Monday, May 26, 2014

4 - Spring: A New Beginning

The fields are sprinkled with dandelions
Spring is here everyone! 

Oh! The dandelions are so beautiful! Everyone hates them, but I love them! 

It's so amazing seeing patches of yellow everywhere mixed in with the ripened dandelions, white and fluffy balls of cuteness. 

Pictures don't do it justice, you HAVE to see it in person, but I tried anyway.
"Ripe" White Dandelion

Pine trees and field
The big tree with "caterpillars"
And in this picture, there were fuzzy things that were blowing off of a biiiiig tree behind the pine trees and it was really cool and pretty, even though you can't see it much in the picture.

Maybe you can in this one? You can see the big trees at least:
Again, you have to be there.

Caterpillar looking things on the trees
But these were the things that were on the tree.

Aren't they so cute!

They look like caterpillars!

But then they grow this fuzz stuff that's really soft and it looks like the caterpillars just got really moldy, haha.

And these kinds of blossom trees are everywhere!
Flowering trees everywhere
Me throwing blossoms...where did they go?

So spring has come, and it's come fast. Not wearing tights at all anymore, not cold enough for that, and I was regretting aaaaall the times that I wore a long sleeved shirt this week, especially on Friday, because I heard that it was hotter here (in the 90's) than it was in Tempe (in the 80's)!

This Weeks Missionary Experiences

As far as the week goes, it was pretty good. Church is really the highlight of my week. Being surrounded by people who already have a testimony and who can edify and uplift you is reaaaaally nice, as opposed to mostly being the only ones who teach. It's nice to catch a break from that. So Sunday was great. We have an adorable little eight year old who we are teaching that is so cute and he is reading The Book of Mormon like crazy! He's reading the INDEX! Really, I don't know if he understands anything he's reading (as we had to tell him the story of Adam and Eve; he'd never heard it before), but he understands the importance of reading the scriptures. And he's already friends with someone in the ward who is getting baptized on the 7th, and so that's awesome! Man, he's awesome, I love this kid.

We had an investigator try to drop us this week, saying he had heard that we weren't a good Christian religion. We were so sad and pondering hard about what to do. We went over at our usual time despite his wanting to 'discontinue our services' and testified that we cared about him and that the only way to know if this church is a good Christian religion or not is to read The Book of Mormon itself.  It was really powerful. And he opened up to us about his life. He's had a rough one. And we knew that already, but yeah. It's amazing how people who've had such rough lives can still function. They're so strong despite them feeling so weak. I am amazed at his devotion to God and his ability to resist temptation even in the worst of times. We're teaching him still. He didn't drop us. Yay!

A lot of people are moving out of our ward and into the other ward. We had a transition lesson this week with the sisters who live with us because they're going to be teaching this lady now. Four missionaries at one appointment; it was a good thing she had a long couch, haha. I'm still learning how to be a better teacher. This lady was baptized already into the baptist religion. She feels she doesn't need to be baptized again. I have always dreaded these scenarios, though I knew they would happen. I tried to explain to the best of my ability why it was important for her to be baptized with someone with priesthood authority while at the same time not degrading her previous baptism. It was tense and I was doing most of the talking even though I was the newest missionary in the room, and I just hoped I was doing alright. She was nice to us even right after the lesson though. And Sister Christianson told me that I had a natural ability to teach. So that's comforting. I still want to become better and surer though.

Oh, and right after that lesson we went to do service at the temple! 
Putting Soil On planted flowers
Flowers ready to be planted

We planted some flowers. It was a beautiful day to do it.

Everyone pitched in. 

Sister Chistianson and Sister Neilson,
the other sisters who live in the apartment
My Companion, Sister Easter

It felt good to get out hands dirty. And to be working next to the other members.

Planning Ahead

Oh, and, we are going to the Temple on Wednesday next week! So our P-Day has been changed to Wednesday next week as well, so you won't hear from me until Wednesday. But I'm excited to go to the tiny little temple. I took some pictures in celebration.

Hamlet with Moroni in background
Hamlet is so cute. And look Marshall, I'm wearing your bracelet you gave me! Thank you for it again! You're the best! And that goes to all my family as well: You're the best!

Oh, and why I did not email on Monday was because it was Memorial Day, meaning the library was closed and it was a great day to proselyte, seeing as people were home. So P-day was changed to Tuesday this week. I hope you all had a good Memorial Day. 

Personal Growth and Revelation

My Memorial Day was very impactful. Every week we are to write a letter to the mission president to let him know how things are going. I would like to take some of the letter I wrote him and share it with you, this growing experience which happened yesterday:

"Be still, my soul: ...In ev'ry change [ye], faithful, will remain" (Be Still My Soul, Hymn 124. (Punctuation added.))

