Monday, June 30, 2014

Kensington - Week 22

Dear family,

I am in Kensington! It's the city that the DC temple is in. My
companion is Sister Lewis and I LOVE it here! I didn't realize how
down I'd been feeling until I got here because now I feel so much
happier. It's right outside of DC and there are lots of people all
over the place and it's busy and a bit crazy to drive in and I love
it. The ward is super solid with lots of people and the building is
almost identical to the Farmington south stake center. Yesterday for
5th Sunday 3rd hour, Elder and Sister Kendrick came and taught family
history and showed the video of me and Sister Johnson to everyone so
that was a nice, slightly awkward introduction of me into the ward.
Sister Lewis is awesome, we get along great. She's from Utah and went
to BYU for a couple years before coming out here.

Before I left Seneca, I went around and said goodbye to some of the
people I had met there. It was sad but I was ready to leave. We had
ice cream with Candy for an hour and she started crying. I'll miss the
people there but it's just a "see you later."

Wednesday night, Lindsay Sterling came to the Visitors Center to do a
concert. I got to hear her and she was really good. I'll have to get
her cd when I go home. She mainly spoke but her talk was super good.
Apparently it was the tipping point for one guy who was still iffy
about the church. After it was over, he turned to the elders teaching
him and pretty much said he's ready to be baptized now. That's why we
do these!

We've taught a couple of our investigators here already. It's so
diverse here. One is from Ethiopia, one is from India, one is from
Haiti, and quite a few are from Africa. We're just teaching the whole
world here.

We had dinner with a member family last night. We were talking and I
found out that the dad is currently majoring in animation the the Art
Institute in DC. He showed me a ton of his art work and gave me a
sketch book he's not using. Night. Made. I was so happy.

I've discovered a new favorite thing: talking to people at metro bus
stops. On Saturday, we went there and talked to people while they were
waiting for their buses. We gave out 5 Book of Mormons and even more
pass along cards. We're going to do the same thing again tonight. I
love it.

Sunday night, Congressman Chris Stewart came and spoke at the Visitors
Center. We got to go because our recent convert was going. It was
really good. He was talking about why we should have hope. Essentially
he said that the United States of America was established by God's
hand and that He's not going to let it fall so long as we remain
faithful. Just like the angels said to Moses when they were going to
destroy Soddom and Gomorrah, if they find even 10 righteous people,
they will spare it. There are more than 10 righteous people here.
They're all over the place. God loves our country and loves us so we
need to have hope. He has my vote.

Today, we went with members to move them onto campus dorms at
Gallaudet. Gallaudet is a deaf university in DC. The couple is older
and the wife has a disease which is going to make her deaf within the
next 6 years so she is moving there to take classes to learn ASL and
her husband is going to learn as well. It was interesting being there
and we were all making jokes the whole time. Instead of a doorbell,
they have light switches outside that you flip to make all the lights
turn off and on to let them know someone is at the door. More modern
door bells just flash lights. They brought their piano with them so we
were mentioning how she won't have any problem playing at all hours of
the night. It's a pretty quiet campus. Everyone just signs to each
other and it's awkward when someone signs to you and you just stand
there looking stupid. I can say book worm, cereal, stalker, this new
commandment, love one another, yes and no, I can hear, am def, and a
few other things. Super duper fun.

Today they only gave us 2 hours to shop and email. This Friday we are
going to have an all day P day. We just have to be back in our
apartments by 10:30pm. I'm so excited. We are going to go to DC and
fight the huge crowds. I get to spend Independence Day in the nation's

D&C 78:19. Love you all!

Love, Sister Black

The first pic is of me and Candy and Sister Hancock.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Super Strange Lifestyle - Week 21

Dear family,

Harrison is SO CUTE! Oh my goodness I am dying! I used to think Emma
was the cutest baby ever but I think Harry has her beat (: I have been
showing everyone pictures of him. Well when appropriate of course. I
stare at the pictures of him whenever I have free time at meals or
before bed and try to comprehend that this cute little thing is my
brother. I've always wanted a brother. I wasn't sure how I'd react
when he was born. I thought for sure I'd be homesick but I'm not. I
can't wait to meet him but I know that I'm where I need to be and I'm
not in any hurry to get home. But when I get home he's going to be all
mine for a few days. (: Also look out for a present for him in the

Well the Velasquez didn't get baptized. :( They texted us on Tuesday
and said to cancel it and that they aren't ready. I was pretty down
about it all day. I soon realized that I was being selfish. I was
mainly upset because I wouldn't get a baptism and I was mad at them.
But it isn't about the numbers. My success as a missionary isn't based
on how many baptisms I get. It's based on how hard I work and if I'm
really doing all that The Lord asks. Maybe I won't be here to see the
Velasquez get baptized, but what I have done is teach them about the
restored gospel of Jesus Christ and that their family can be together
forever. One day they'll be ready and I'm glad that I have at least
helped them a little bit along their way.

