. It's been really neat to be able to really be led by the Spirit and teach people, not lessons. With each presentation I took something new was learned and gained. I was able to extend a new challenge and commitment to the members, to cause them to reach and stretch and continue on in their spiritual progression. Last Saturday was a really crazy day. I took 5 presentations, which was about as many as I would take during the crazy busy summer season. Anyways at the end of the night at the visitor center about a half an hour before closing, I went downstairs to clean the kitchen. I noticed that two ladies who had come in about an hour ago were almost finished watching the New Joseph Smith movie. So I rushed to the kitchen, did as much as I could and then dashed to the theatre to look after those members.

     At that moment I was definitely feeling in a rush with needing to get things done. I popped in and asked what they thought of the movie. I figured they would just say that  it was good and then get up and leave. Well, they were actually really emotional and I could just tell looking at them that they had really felt the power of the spirit. I realized in that moment that I needed to calm myself, give my entire attention to them and pray that the spirit would guide me in the things that they needed to hear. I sat down and they both completely opened up to me about what they had felt as they watched Joseph's experiences that he endured through his life.                  We ended up having such a spiritual discussion on how they themselves had been going through a lot in their own lives over that last couple months and how Joseph Smith was such a great example for them of how to endure trials patiently and with faith. The spirit was so strong as we talked. I testified of God's love for her as an individual. I felt impressed to relate her trials to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail and how Joseph Smith's time in Liberty Jail was almost like a time -out for him from the world in order for him to refocus, rejuvenate and re-center his attention, relationship and life to God. God knew what was coming next in Joseph's Life and he knew that it would be hard and that he would need the spiritual strength and unwavering trust in God in his life for the upcoming events leading to his martyrdom in Carthage Jail. I know that trials are very hard, they aren't easy and they aren't fun. However, they are God's way of reminding us of who we need to rely on and who we need to turn to. As we turn our attention to God and build our faith even more in him, he is able to strengthen us for greater trials that await us ahead. I ended up spending until closing with these two ladies and they appreciated it so much, and decided that need to come into the visitor center more, ha-ha. It's been really neat to truly be an instrument in the Lord's hand and a mouth-piece for the spirit on occasion.

     I also got to take some non-members through the Visitor Center over that last few days. I took a couple from Edmonton Alberta through the Visitor Center and they had their non-member mom with them. Using the different resources at the visitor center I was able to go over the Message of the Restoration with her. I also took them through God's Plan for His Family video which is really powerful and then I ended at the Christus and let them sit and ponder together. It was really great! Later, the Spanish speaking elders, Elder R. and Elder K. came in the VC and said Br. M. was bringing a friend to the VC and wanted to take him through the history. I was super nervous because I usually stay upstairs and don’t go down into the Independence history area with investigators, because they don't have the foundation of Joseph Smith or anything which is better to start with upstairs. Anyways, I had a huge prayer in my heart and we went down to the history. As the spirit directed, our discussion ended up focusing on prayer, faith and recognizing the spirit. The elders and Br. Martinez did awesome in sharing personal experiences and also talking about the history.

   Also it was Elder K.'s birthday yesterday and so Sister S. and I sang him “Happy Birthday” over the phone at 6:30AM. We probably sounded like men, because we were really groggy and still had our "just woke up" voices-- you know what I mean. We also celebrated at the end of the night by eating cake with everyone that one of the sisters had made for him. It was fun!

     Anyways, things are going well in Independence. The 4 elders in our ward are great! They are always looking out for us and asking if there is any ways they can help us. Also, we were able to meet with our
Bishop on Monday night. We had dinner and he invited us to stay for Family Home Evening and then asked if we could meet with him right there and then and go over some things. He is a great man. We got to know him really well and he shared a lot of experiences with us. Sister S. and I have had our prayers answered by being able to know that our ward leaders trust us, and that they are excited to work with us.  Bishop gave us some counsel, told us he respects us and is excited to work with us and hopes to meet with all 3 companionships of missionaries more often. He has also set up a meeting where all the missionaries and Ward leaders in the Ward will get together and establish the Ward Mission Plan and what we can do to get the ward more anxiously engaged in missionary work. We left his house full of so much gratitude to know that bishop is excited to have us in the ward and that hopefully within the next couple of weeks everyone will be on the same page and things will really start moving forward in the ward.