Yesterday was a pivotal point in my mission. I've voiced to you my concerns of being a realistic thinker and tending to think about things from both sides. There was a situation yesterday in which someone told us that if we ever felt so inclined to come back and she would be glad to get us started in believing in the 'one and true faith/God.' While my faith wasn't shaken, my resolve to stand by it was just because we also believe that ours is the most correct religion and I have respect for people who believe what they know so thoroughly that they want to share it with others even if it's a bit upfront. I mean, that's what we do. And that was the thing on top of less than ideal tracting approaches yesterday that put me in a slump and caused tears to roll down my face, having to hold back my sobs eventually. I now believe that one of the reasons I've been called to serve in this mission is to learn how to respond to people who have strong faith of their own and who will try to convert us themselves. And I need to learn not only how to respond, but also to resolve my response in my own mind. Sister Easter reminded me of the option of getting a priesthood blessing. She said she was thinking of getting one too. 

That blessing and the way Elder Schneringer and Davis prepped me for it by asking me, "why is Jesus Christ important to you?" and "what has the greatest joy been for you since coming on your mission?" (which has been attending church btw), and "what are your expectations in receiving this blessing?" was something that uplifted me more than anything else could have. What was said was simple, but I knew it was from my Heavenly Father, and I know that he will be with me as I serve my mission. I am so grateful for the priesthood power that is on Earth today. This truly is the church with the most correct teachings on this Earth. My testimony of the restoration has again been reinforced and I "will go forth with faith, putting fear behind me" in order to face the challenges of this mission and of this life and I will make it a strengthening experience. 

I seal this letter in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

3 - Many Different Missionaries

So I noticed that I never ever had time to give you pictures of my MTC district. So here we are!!

You know, when I was preparing to go on a mission, no one ever talked about how close you would get to the people you were with in the MTC. We bonded so much, I absolutely love them all. I could talk more about it, but that would take a long time, maybe I'll talk about them when I get home. But just know, they are awesome and I love each one of them and I'm very sad we can't email the elders in our mission.

It was really nice skyping home on Mother's day. It was so special to see my three younger brothers all there, all crowded around the laptop, and my grandma, and Dad, and of course, my dear mother. It was only a 45 minute call, but it was pretty perfect. I love you all! I'm praying for you every night!

Tuesday was a different kind of day because we had zone conference, so the night before two other sisters who drove down stayed in our apartment and everything. Basically it goes companionship (two missionaries), district (a few companionships), zone (a few districts). And we actually had two zones there, about... thirty missionaries give or take? It was nice because it was at the church we normally have meetings at. We here who are serving in Bismark didn't have to go out of our way to travel.

One of the best things that happened as a result of zone conference was on Monday (Preparation Day, P Day) playing basketball and volleyball with other people in the zone, having more people than usual to play with. Man, I've noticed, I absolutely looooove to play volleyball. It's about the funnest thing when you aren't worried about keeping score. And just playing with people who you know and you just laugh with them. I laugh the whole time, it's great! And I've noticed that I've grown to feel that way toward really anything we play. I used to hate sports with a passion! I guess it just depends on who you're playing it with and the reason behind why you're playing.

Zone conference is great, absolutely wonderful, because you have a chance to be spiritually energized and edified by the seasoned missionaries and all of the mission leaders. It's like a big fireside for missionaries. It was awesome. The talk that I loved the most was Elder Casey's talk. He talked on representing Christ with dignity. And he defined the words. Dignity- Worthy of respect and honor. Represent- Being appointed to speak in someone's stead. And he nailed the major fear that missionaries have of doing this. We are afraid we will lose our identity. We are afraid that we won't be able to express ourselves like we used to and change so much that we will be a different person entirely, which in some cases it might be a good thing, but we liked who we used to be... will we loose that? We don't want to give that up. He pointed out that fun and dignity can coexist. I loved this talk because we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints commit to "always remember [Christ]" every week when we take the sacrament. Thinking of that as representing Christ with dignity helps me to live that promise.

The other major event that happened this week was exchanges. We as missionaries go on exchanges every so often. I kiiiiinda knew about this before the mission field, but not really. On exchanges you swap companions; it's a great thing to mix it up a little bit because missionary work can get a bit monotonous, especially with the same companion day in and day out. I was very grateful for exchanges because I was able to see how someone else went about doing missionary work and was able to better get a feel for what I'm doing that I don't need to worry about as much or that I need to work on. It just made me feel a lot better having another example of a missionary to look at. I'm able to rest a lot more contented if I have something to righteously compare myself too, if I have multiple examples.