Oh yeah, I'm getting transferred. I don't know where I'm going. They
send out a mass voicemail Saturday night and tell us only if we're
leaving and staying but they don't tell us where we are going or who
is coming to us until Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday morning we go
to the Visitors Center and have a transfer meeting, meet our new
companion, then drive to our area and begin a transfer together. So
I'll know where I'm going Tuesday night. I'm feeling bittersweet about
it. About two weeks ago I all of a sudden started feeling tired of
being in Poolesville so I felt relieved when I heard I'm leaving. I'm
really going to miss the people though. I know some of these people
are going to be lifelong friends. Me and Ashley Barney are already
planning on rooming at BYU haha. The Coplins and I decided already
that their baby, Grayson, who's going to be born in August, and
Harrison are going to be bffs. I don't want to mention everyone
because I don't want to forget someone but I'll just say that leaving
Dee will be the saddest. :(

We got to do baptisms and confirmations at the temple on Thursday. The
baptistery is beautiful. They allowed us to take up to 5 names. It was
a really cool thing to do for my ancestors. We were there from 9am to
1pm because it took us a while to get through everyone so we were
pretty tired but it was fun.

We had some good lessons this week. We taught Francisco at the
Visitors Center which went really well. We also taught a solid lesson
to Laura. We taught Dee family history with Sister Davis which was
fun. Last night we had dinner with Katie and AJ at the Woodsons and we
read Alma 32 and discussed it which was good. We had some other
lessons as well. I love teaching.

That's about my week. Not really that barely tells you anything. Being
a missionary is so much more than what my letters can ever tell you.
It is the craziest roller coaster. The days feel like weeks and the
weeks feel like days. Some days you have so much to do that you wish
you had more time and other days you have nothing to do yet you need
to somehow be productive for 2 hours in the middle of the day when no
one is home. You forget what it's like to not be a missionary. You
forget what it's like to just chill at home with your family, to be
able to run to the store by yourself, to surf the web and google
anything you want, to call your mom when you're lonely or sad, to have
an evening where you have nothing to do and that's ok, to not feel
guilty for not talking to that woman down the street, to come home and
take a nap after church. I definitely miss it, but now it seems so
foreign to me. Family seems so distant and separate. But nothing can
even compare with being a missionary. It's living this super strange
lifestyle and working hard every day and meeting these amazing people
that changes you. I can't even imagine my life without knowing these
people and I feel like I'm becoming a better person because of them
but also because of all of my experiences, both the good and the bad.
I'm learning how to cope with stressful situations without my usual
escapes like sleeping or calling home in tears. Nothing can prepare
you for what a mission is like and it's probably a good idea that no
one can explain exactly what it's like. It's something we need to
figure out and get through ourselves because that's how we really
learn and grow. I'm so grateful that I have friends on missions as
well. I email Elder Ben Fisher every week. When I emailed him before
my mission, I couldn't understand how he was feeling and my emails
were pretty shallow. But now, we connect so much better because we
know exactly how we're both feeling. I'm not serving in a foreign
country with tons of Muslims where you're lucky to get a single
baptism, but we both have our good days and bad days and we don't have
to give specifics because we already know what the other person is
feeling. I'm so glad I have a lot of people I know on missions. Even
though I only talk to a couple of them on a weekly basis, it's so
comforting and empowering to know that we're all in this together.
Being a missionary is so tiring, frustrating, exhilarating, and life
changing. I can't say I love being a missionary every day, but every
day I'm grateful to be a missionary and in the Lord's army. 85,000
strong. I'm part of the largest army of missionaries in the history of
the church and we are all out laboring in the Lord's vineyard for the
last time to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
This is serious stuff. Yes the cute farewells and letter and pictures
are fun, but we are part of this huge work in these days that the
prophets have spoken about since the beginning of the world. How great
is my calling!