        Sister S. and I also got news yesterday that we and the sisters above us will finally get to move out of our nasty apartment.....all I have to say is it is super ghetto! There is a hole in the ceiling in the bathroom where shower water from the sisters above us drips down with plaster. The sink pressure went and the hot water lasts for about 5 minutes, so we almost always have cold showers, and the carpet has so much dust and grime in it that whenever we vacuum it (once a week)  we have to empty the vacuum three times. Sister S. refuses to kneel on the floor, and we are convinced there is black mold in the ceiling and then the mouse trap went off yesterday. So we are so excited to finally be moving to a new place on Friday. All four of us sisters will be living together and there is a washer and dryer so I won't have to go to the Laundromat anymore, yay! Oh and there is unlimited how water. Things seem to be going so well here, that I am getting nervous that in three weeks at transfers I'll get transferred, which I really don't want to have happen. But, I know that if things are starting to go well, that means I need a new challenge so that my spiritual progression doesn't stay stagnant, right! I'll go where the Lord wants me to go!

      Jeremy, it’s typical that you would get home and then just start spending money on whatever, lol! Enjoy the snowboarding season... I didn't know that you snowboard. I hope you get that job at Source J! Oh also could you do me a huge favor? In my night table should be my P-90X book. Could you scan the pages in the back that say what each exercise is and e-mail them to me. I know the titles of the workouts, but I don't remember all the work out moves that are in them. But if you go toward the back of the book it lists the title of each exercise and a short explanation of how to do the moves. If you can't scan it, could you please just type the names out of each exercise and e-mail it to me. Just the names of each exercise from the Core Synergistic, Cardio, Shoulders & Arms, Legs & Back, Plyometric, Yoga X and Kenpo X workouts. Thanks, I know I'm asking a lot, but with it getting cold I really need indoor exercise, thanks!

     Elder Luening, Holy smokes congrats on being the longest zone leader. I bet in your last two or three months you will become an Assistant to the Mission President! You are the best!! Don't get too stressed, just know that as you do your best the Lord is pleased J!

     Kassandra, man things are sure moving forward. I didn't know you were looking for nannying  jobs, but that’s cool! Good luck I hope you find something fast. Why is Scott working, I thought he was in his last year of school? I hope things keep going well for you both and good-job for being the Cooking Queen at Thanksgiving.

    Mom and Dad, thanks so much for everything you do. Don't get stressed out about the family communication seminar that you have to do. You two are communicating pro's. I think the thing that always stands out to me the most, is just the fact that you two always took the time to sit down and talk to us. Even though you two were always busy with work and errands you would just sit down and take the time to give us your attention and just talk. So thank-you for always being there for us! I love you so much and appreciate even more now all you have done for us as a family. You two are the greatest parents in the world, seriously!!

Anyways, I gotta go. Sister S. and I are sharing a P-day with 6 other Sisters today and we are going to go the The World War I National Museum, I am so excited! I love you all and hope you have a great week, and I can't wait to hear from you next week!

Love, Sister Luening

October 16,2013, Independence, Missouri

Oct 16

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

     It sounds like (Mom, Dad, Kass and Scott) had a great Thanksgiving at Kassandra's place! I did not get to eat pumpkin pie, but I did have a slice of home-made pecan pie, which was delicious! Also my companion and I are planning on making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. It’s a super easy delicious recipe all it takes is spice cake mix and then you mix in a can of pumpkin puree and chocolate chips. 3 ingredients stir it together drop on parchment paper and bake...Delicious!!  `

     Elder Ballard came this last weekend to Liberty (20 minutes away from Independence) in Celebration of 50 years since the Historic Liberty Jail Visitor Center was dedicated. It was really neat to be able to hear from him and be able to sing for him at the Fireside he held at the Liberty Stake Center.

     This last week has continued to be slow going for missionary work. It has been near impossible to set up appointments with investigators and we have not been able to find any new investigators. We did have a lot of meetings last week, which just reminded us of the importance to keep moving forward with steadfast faith in Christ and to build stronger relationships with our companions. As we show the Lord that we are working hard I know he will provide us with miracles.

