Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 20, 2014, Kearney, Missouri

Dear Family,

Yup, another week come and gone. On Sunday, only one of our investigators came to church which was a little disappointing, but we were able to take 2 of our investigators and one of our recent converts to the " Mission President's Devotional". It is a fireside where recent converts are invited to come share their experience with joining the church, and they get to bear their testimony. It happens about twice a month. It usually switches locations between the Independence Visitor Center and The Historic Liberty Jail. This last Sunday it was at the Historic Liberty Jail. We were able to take our investigators and recent convert through a presentation of the Historic Liberty Jail before President's Devotional started. It was so great to hear the testimonies of 6 recent converts. They were so sweet and powerful!

Going to the Liberty Jail, I was also able to see Sister Jacobs, one of the sisters from my MTC District. She reminded me that today, Sunday, was the”7 Month Mark” of our mission! It kind of stressed me out, ha-ha! I also met with my first trainer, Sister Halverstadt, who I get to go on exchanges with on Thursday. I am so excited !
J I also saw Sister Grange from Washington State, who I lived in the same apartment building with and served with at the Visitor Center for the first 5 months of my mission. So, we had became great friends!! She goes home in 2 weeks! I am going to miss her so much! I also saw another sister from the Visitor Center that I went on exchanges with once and I also saw the Visitor Center Directors, Elder and Sister Brenchley! It was awesome to be able to see so many missionaries that I know! J

Otherwise we had another cool miracle this week. So, the Elder's gave us a referral for a young woman in her 20's with a little girl. We went to go see her for the first time and we knocked and the door. To our surprise a guy in his mid-20's answered the door. In my mind I was quickly trying to decide if we should ask for Alisha, the girl the guys told us to contact, or if we should do our usual kind of door approach to see if he was interested. Well, Sister Morris piped up and started talking to him and told him who we were (we didn't mention Alisha). We found out he had just moved here from Blue Springs, which just happened to be Sister Morris's last area. We found out he is more spiritual and doesn't attend church, but he said he was a truth seeker. We talked to him at his door for about 10 minutes, and then he was shivering like crazy and asked if he could grab his coat. It was about -5C outside, so after he grabbed his coat and came back out on his porch. We taught him about the message of the restoration for about 20 minutes. It was so cool! He was so excited when he heard about Joseph Smith's experience! We gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited him to read it and pray about it. He was so excited and said that he accepts our invitation. We asked him if we could come by another day, so we are going to see him on Thursday.
J It was so cool! He just seemed so excited about everything we asked him about and taught him. He was absolutely right when he said that he was "seeking for truth".


Also, on Thursday we are meeting at Bishop's house to teach his neighbour family the message of the restoration, so we are really excited for that. Bishop Walker is awesome! He has come up with a plan to invite us over every Monday night for FHE along with three other member families. Together we will decide how we can best help less-actives in their area and also bounce off ideas of people they know who might be ready for the gospel, to give us more referrals. Last Monday it worked really well. He invited two families that lived in the same area, and we discussed who they know, or who they are working with, that they want to share the gospel with. They ended up discussing for a whole hour a list of people they want to share the gospel with or invite to activities. So, we received about 3 referrals out of it, which was really cool and helped make a game plan as to how they can easily and non-threateningly share the gospel with these people. It was really cool! I'm excited to see how this continues, because now the members are really getting involved in the missionary work. It is awesome! 

Actually the other day I was reading in Alma 22, the account of Aaron teaching King Lamoni's Father about the gospel and it reminded me of how important the help of members is. In verses 18-26 and Alma 23: 1-5, I’ll sum it up: basically King Lamoni is struck dumb, the queen and his servants fear and are angry with Aaron and his brethren because they don't understand what is going on. It isn't until King Lamoni's father wakes up and tells them how blessed he is and testifies to them about the gospel that their hearts are softened. (He shares the gospel with his friends/family and bears his testimony- member missionary work). Then after telling them about the gospel and sharing his testimony he invites Aaron and his brethren to teach his household (referral).  Their hearts are softened (they have fellowship from King Lamoni- member) and then they are baptized. They all share their testimonies and King Lamoni tells them to go throughout the city to preach, " ...and thus they began to have great success. And thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord..." ( Alma 23:4-5). So cool, the importance of member missionary work and the success that comes is right in the scriptures! It is like Elder Luening mentioned about what President Hinckley said: 
“If the members would do their missionary work the number of convert baptisms would double!”