Ok my rant is over. I love you all, please give Harrison plenty of
kisses for me! Read Romans 1:16. The Lord is hastening His work, are
you going to be ashamed of Him? Or stand strong until the end.

Love, Sister Black

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mormon Celebrities - Week 20

Dear family,

I was in DC for 8 hours today. My morning was better than yours. Sorry.

The weather here is crazy. It rains a lot and there are tons of
thunderstorms and flash floods and tornado warnings. Wednesday night
after our lesson with the Velasquez, we stepped out on the street and
the water was above our ankles. The streets were flooding and some
streets were rivers. It was an adventure to drive in.

Last night we went to "Why I Believe" with a couple members and a man
who was baptized a couple years ago but was less active for a while.
It was the best one I'd been to. Every third Sunday at the Visitors
Center we have "Why I Believe" which is where they have a few recent
converts give testimonies and then they have everyone who's been
baptized within the past couple of weeks stand up and say their name,
where they live, and when they were baptized. It's fun because some
will stand up and proudly announce that they were just baptized that
day and then everyone cheers. There's also  a guest speaker every
time. Last night it was Charity Tillemann-Dick who's a soprano opera
singer and has had two lung transplants. Her story was incredible. She
talked for a long time but everyone was dead silent and was listening
intensely. She's a great story teller and made just about everyone cry
from laughing and from her story and the spirit. She has an amazing
voice too. It was so cool.

The Velasquez are scheduled to be baptized this Sunday! They had an
interview yesterday but they cancelled on us last minute. We were
pretty ticked off. We gave them the zone leader's number and told them
it's now their responsibility to schedule an interview. We'll make
sure it happens but we aren't going to schedule another one for them
if they can't make it and this time they'll be more accountable. But
their lesson went well on Wednesday. At first it was a little
contentious because Esteban is still struggling from the anti stuff he
listened to. He started to get really agitated and say that basically
it's not enough to believe in God but we have to believe in this man
Joseph Smith as well to join the church. He was scaring me a bit.
Finally I was able to explain to him that we don't base our religion
off of a man, we base it off of our belief in God. But we do need to
read and believe in the Book of Mormon because if the Book of Mormon
is true then Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that means God
still speaks to man and Christ's church has been restored to the
earth. I don't think I've ever explained anything so simply and well
before. I said that and then he shocked me by all of a sudden smiling
and saying "that's a good way of putting it!" Then he sat back and was
calm and happy for the rest of the lesson. I'm glad we got rid of that
spirit of contention. I'm excited for Leticia and Abby to be baptized.
They're so cute.

We are running out of things to teach Dee. She's been ready to be
baptized since I got here and is rock solid. Now we read conference
talks with her and then she bears her testimony and teaches us for the
rest of the time. It works well. Eventually she'll be baptized.

We taught a lot of other lessons this week which was fun. I think a
member is scaring away one of our new investigators. He invited him to
the Visitors Center and said "you should come to the vc. And I say
that in the name of Jesus. In Jesus name amen." And "and the lady of
the house shall go with you. In Jesus name amen." He didn't want to
come to the Visitors Center anymore haha.

Well today is the first time I've been in DC when it's not cloudy or
rainy. We woke up at 3:45 to get to the metro to get to the mall on
time for sunrise at 5:45am. We met up with some other sisters at the
Lincoln memorial in time for sunrise pictures. After pictures and
breakfast, we went to the National Archives Museum where we got to see
the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Magna Carta,
and other documents. Then we went to the National Museum of American
History which was super cool. We got to see the original Star-Spangled
Banner and the actual inauguration ball gowns from Michelle Obama and
previous First Ladies and the dress that the woman who sang at the
Super Bowl wore. Every now and then someone would stop us or say "hi,
sisters!" as they passed by us. We're Mormon celebrities. It was
really hot and humid today and now I'm dead tired. But it was a fun

God is truly part of this work. After we left DC, we went to our local
grocery store, Giant. The power was out but we were still able to get
what we needed. I wasn't too thrilled that we had left DC later than
planned and it was/is super hot outside. On the way out of the grocery
store, a guy around our age on his skateboard started randomly talking
to us about how hot it is and how he came to get food but all of the
restaurants are closed because of the power outage so he's just
chilling outside. Then his friend came up to us and told us that he's
Mormon but he hasn't been to church in years. We started talking to
them and he first guy asked of we could come teach him more so we got
his contact info and had him a Book of Mormon and I talked to the
other guy and he said he's gonna try coming to church this week and I
got his number. If we hadn't left DC when we did and if the power
wasn't out, we wouldn't have met them, but they are super ready to
learn and come to church. So cool. God knows what needs to happen. We
talked to a couple other people in DC and were able to give them
Visitors Center or pass along cards. It was fun.