      We have been struggling to teach our Palauan investigator I., but last week we had a really good lesson with him on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It went really smoothly and he seemed to understand it. He is progressing in the sense that he comes to church and does his reading assignments, as for really trying to find out if this is the only true gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. That is where we need to start focusing with him, because I don't think he really grasps why knowing that would be so important for him and what that would mean for him in his life.

     Also, sister S. and I have decided we need to make it a priority to build a greater relationship between us, the full time missionaries, and the Ward leaders. Right now there is basically no relationship and it is definitely keeping the missionary work from moving forward and allowing the members to get more involved in missionary work and be excited to do missionary work. We have tried setting up appointments to meet with the Bishop to get to know him and find out how we can best help him and the Ward, but he has yet to get back to us on that. Also, we set up a time to meet with our ward mission leader (outside of our correlation meeting) to try and see what he really expects of us as missionaries and how we can help ease the workload he has. We were supposed to meet with him last night, but he cancelled. It’s been frustrating for Sister S. and I to know how to build a better relationship with our Ward leaders when they don't seem to think that it is very important and is definitely not at the top of their list of things they feel is  But hopefully tonight at Ward correlation meeting we can get things moving along better and come together to figure out what things need to happen for the members to get more excited about missionary work and what we as missionaries and ward leaders can do to strengthen the Ward and the missionary efforts.

     Right now we have 3 sets of missionaries in our ward. We have a set of Spanish speaking Elders, English speaking Elders and then us Sisters. So there is definitely a lot of good we can do for missionary work in the ward, but that work can only move forward as long as the members take part in the missionary effort. In Preach My Gospel,  it says "nothing happens in missionary work until you find someone to teach". It is so true and I have been able to witness that especially over the last week. But we have been blessed with some service opportunities this last week.

     When we were at a members home for dinner we took initiative and did their dishes, which was great. Then yesterday when we were out in our area we went to a potential investigators home. We met her about 6 weeks ago but could never get a hold of her until yesterday. We asked if she remembered us and if she remembered what we had talked about it, she said she remembered but she had been sick over that last few weeks and was still sick. We asked if we could do anything for her. Sister S. was very adamant and asked if there were even any dishes we could wash. The woman said she had a sink full of dishes she hadn't cleaned so we stepped inside and tried to get to know her while we cleaned her dishes. It was awesome. We then also quickly ran to the store for her to get a few groceries she couldn't get because of lack of transportation. She was really touched by out kind acts of service and she said she hadn't been to church in a while. We asked if she went to a specific church and she said not really. Sister S. asked her if we were able to get her a ride to church if she would come to church with us. She asked what time the services are and when we said 8:30AM, she nearly had a heart attack and said she would come if there was a later service. We set up a time for next week to give her a church tour and teach her a lesson. Hopefully by then the Lord will have inspired us to know what to do about how to convince her to come with us to church even though it is very early. Sister S. seemed at a loss of what to do, but I was able to remind her that God works miracles and I know that he can help us know how to get this woman to church with us J!

     I also, took some cool presentations on Monday (Thanksgiving) at the Visitor Center. There was a bus tour of 96 people that came into the Visitor Center. We split them into 4 groups and each took a group through the whole Visitor Center. Bus groups are always crazy because they are on a strict schedule and so you can only share the bare minimum with them. I also took a senior couple through, who were just so sweet! I had to do the whole presentation out of order, but they didn't know the difference, ha-ha! They shared some really neat insights and were just full of so much love!

    There was also a couple in their late 40's from Utah that came in. I found out the lady's sister lives in Ephrata, small world eh?! Anyways as I took them through the Visitor Center I found out they have a daughter who's been on a mission for 4 months, same as me. As I took them through the history it was cool to see how the Spirit was able to work with me to be able to ask inspired questions and for their hearts to be open to receiving personal revelation. Throughout the presentation I was inspired to bring up how creating a place of Zion in our lives means we need to live worthy of having the Spirit with us, and as we have the Spirit we will be more prepared to share the gospel with others and the Spirit will help us know what to say as we open our mouths. I relayed to them how it isn't any easier for us as missionaries to share the gospel as it is for anyone else, we still need to be willing to open our mouths and share what we know to be true, they will feel the Holy Ghost touch their hearts. I think that is something a lot of people forget: We do not convert people; that are something only the Spirit can do!