I love the gospel and I have seen how much difference it makes when members really are involved with the missionaries and the success that comes when we, as members and missionaries, are yoked together in the efforts of bringing others unto Christ. I love you all and hope things keep going well. I hope you are praying for and are seeking out missionary opportunities and take hold of them when they come. I pray for you, love you and hope you see the blessings that come from being so anxiously engaged in the work of our Father in Heaven.


Sister Luening 

January 13, 2014, Kearney, Missouri

Dear Family,

 Well, like everyone else this week in their e-mail, I guess I will begin with "another week come and gone". It was really great to hear from all of you. Kass, your story about the toddler wondering if you are pregnant made me laugh! Elder Luening, I'm glad to see that you are still ridiculous as always. But hey, I think your "boy band" picture could totally make the cover of Teen Magazine, lol! Maybe you will be the next J Biebs, ha-ha! Mom, I'm glad to hear that you have been able to handle everything well so far, and that you haven't been super stressed out. Dad, I always love your e-mails and your high council talks you send. They are always uplifting and inspiring.

Well, this week has been CRAZY!! (I probably say this every week). So the first 4 days of the week we didn't see much success but we worked hard. Then suddenly during the weekend the heavens opened and Sister Morris and I seriously had so many blessings pour out on us we really don't have enough room to receive it. It is so awesome!!


So on Friday Sister Morris and I were in Plattesburg, and that morning during comp study we discussed how we can come to recognize the spirit more and be led to where we need to go. Well, we went out and ended up at this apartment complex area. We were going to try a person at the apartment #406. As we parked in the parking lot, I looked over and saw this one apartment door that said 404 on it. I asked Sister Morris if the apartment # we were going to try was 404, she corrected me and told me it was 406. After getting out of the car, I asked Sister Morris again if it was 404, again she corrected me. I just kept looking over at that door. So as I went to walk past, I stopped and looked at Sister Morris and said, “We need to try this door.” She agreed, and we knocked on it. Wel,l a lady in her late 30's answered. We told her who we were and asked her about her religious background. She said she was more spiritual than religiou, because she didn't go to any specific church. We continued to talk with her and she invited us inside. We asked her about her three daughters who were 3, 5 and 13. She told us she never went to church because she felt like she just didn't belong anywhere. We taught her about the restoration and the importance of families. She said that she would read the book of Mormon and pray about it and said we could come back on Tuesday. It was so cool! And it was really ironic how we started off that morning feeling like we are terrible at recognizing the spirit and then it was ultimately the Spirit that led us to her door!

On Saturday, Sister Morris and I taught our investigator, Scott (the goat man). We read over 2 Nephi 31 with him and tried to help him see the importance of baptism and what it will do for him. We were able to resolve some concerns he had about baptism and our Ward Mission Leader came with us to teach him. It went really well. We found out the main concern he has is that he doesn't like big groups of people and he is very emotiona,l so he is worried he will cry in front of people at his baptism. He committed to being baptized on February 15th, and we are hoping we can help him feel more comfortable by then. He also hasn't come to church yet because of his social anxieties. After meeting with him, we went to visit a less-active member. She has a lot of non-members living with her right now and as we met with her and a lady named Tracy that lives with her, we found out that Tracy wants to learn more about the church. She also really wants to come to church. So it was a double miracle because we found a new investigator who  will be a great pusher for getting our less active to come back to church.