Last thing I'll talk about is a family who we visited just yesterday, absolutely stellar members. They call each other bear and rabbit, so adorable. Bear, because he's a big hairy guy (though he looks like Santa Clause with a trimmed beard, so not gross dark hair), and Rabbit because she moves so fast, always bouncing from place to place. They're an older couple, but not two old, and Bear is slowly dying. He has diabetes and his pancreas has already had all the insulin squeezed out of it, so he has to take the insulin shots. The problem is, his body doesn't digest artificial insulin well at all, so he has to inject quite a bit more than the usual person which makes all the sugars that he takes into his body turn straight to fat. So he'll get heavier and heavier until fluid fills his lungs and his heart has too much strain on it, causing death. I hope I explained that correctly. Regardless, it's a vicious cycle that he can't get out of, and he's stuck at home because he can't walk long distances and such.
But oh my goodness, he is so incredibly smart. He is so knowledgeable, both spiritually and secular. And he thinks the world of his wife, it's so cute. He sets her up on a pedestal, just can't say enough good things about her. They told us their whole story of how they met, and she would push him away so much! He was crushed so many times poor guy! But she's such a great women. And they are pretty wealthy people, because she's a psychiatrist and he used to work in the oil field, Rabbit buys us groceries every time we come over; super nice. And Bear is so funny! Oh my goodness, this is one of the families that I will rave about when I come back.

I hope you're all doing well. The weather is beautiful here! I love you and I'll talk to you next week!

Monday, May 12, 2014

2 - Small and Simple Things

"...behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6).

We step into a large van. It smells like smoke. The smell gradually becomes a part of us as we listen to the woman's chatter. She has crooked yellow teeth. She loves family history. She is related to the King of Scotland, of England, of many 'lands,' gloating that she is royalty, this women in the van of smoker's fragrance. She is a very spoiled princess.
We walk into her humble palace in Bismark, North Dakota, floor scattered with noble granuals of the day to day accumulation of garbage, feeling the little pebbles of waste as we walked up the carpet stars with only hose on our feet. We are then greeted at the end of the tan carpet by the husband and King, Papa Murphy, whose crown was not on his head, but had fallen down to hang about his face in the form of a strange beard, white hair fat under his cheeks, his chin bare. Regal wrinkles were his suit as well as crude humor, but he treated us as guests of honor. After all, he knows we are royalty too.
The feast. Shining little platters of Tupperware dot the table, each containing ingredients to accompany a salad which undoubtedly was poured out of a store-bought bag. A pool of red marinara sauce houses little round pustuals of meat, each delicious and smashed in-between two pieces of round bread. Elbows knock, lips smack, swallows are not shy or bashful, and neither is the conversation.
"You know why they call it a meatball slider don't ya?" the King addressed, "Because it slides down your throat."
"No they aren't," the Queen retorted, "everything slides down your throat!"
"Not popcorn! Unless it's the popcorn you make. With all those oils."
"Oh, the chocolate and caramel popcorn. And cheese popcorn, mmm. But everything slides down your throat."
And agreeable conclusion is never reached concerning the intent behind the dish's name.
It is time to bid Adieu, but not before delivering a message, for we are royal messengers, and we will deliver. A thick book of scripture is opened, most holy and more ancient and true than the Queen's royal ancestors. I search for a message for them and I find one that is inspired, though I do not notice.
"Alright, the scripture of the night is 2 Nephi 32:3."
The wife cringes, though I do not notice.
"Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."
The wife's unease dampens during the words, though I do not notice.
"Do you believe that Papa?" asks the Queen.
"Yeah, I do. If it's one thing I know, Christ's word has told us everything when we didn't know what to do. I believe that completely."
Back in the van of smoke. I gaze out the window, following the blurred fence as I listen again to the Queen, this time with increasing wonder and excitement.
"Let me tell you about the family. Papa doesn't have a religion, but he believes in Heavenly Father and Jesus. I've tried to get him to read the Book of Mormon and warm up to it, but he said, "I need a sign." He hates The Book of Mormon. Can't stand it. But not too long ago he finally said something to me. "I need to know it's true... in my heart." It went from up here in his head, to down here in his heart. And I'm thinkin,' ''s amazing.' It took him three years, but now, he needs to know in his heart. He still can't stand The Book of Mormon though. He doesn't believe in it, and whenever we have the missionaries over, they need to read from the Bible to him, because that's what he believes; he wouldn't let them read from The Book of Mormon. So when you said the scripture I cringed! Ooo! But the scripture that you shared is something that he believes in completely. Because all the characters are fictional characters to him, wouldn't believe it. But the one you chose.... the spirit was definitely working through you tonight, I can tell you that."
I smiled. It's been a blessing promised to me that I would always have the spirit to be with me as long as I always remember and please Jesus Christ. It's surprisingly difficult to recognize something that's always there. The Holy Ghost is always guiding me, though more often than not, I do not notice.