   Anyway, I guess looking back on the week, it hasn't been too shabby of a week. Even though Sister S. and I haven't been able to spend much time in our area and haven't had much luck finding people, we have had service opportunities and miracles happen at the Visitor Center as we have been able to uplift and strengthen members who come in. I know the church is true and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be on a mission.

     Yesterday during lunch sister S. and I sat and discussed how much we have really learned about the gospel by being on missions. It is amazing! We really didn't know very much about the true meaning and blessing of the gospel in our lives. Sister S. sat in awe as she wondered how she could of been so ignorant to so many truths the gospel contains when she has been raised in the gospel her entire life. That is all part of God's Plan for us. This life is to give us knowledge of our Heavenly Father and a firm testimony in His son Jesus Christ; that knowledge can only come by experience!

The gospel is true and I love you all!


Sister Luening

P.S. Our mission President's wife told us Christmas packages our parents send should be sent no later than December 2nd if you want them to arrive in time for Christmas. So, if you and the family want Christmas present ideas, I would love love love love love to get a ton of EFY CD's. I have no music and other than MOTAB, EFY music is the only music that is approved, so I would love to get a bunch of EFY Albums for Christmas, or in any random packages you send ;) I know they have Albums from about 1996-2013, so there are a lot of options, but I would really like to receive at least EFY 2003, EFY 2004, and EFY 2013, please and thank-you! Love you lots! XOXOXOX

October 9. 2013, Independence Missouri

Dear Family, 

     Wow, it sounds like so much has gone on since I talked to you last. It makes it seem like it has been weeks since I have heard from you rather just 7 days. I want Jeremy to know that I am proud of him and his decision. I know that he has taken the right step that all too often is hard for people to take and I am excited that he still has the fire to get back out in the field when he is ready. I'm sorry to hear about Grandma. Tell her I love her and I hope she recovers quickly. Also tell her and grandpa that they need to take it easy....they aren't invincible like us! J!

     This week has been quite strange with transfers and everything. I love Sister S. She is a great missionary. It is funny how a new companion really does cause you to need to adapt a little differently and causes you to grow in different ways. Being with Sister A. has shown me how I can be a better missionary and she really was an example for me. Now being with Sister S., I feel like I have more opportunities to really apply what I learned from Sister A, which is cool. I am starting to see how much I am growing as a missionary through the Lord and the people he brings into my life. We were able to teach I., our Palauan investigator. Sister S. and I had really great comp unity in that lesson and were definitely led and guided by the spirit as one of us would ask the same question the other had felt inspired to ask. A lot of our time outside the Visitor Center has been filled up with trying to get each other on the same page of what is going on in the area since Sister S. is new to the Independence 2nd ward. But yesterday we finally got to go out in our area and try to find people and share the gospel with them. It was so great to be able to just approach people and even if they weren't interested, plant that seed and feel good just knowing that I was sharing what I know to be true; that I am fulfilling my purpose and being a representative of Jesus Christ.

     Conference was so wonderful ! I love conference. I missed about an hour of the Saturday afternoon and an hour of the Sunday morning session because of taking Presentations at the Visitor center. But from what I did catch from the conference, was amazing! I felt like a large focus of this conference was reminding us to stick true to God's law and that it does NOT change. "Sin even if it is legalized by men is still sin"- I just loved that quote by Elder Nelson and went perfectly with elder Oakes talk on priorities.

     On Monday I took a presentation at the Visitor Center and as I was relaying the history, I started to see some patterns of how Joseph smith received revelation and in turn how we can receive personal revelation. As I looked at Joseph Smith and the way he came to receive the revelation that Zion was to be established in Independence. He first received revelation for the saints to gather in the west (he didn't know exactly where the location of Zion would be, but as he acted on what God had called him to do and took the steps of faith and came west with the some of the early saints, he received the further revelation that Zion would be established in the place they had come to- Independence). It came into my mind that we really are given commandments and guidance, line upon line; precept upon precept as we apply into our lives the counsel and commandments that are already before us. Also, personal revelation will most likely only come as we have questions. Almost all the revelation Joseph Smith received came from a question he had. As we live the principles we already know to be true and apply them into our lives and truly seek after wisdom, having a desire to learn, we will be more ready and open to receive personal revelation through questions that come into our hearts and minds.