Then Saturday night we got a call from M. (18 year old investigator who we decided to drop on Thursday because he stood us up three times in a row and wasn't keeping his commitments). Well, it is 9:30pm and we get a call from him. I answer the phone and he told us he was coming to church. He told us he knows the Elder's recent convert, Melanie, and that he will be coming to church with her tomorrow. We were really excited! Then he proceeded to tell us that he really did still want to learn, and asked when he could get baptized. I was in shock and had to get my bearings for a second, then invited him to be baptized on February 1st. After hanging up the phone Sister Morris and I sat in shock trying to figure out what just happened. Then Melanie texted us and told us she would be bringing another friend to church named Marissa who wants to start meeting with missionaries. At 9:57pm we got another call from M. He told us he had read 1 Nephi 1 and prayed about it. It's crazy how an investigator having fellowship with someone from the church can make the biggest difference! Before he was really quiet and didn't seem too interested, and now he is so excited and just eager to learn and change his life. So on Saturday we were able to get 3 new investigators and 2 investigators on date for baptism....IT WAS A HUGE MIRACLE!!

M. and Marissa, Melanie's friend, came to church and we were able to set up an appointment to teach them that night at a member's home, the Thompson's. The Thompson's are the most amazing member missionary family I have ever seen!! They allowed the Elder's to teach Melanie in their home and even now after her baptism have invited her to come over nightly for scripture study. They are amazing. They have a daughter on a mission and now they are excited to have Marissa and M. in their home for us to teach. Also earlier in the week, Bishop told us his non-member neighbours would be coming to church on Sunday and he wanted us to come to dinner on Sunday evening to teach them. They came and they loved church! They told us they felt so welcome and it felt like family. They told us they want to learn more about the church and have been wanting to find a good church to go to and raise their boys in. They are going to come next week, and Bishop told us he would set up teaching appointments with them and let us know! He had also invited another non-member family for dinner who are from Mexico and work for him. They were so sweet, and Bishop ended up giving them copies of the Book of Mormon in Spanish, and the wife promised she would read it. He is amazing!! So all of a sudden in the course of 24 hours we went from having 1 new investigator to 6 new investigators, and 5 of them came to church!! It is amazing!! And it was all because of the Lord and our members, it definitely had nothing to do with us!!


Sister Morris and I have been MEGA blessed!! We're excited to see how our investigators progress and we are even more excited to see how enthusiastic our members are right now about missionary work! We hope that fire keeps burning! This Wednesday we have interviews with our Mission President, so I am excited for those, and otherwise things seem to be looking up! Our poor Elders started the week off with having 7 investigators on date, now they are down to one. We aren't kidding when we say when they are up we are down, and we are up they are down. It is ridiculous! I wish all of us could just be up all the time. Anyways, I love you all and hope you have a great week!!

Sister Luening

January 6, 2014, Kearney, Missouri


Dear Family,

Holy Cow, Elder Luening, sounds like you had a close call....I think that might have been the spirit telling you not to keep walking, ha-ha! Glad you were protected. Mom, Dad, Kass, Scott, and Jeremy I'm glad you had a great New Year's. Sister Morris and I lit a sparkler, but otherwise we were told to do our normal missionary routine. So, we were outside until 9pm and then went to bed at 10:30pm and the next morning said "Happy New Year"! J

Another week has come and gone, and it is soooo COLD!! Today they actually shut down the Kearney schools because the temperature in Celsius is -20 outside with a -35 wind-chill!! CRAZY!! Even President Keyes told us not to be outside because within 8 minutes if your skin is exposed you will get frostbite, causing permanent damage. That includes your face. So it is cold!!!
Last week was hard, but we were diligent and we were blessed! All week we basically just tracted, and on Thursday we had such a huge miracle. The night before in our planning I felt like we needed to put a half hour break in between our studies and our weekly planning (which we never do), and after the break planned out the rest of our activities. Well the next morning about 10 minutes before we finished our studies, the sisters called us and said they were in a predicament and needed a ride somewhere. The ride we gave them ended up taking up that 30 minute time slot perfectly. We followed the rest of our plans that day and it was amazing. We happened to catch a less-active just at the right time at her house, and we were able to spend 30 minutes talking with her, and she said she just kept telling us that she appreciated the visit so much and really needed it. Then as we left and were driving down the road, an investigator we dropped a few weeks ago was riding his bike. We waved to him and pulled over. He expressed to us he still wants to keep learning and we were able to set up an appointment with him for this week. Then we stopped by another less-active and we just dropped in at the right time because she had just gotten off the phone, after being on hold forever and we were able to make some real break-throughs with her. So the way everything was timed and fell into place was incredible!!