Monday, May 5, 2014

1 - I Made it to North Dakota!

I've been sent to Bismark, North Dakota! My new address is: 

Sister Sanderson
444 E. Brandon Dr #9
Bismark, ND 58503

But yeah! A bit about where I'm at:

We have the temple!

We have the only temple in the mission. The whoooole mission. It's sooooo tiny. And we have it! Five minutes away! 

The church right across from it is at least twice, maybe even three times as big as it. So funny. And it's only open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and only at certain times. 

On the mission, you are allowed to go to the temple every three months, and only on the first week of the month. I think we're going this upcoming Wednesday. Excited to go in the tiny temple!

The weather here is quite windy as expected. The clouds are never stagnant. And it hasn't been too overly cold. Though it sometimes will snow in the morning still. So, take that as you will. It's a nice city. And there's bunnies and squirrels and robins here. You don't see them in Tempe, Arizona! 
Here's pictures:


About the logistics. 

We (my companion and I) have $163 a month to use for spending and the card gets reloaded at the end of the month. 

I'm living in a three story apartment with another set of sister missionaries. 

Us four Sisters are on the top floor.

[A note from Dad:  Hannah worked and saved for nearly a year to pay for her mission and we are very proud of how much she did to prepare financially as well as spiritually.  For those who are interested, the contribution asked of each missionary (including family and friends) is $400 per month regardless of the mission.  (The church averages out the cost of all the missions world-wide.)  Look for the PayPal widget to be added soon so that you can help Hannah with this financial blessing...for it IS a blessing to be able to make this kind of sacrifice.  Any funds that aren't used for her missionary service will be used to pay down her school loans and her future schooling.  We will make sure that any funds that are donated specifically for missionary service (just indicate that if you contribute) will be paid to the General Missionary fund to support those missionaries who can't afford the full $400 themselves.]

We do have a car, a nice one with beautiful acceleration. 

We have a 'dumb' phone which I can't text on to save my life, but we can connect it to the car's touch screen and bluetooth and all that, so that's pretty nice.

I have a GPS that I bought previously, but I'm not using it because we do have a map and my companion Sister Easter mostly knows where things are. The GPS hasn't been needed thus far. 

We don't have ipads, but the request has been sent in to get them, so I don't know how quickly we'll end up making the switch from good old fashion (but heavy) scriptures to electronic ipads. We can only use computers at the library or at members houses and really only on preparation day, or P-Day.

So how'd I get here you ask? 

Well, there's a lot to catch you up on. 

The expedition started on Monday. But before I get into that, I should explain something.

This is my travel buddy. 
His name is Hamlet.   
My best friend, Alyssa, made him for me two years ago before I went to NAU for a year of college.  Hamlet is from an old video game called "Illusion of Gaia," a game that I have probably no doubt mention to you if you've known me for awhile.  In the game, Hamlet travels across the world to find his owner again. What a loyal loving little pig!  So, I've decided Hamlet is going to be my travel buddy.  He represents all of the loyal and loving friends that I had to leave behind.  So as you see Hamlet pop up in my blog, remember, I'm thinking of all of you!

Going to the Airport at 3am
The night of our departure, I had a nice hour and a half 'nap' before we got up and met outside at 2:00am in the morning on Monday. 

Hamlet in front of the rainy window.
We then took a bus to the airport where we had a six o'clock flight.

We then had a layover in Mineapolis actually.

It was raining when we landed, also when we were scheduled to take off.

Wow! So greeeeeeeeen!
And then we arrived finally at the great land of South Dakota.

We were met by President and Sister Anderson at the airport (we spent about 5 hours on planes,
Backyard Treeees @ Mission Home
got there a bit before 1) and we rode in a van over
 to the Mission President's house, or the mission

They have a beautiful home, and a beautiful backyard!

Ping Pong Anyone?...Anyone?
We were soooooo tired, but some people still played ping pong. That was entertaining.

Bunk Beds....Ahh Sleep!

And we slept in nice bunk beds in the basement later that night.

But before we slept of course, We were interviewed one by one by the President Anderson so he could find out a little more about us so he could decide where we should be sent. 