I love this gospel and I know it to be true. I know that Jesus Christ was the key to the plan that God had for us. That it is through Christ and his atonement that we are able to become perfect. As we align our will with God's will we are able to really prioritize the things of most importance and of eternal value. I'm so thankful for a living prophet on the earth today and for his apostles who truly are called of God and inspired to lead and guide this church. It is moving forward rapidly and I know in this crazy world of man that by being grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will be able to stay afloat amongst the harsh waves that beat upon us and that we will be that "rock, the river cannot wash away".

I love you all and I am proud of the decisions you are all making to come closer to Christ. I know that God is real, and that His Son Jesus Christ is real. They are aware of each of us and the challenges that lie in our way. They know how to help us get through the trials and tests of faith. I love what Elder Holland said: " Never lose faith in our loving Heavenly Father who loves us. God's love is always there, whether we deserve it or not. God's love is always there!....If the bitter cup does not leave; drink it and look forward to better days. Hold Fast to Hope!!"

Love, Sister Luening 

October 2, 2013, Independence Missouri

Dear Family,  
     I also forgot to mention that we had quite the eventful evening at the Visitor Center on Saturday during the Relief Society Broadcast.  I think I caught about 15 minutes of it. I was on shift at the Visitor Center but we set up the broadcast downstairs so we could watch it if it wasn't too busy there. Well at 7:00PM no one was touring so we headed downstairs to watch it. About one minute into the broadcast the fire alarms and lights went off. It was so loud. It turned out poor Sister Erickson had burned her toast so badly in the toaster it was charred black. There was so much smoke in the lunch room. We stood on chairs and fanned the smoke detector for a good 10 minutes, but it wouldn't turn off. We waited for the fire truck to come and the fire men tried to disarm the alarm but it wouldn't shut off. Finally an hour later they were able to disarm the fire alarm. We sisters went outside with a laptop and tried to watch the rest of the broadcast. I'm definitely going to need to watch the broadcast from beginning to end though, because I don't remember anything of the 15 minutes I caught. It was a crazy evening, but we got some pretty good pictures with the firemen out of it, lol!

Sister Luening

October 2, 2013, Independence, Missouri

Dear Family,

     I don't have much time to write this week because we have a crazy P-day schedule of fun filled activities since it is Sister Allen's last day in the mission field.

     Thanks mom for the package, I was so excited to have those clothes. I am staying another transfer here in Independence. I say good-bye to Sister Allen tomorrow and I get my new companion, Sister S.  tomorrow. Apparently she is very energetic, over the top enthusiastic, laughs really loud and is a hard worker. I'm excited to meet her tomorrow and really sad to see Sister Allen go. She has been an amazing companion and the hardest worker I know.

     This week has been wonderful. We have been truly blessed to have been able to meet with some of our new investigators and invite quite a few of them to baptism. One lady we are working with is a member’s mom. She is in her 80's and she is a very sweet lady. She is RLDS, but very open and willing to learn. Sister Allen and I invited her to baptism, but she didn't commit to a date. She said she would definitely pray about it and watch General Conference, so I am excited to follow-up with her and continue teaching her.

     We also met with another investigator named M. She is 18 years old and searching to know if her father's religion (Baptist) or her mother's religion (LDS) is true. She said she really wants to rebuild her faith in Christ and follow him. We invited her to be baptized on November 10th, but it kind of scared her and she said she didn't want to rush into things. She wants to make sure she is doing this because she knows it is true. I have grown such a deep love for her already. She really is such a sweet bubbly girl. Yesterday,

     Sister A. and I met with a lady named J., who we found about a month ago. We set mulitple appointments but things always fell through. We were finally able to get into her home yesterday and teach her lesson one. It was so powerful. I could really feel the spirit and Sister Allen and I were definitely in tune with the spirit and in unity with one another. The member we brought was also just wonderful in bearing her own testimony. Sister A. invited her to be baptized and she has committed to preparing to be baptized on November 2nd. We are so excited and Jamie said she is excited to really get back into church, scripture study and building that faith in Christ even more. She is such a sweetheart and having 3 young kids of her own, family is extremely important to her.

     Sister A and I have been really blessed this last week. Even though some of our investigators don't feel ready to commit to a specific date, I feel good in the fact that I asked and invited them to truly change and repent, by following Jesus Christ. I am excited to continue working with these children of God who are truly searching for truth. I'm so thankful for the time that I have been able to spend serving with Sister A. She has been an incredible missionary. I'm going to miss her so much, but I am excited to serve with Sister S.