The weather the last few days has been kind of crazy. But, we have been blessed to have been given a car for the whole month of January. On Saturday we had appointments fall through and we didn't have too much success tracting, but we worked hard and we knew blessings would come. On Sunday Church was cancelled because a snow storm had rolled in the night before, but we were encouraged by our Zone Leaders to still go out and work, but drive carefully. Sister Morris and I planned the night before that we would tract out a few apartment complexes. The first two doors we tried didn't want to hear what we had to say. Sister Morris already isn't a big fan of tracting, and so she told me she just needed a few minutes to get in the mindset. I gave her a few minutes to collect herself, and then we up to the second floor. Well, the first door we tried on the second floor, a Chinese lady answered. Her daughter and mother were there. We told her why we were knocking on her door and she invited us in. We had a great discussion with her daughter who was our age. She was an exchange student from China going to school in Arizona. Three of them didn't know very much English, but the daughter said when she goes back to Arizona in a few days she wants to develop her own faith and find out what her beliefs are. We left her with a card and she said she would check it out. We tried a few more doors but nobody answered. We headed to another apartment complex and said a prayer. The first door we knocked on, a lady answered and Sister Morris started telling her about the restoration. She said she was Lutheran and I asked her if she ever wondered what church was really Christ's church. She said she had. Sister Morris and I related Joseph Smith's experience and the Spirit was so strong. It was incredible!! We left her with a Book of Mormon, invited her to read and pray about it and asked if we could come back. She said we could, so we are going back on Tuesday. She was seriously a miracle and she seemed so sincere. 

 I'm so thankful for the gospel and for the spirit. I'm thankful that God's promises are real. That as we work diligently and move forward showing the Lord our faith that He will bless us. He won't withhold blessings from us. Sister Morris and I worked hard and even though we had some crazy and disappointing experiences along the way, we were able to find that one soul who needs the gospel and is ready for it. The other day I was reading in preach my gospel and there was a quote by Elder Dallin H Oaks that reminded me of our purpose as missionaries. He said, " We do not preach and teach in order to 'bring people into the Church....We do not preach and teach in order just to persuade people to live better lives....We invite all to come unto Christ by repentance and baptism and confirmation in order to open the doors of the celestial kingdom to the sons and daughters of God. No one else can do this".

As missionaries we are not just enabling others to live better lives and be happier, although that is a wonderful blessing from living the gospel. But we are here as missionaries to bring others unto Christ. That phrase "bring others unto Christ". It is as much literal as it is spiritual. The process they go through may be a spiritual journey at this time, but ultimately as they accept and live the gospel of Jesus Christ, God will "open the doors of the Celestial Kingdom” and they will literally be brought back into the presence of Jesus Christ and their Heavenly Father. What a miracle that is, what a blessing to be a part of. To be able to literally help others come to Jesus Christ! I'm so grateful for this gospel. I'm so grateful to be led and guided by men who hold the priesthood and truly are inspired in our day to lead us and direct us. Without the priesthood we would be lost. The priesthood is real, the gospel is true and as we follow its teachings in patience blessings come.