And the moment of truth.... I was chosen to be sent to Bismark, North Dakota! 
Assignments of the New Missionaries

There were eight sisters and seven elders that he had to chose where they would first serve. All of those people who I was with at the MTC, my MTC district, we were going our separate ways. 

It's crazy to think of them serving in such spread out places. 

We bonded so much in the MTC. I'm really gonna miss them. I can email the sisters, but not the Elders since we can't email those of the opposite gender who are in the mission boundaries. I drew a picture of where they're all going.

I'm glad I was among the first to leave though. Every six weeks, some people hop on 'the transfer train.' Basically, they drive from the mission home and drive to North Dakota for pickups and drop offs and loop back around down to Nebraska.

Are we there yet?!?!
And on day two, that's when the Wyoming people get picked up and dropped off. Pretty crazy.

So we left at 7 in the morning on Tueday, saying goodbye to my district, only being able to shake the Elder's hands in goodbye, and we were on our way.

It was snowing, so weird, it was very white on the way up, but when we got there it was green. The road looked like this (see picture):

 Pretty exciting huh!

The Dakota's idea of a "Circle K"
Though we did make a stop at a cute little shop.

The "Circle K in the middle of nowhere!"

Okay well, not really, but it was still close enough to reminding me of Circle K a lot.

 I miss you all my regulars!

Hamlet, where have you been?

Oh, and Hamlet had his first adventure.

The wind kinda blew him away. lol

So after seven hours in the car, we got to Bismark, North Dakota!

I was the first one to be dropped off! Woo!

Oh, and we here in Bismark are two hours ahead of you Arizonians (during the summer and ONE hour in the winter--darn that daylight savings time thing), just to let you know.

I met my companion, Sister Easter, (or Sister Hiccup as I like to call her.  Seriously, she's been out ten months and she hiccups randomly and it only started for her when she started her mission lol), and we drove to the apartment, my home for the next while, maybe for the next nine months.
I was told that that's the new average on how long they are trying to keep people in an area now.

Here's pictures of the apartment.
So the first day was kind of a weird day. Well, first off, we went to visit some less active families and I don't know what it is, but the kids here are all SO CUTE!
I don't know, cuter than what they seem to be in Arizona. haha.

But after dinner we went to a member's house for a scarf/skirt burning. Say what now? a burning? Like, kill it with fire? Yep, that's what I mean. Apparently when Elders hit their year mark it's customary to burn a suit. So on the sister's half mark (nine months), we've decided to burn skirts or scarves.

Some sisters do pregnancy pictures, but we all agree here that that is not appropriate. We're trying to get rid of that custom.

There were two sisters who were at their half mark, one who was leaving in the morning and also Sister Easter burned a scarf.

But life in the mission field. Yep, it's pretty good, haven't had too hard of a time adjusting.

Cool story for the week:

We were going tracting (knocking on doors) on Wednesday.

My first tracting experience. And the first, the FIRST door we knock on, the man opens up and invites us in. That never happens!

He's a pretty lonely guy, doesn't have a lot of company, and yeah, he talked to us for two hours. I'm super impressed and proud of myself, because I was able to hit all the main points of the first lesson, and right out of the MTC? Yeah, I was proud of myself. =)

And then, to top it off, he attended a church meeting on Saturday! He's convinced that he needs to get to be a missionary like us. haha, we haven't quite had the time to explain to him that you can't really serve a full time mission after you pass age 25 if you're a male unless you go on a senior mission with your wife.

Another short story. We were waiting for this lady to show up for a graduation party thing she was putting together for her husband. She never showed up. But... I think we were actually at the wrong park. ...But! I did have fun trying to find the frogs which were croaking. I wanted to see the froooooooogs! But I couldn't find any.
A fluffy reed explosion!
Yummy! Reedwich!

But I was very intrigued by the reeds.

Sister Easter was laughing at me. And as soon as we walked away the frogs started croaking again.
Stupid frogs.
Taunting me.

I know you were there. lol

Oh, and one big thing. A historic event!

We had stake conference up in Minot this week, two hour drive, and the stake has grown SOOOO much in past four years that this Sunday they split the stake!

One more East, the other West. So that's a big thing!

Oh and it was awesome. All of the dad's were out in the hall on the side with the fussy kids. There were five of them.

The Five Guys.

And we're even going to eat at Five Guys tonight. Too awesome not to be shared.

Oh, and this also is too awesome not to be shared:


Believe it or not, I didn't do that, it was already there!

Apparently the Sister two transfers before me loved Zelda and drew that. I'm not the only one! haha.

So this is what I see whenever Sister Easter and I study together. It's pretty fantastic. (Perhaps you could even call it an "Easter egg" lol)

That's it for this week, I'll update you again in the week coming!