     Kassandra it was really good to hear from you. I'm glad to hear that you have been having a blast with family history. That is something I want to get into when I get home.

      Elder Luning and Anziano Luening, keep up the great work. I will print off your e-mails and respond next week. You two are amazing and drive me to be even better. You two are amazing examples to me and I pray that you will be kept safe and be able to find those that are prepared to hear the message of truth!

       Mom and Dad, I love you so much! You are the hardest workers I know! Thanks for raising us in the gospel and never giving up even when times were hard and us kids were crazy. I appreciate so much having been raised in the gospel. Being here in Independence and serving in the poorest area, is such an eye opener to me. So many families here are falling apart, and I'm so thankful for the gospel that truly unified our family and brought love and peace into our home. I love you!

      All my love,

Sister Luening

September 25, 2013, Independence, Missouri

Sept 23
Dear Family,

     This week has been crazy!! So last week after P-day I was so excited to go to a teaching appointment with the miracle lady whose house stood out to me and wanted to learn more. Well, when we went to go to our teaching appointment she wasn't home. I was so sad!  Later in the week we called her, and she said she had an emergency out in Nebraska so she wouldn't be back for a few weeks. So, we're going to have to wait a few weeks before we can get back in contact with her again. We'll just have to leave her completely in the Lord's hands for a little longer.

Last Thursday was my first Zone Conference! It was so good. Sister Allen was quite emotional because it was her last one and President Keyes had all the departing missionaries get up to bear their testimony, and she was one of those missionaries. A lot of the focus has been on leading by the Book of Mormon. They said that we get too comfortable when tracting relying on pamphlets and cards, when really, if we want to have success as missionaries, we need to be introducing the Book of Mormon at the very first interaction with people. So we did some role plays of street contacting and stuff. Sister Allen and I have really been making that a focus this last week and we really have seen so many miracles. Since last Thursday we have found six new investigators. We have truly been blessed as we have applied the council of our leaders.

     Also in that Zone Conference we found out we are one of two missions involved in a piloting program called " Adjusting to Missionary Life". It is a booklet to help missionaries adjust to mission life and help them keep their stress levels under control. It is a really neat booklet. It has scriptures in it, self-assessment tests, quotes from apostles and just good to know info. It is pretty cool. When sister Allen saw it she was like, " Wow, I really wish I would have had that 18 months ago!!".

      Oh yeah, did I ever tell you that our mission got split about a month before I came out. So, pretty much the entire state of Kansas is no longer in my mission. They split the mission in half and so now there  is the Missouri, Independence Mission and the Kansas, Witchita Mission. Just something I think I forgot to tell you at the beginning of my mission. Another part of the Conference talked about us being " All In!". President Keyes really emphasized the blessings and success that will come to us as a mission as we individually and collectively really put in ALL of our heart, might, mind and strength. He basically said that we won't be perfect right away but as we really show the Lord our commitment to do all he asks, God will be able to mold us and perfect us into the servants He sees we can become.

On Sunday we had three investigators come to Church - it was a miracle!! And of course, this Sunday had to be the Sunday where we had crazy speakers at Sacrament meeting! It was so bad!! Seriously, I was in such disbelief of what was being said, and that it had to be the Sunday when we finally had investigators come, that I couldn't stop laughing. I felt so irreverant, but it was all I could do to not cry, lol! So here are some of the highlights. We had two speakers, the first was okay and spoke on loving one another, so that was fine. But our last speaker spoke for 30 minutes, and he was supposed to talk about forgiveness. For the first 15 minutes he talked about how he was from Samoa and his efforts to get into the military and how some guy told him he could never get into the marines, but he showed him up by passing all the tests with perfect scores (so not really relevant to his topic on forgiveness). Later he went on and a shared about a 2 minute personal experience on how he forgave his brother, which was really good. Then out of nowhere he starts talking about Nephi being commanded to, "take Laban's sword, because Laban was DRUNK! And God told him to smite off his head". Okay! So this where Sister Allen and I started freaking out. We knew our one investigator drinks and we also have a little bit of a language barrier because he from Palau.  He went off for a little bit about how it was because Laban was drunk that he smote off Laban's head. We could not believe what was going on and I just lost it! I was muffling my laughs, but even a member of the bishopric on the stand was trying not to laugh because he was in disbelief of what was going on. After about 5 minutes I finally got control of myself and then the speaker flipped gears again and tells of an experience where he was in the hospital ( I think maybe he was trying to tie it into the previous talk on love) and his wife washed his feet. He related it to the woman washing Jesus's feet. He looks into the congregation with the most serious look on his face and says: " Husbands, when is the last time your wives washed your feet? And women, when was the last time you washed your husband’s feet? You need to wash your husband’s feet!". He ended his talk like that, and the sacrament meeting ended on that note. First of all I couldn't believe the Bishopric allowed him to be up there for 30 minutes. Second of all, okay at least if you aren't going to say anything to him up on the stand, at least have a member of the Bishopric bear their testimony to end the sacrament meeting on a spiritual note. I just couldn't believe that happened. It was awful!!