 I love you all and hope you have a great week! J

Love, Sister Luening

December 30,2013, Kearney,Missouri

Dear Family,

It was awesome to be able to see you on Christmas Day. It was kind of funny because afterwards the family who let us Skype at their house kept asking us if we were doing okay. They were so worried that our Skype home would make us sad afterwards. But I didn't feel sad at all, I was just glad to see everyone! J I realized afterwards that I should have asked you guys more questions...because I did a lot of talking. But, I guess I will keep that in mind for Mother's Day, ha-ha! Mom and Dad, I can't believe your Mission President had the whole mission read the whole Book of Mormon in one day! That is crazy!! But I guess that means you were able to accomplish one New Year's resolution in one day then! J

The last 10 days have been full of ups and downs and finally on Thursday I decided I needed to get a blessing. Everything just kind of caught up to me. I  was getting a little down on myself because our teaching pool has been empty for quite a  while and all we have been doing is tracting and in the course of 4 hours of tracting, we only have the opportunity to talk to maybe 4 or 5 people if we are lucky. So, on Thursday night I received a Priesthood blessing from our Elders. It was probably one of the coolest blessings I have ever received. It really helped me! The next morning I read through D&C 8 and 6, which later I realized were the sections dad told me to read when I was in the MTC. Section 6 is such an amazing section and is filled with so much good stuff! I'm so thankful for the power of the priesthood, the Holy Ghost and the scriptures. Through those three things I was definitely given more optimism and we worked really hard this weekend and we saw miracles. Our investigator, Scott is progressing. He read 1 Nephi 8 and he told us a lot of goals and aspirations he has for himself. We tried to help him see how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help him accomplish those goals. A big goal for him is to develop a greater relationship with his daughter. Also we were able to find a new investigator named Kayla. She is in her late 20's and has a few kids. We left her with the Book of Mormon which she said she would read and pray about. We are excited to see how she felt about it.

On Saturday night we attended Melanie's baptism, the Elder's investigator. As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw President and Sister Keyes get out of their car. Sister Morris and I started freaking out because we were speaking at the baptism and our mission President was now in attendance as well. The only thing that went kind of wrong was that the Elders didn't fill the font full enough and so after two attempts at baptizing Melanie, they ended up doing the baptism on their knees. But her elbow or foot came up after another 3 attempts to baptize her, so finally on the sixth try it was good! Overall it went really well and President and Sister Keyes brought such a sweet spirit to that baptism. Melanie brought her mom and her friend. It was kind of funny because we had randomly ran into Melanie's friend caroling on Christmas, so it was awesome to see her at the baptism. She also ended up coming to church. We can't teach her though, because she is in Kearney 1st ward boundaries, so the 1st Ward Sisters are working with her. 

Church was interesting. So, I had to speak on Sunday and I spoke on the character of Christ and mostly used the example of Satan tempting Christ while he was fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. I guess it went well. Then we missionaries sang silent night in Sacrament Meeting. I was supposed to do a descant, but my voice wouldn't let me, so I just sang it normal. Melanie's friend, Courtney came to church and it was so funny, because she asked if the guys and girls split up during Sunday School because she gets uncomfortable sometimes around boys. She said, "especially when we have to discuss awkward topics". I tried to help her overcome her concern by telling her that we wouldn't be talking about anything uncomfortable,  and that Sunday School is awesome....Well, we went into the gospel principles class and guess what the topic was,….. that's right, THE LAW OF CHASTITY!!! Seriously, what are the chances that out of 52 Sundays in a year, the one Sunday we really didn't want it to come up, it came up! It was actually really funny!

Also, Relief Society and Priesthood were combined for the last half of the meeting. We had a really neat experience in which the Bishop involved all of the auxiliaries in coming up with some Ward goals for the upcoming year. He had each auxiliary come up with a reactivation and new member goal. After all the auxiliaries came up with a goal he had them come together and the total Ward goal came out to be 36 baptisms and 30 reactivations. It was so inspired and it made each member in the ward feel accountable to those numbers because they took part in their own auxiliary. I'm really excited to see how this will motivate the Ward to really be anxiously engaged in more member missionary work. Well, things are going well and I am trying to see the miracles every day, and they are there. I love you all and I hope the move keeps going well with Uncle Blaine. Kass and Scott enjoy your time with Mom, Dad and Jeremy. Elder Luening, keep up the great work in Germany and I'm glad you had a great Christmas! J



Sister Luening