Luckily the Lord heard our prayer, because our investigators weren't turned off by anything that was said. But on Monday when we met with our Palauan investigator I., we asked how he enjoyed church with us. He said it was okay, but that he felt like he didn't hear any doctrine. Sister Allen and I just looked at each other in agreement that yup, I. was right, there was no real doctrine testified of in that sacrament meeting....pretty sad! Anyways we had a good lesson with him and gave him a Palauan Book of Mormon which he has already started reading. He called us the other day and said he wants to meet with us again this week and come to church with us again. So that is really cool

      Monday was our full proselyting day and we managed to find 4 new investigators and we're excited to meet with them all later this week. Also, yesterday we got to go the temple which was amazing! Felt like a whole new experience, yet was still the same. I like the changes that have been made. I love the temple so much!

     We got some bad news this week. J., our investigator who's baptismal date we are moving, texted us last night and said there are some family issues in Conneticut that he has to go help out with, so he leaves on Friday. We don't know how long he'll be gone, and I am really sad that he is leaving, especially since he was progressing so much! I was really bummed about it last night.

     Also, we met with another investigator that we have been tag teaming with the Elders. The elders meet with her on Sunday and we meet with her on Tuesday. In the last 3 weeks she has been progressing so much and I invited her to church this week. She said church is something she struggles with because of childhood experiences, but she said she wants to come, but her very less active husband won't let her. It is so sad! She has progessed so much and now her spiritual progression has been halted because of her husband. We're pretty sure we are going to have to drop her, because there is no way we can keep inviting her to come to church and place a divide between her and her husband. So we have possibly lost 2 of our three progessing investigators.

     Also, we found out last night that one of our sister missionaries is going home today because of health issues. Last Thursday she had a really bad allergic reaction. She breaks out in hives, her throat swells up and her whole body aches. They think this reaction is triggered by stress, because it has happened once before on her mission and she said it is something she has had since she was an infant. She spent the day in the hospital and has basically been on bed rest for the last 5 days. I guess her mental state is just not good right now, and it is really having a dangerous effect on her physical well-being. So she is going home today and getting tests done to know what really triggers these reactions.

      All in all it has been a crazy week, but we have seen many miracles as well. I'm just so thankful for a functioning body and mind. So many people we meet on the streets at night, worry about us and ask if we at least carry mace with us. I guess downtown Independence is actually a pretty dangerous place. So, I'm also thankful for how much the Lord watches over and protects us. 

     I'm starting to get a little nervous with transfers coming up next Thursday. Sister Allen has finally grasped the fact that she is going home, so she seems to be handling the stress of it all really well. She is a champion of a missionary. I told her I really want to take the lead in what we do this week, since she will be leaving soon and I have no idea what will happen with transfers. What I do know is that I'll be getting a new companion...again, lol!

I love you all and hope you are having a great week!

Dad, thanks for you e-mail! I'm glad to hear that you are still having fun with the youth. Good Luck on the scout camp and hope you don't feel too sore this week from volleyball!

Mom, thanks for sending the package I told you my sizes for sweaters and stuff in the other e-mail. I love you so much and am so thankful for how much you and dad sacrifice for me! You truly are the most amazing parents in the world!

Elder Luening and Anziano Luening, keep up the great missionary work!

Love Sister Luening