Ok I love you all! Good luck tomorrow, Dad and Cari, with Harrison!
Please spam my Facebook and email with pictures and details! Read Alma
34:32 (:

Love, Sister Black

I found these glasses at the Visitors Center and had too much fun.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Strepidemic - Week 19

Dear beloved family members,

It's starting to get hot and humid, but not too bad yet. Can't say I'm
too excited. Also, Hannah I love you. I read your message to creepy
young 48 year old dude to my roommates and they loved it.

Lots of teaching and service this week. The Velasquez are doing well
and are still on track to be baptized in two weeks. Brother Velasquez
asked us to come over Saturday at noon to talk to him. He had been
listening to the radio at work and some anti Mormon things about
Joseph Smith came up. Understandably he was concerned so he did the
good thing and talked to is instead of looking up more in the wrong
places. We were able to explain more of who he was and what he did and
why there were previously polygamists and how he can find more
information. For the past month I've been doing a lot of reading
during meals out of the institute manual about church history in the
fullness in times which covers a ton of information about Joseph Smith
and the saints that I never knew about. So I'm glad I have that new
knowledge fresh in my mind so I could explain things a lot better. We
told him that essentially he needs to pray about the Book of Mormon
because that's the only way he's going to know if this is true.

We have a couple new investigators we taught last week and have return
appointments with this week. One of the new investigators is a lady
whose daughter just graduated high school and is really struggling
financially. She needs to hear the gospel and the way that we found
her is amazing. Two months ago when I was on exchanges with Sister
Leben, we took Sister Knudson with us to teach Tina but she wasn't
there. I was super annoyed and I felt bad that we took Sister Knudson
with us for nothing so we went to check on a less active who also
wasn't there. Sister Leben suggested we tract 3 houses. I didn't want
to but Sister Knudson is an rm and loves tracting and I felt like we
owed it to her. So we each chose a house. The first two didn't answer
and when it was my turn to choose the last one, I saw a house way down
the street I thought we could try so we walked down and knocked and
this lady answered the door and we finally met with her again last
week. Super cool.

A member, Sister Ainsworth, had a bunch of family in town for her
daughters graduation and she asked us to come over and share a message
with a few of them. Two of her ex in laws(?) were here from California
and we had a great lesson on the restoration. One of them is part of
M.I.M.E.S (men in ministry encouraging souls) and they showed us a
video called "Anointing" by MrScalesProductions that has mimes. Look
it up. I have no comment. (;

We spent six hours on Saturday helping a pregnant couple move. They
are moving a couple apartment buildings over. They are the coolest
couple ever, I love them. Also, we were in jeans all day to help them
which was really freeing. They paid us with cafe rio.

Funny story. I met Pam Hinckle at the Visitors Center. She came in
with her husband and another sister greeted her and I wasn't going to
go talk to her but I decided to so I walked up and we talked. After a
couple of minutes she asked if my mom's name is Wendy. Surprised, I
said yes. Then she said, "Wendy Stevens?" Again I said yes and then
she got super excited and told me that's her cousin and that her mom
is sisters with my grandpa. What. So we ended up talking for a long
time. She was saying how she can't make it to grandma and grandpas
anniversary party this year and I, jokingly and sadly, said I can't
either because of prior arrangements. We decided that if we ever have
seen each other before, then it was at Great-Grandma Becky's funeral
in 2007 in Wyoming. She told me that she had visited grandma and
grandpa in Nauvoo last summer while they were on their mission and she
happened to have a bunch of pictures from that on her phone. It was so
so nice to talk to her. I loved talking about my family with her
instead of just telling people about my family. We took a couple
pictures and hugged and it made me very happy. She came in at 3:15 and
my shift ended at 3:30 so if she had come any later I would've missed
her and I'm only at the Visitors Center on Fridays right now. Such a

My zone is now being known as The Great Seneca Strepidemic. The fun
thing about being on a mission is that things spread around the
mission quickly. Like bed bugs. That was a problem two transfers ago.
This transfer it's strep. So far I haven't had it. But I have had
really bad allergies and it transitioned to a cold today. Super fun.

Today we had our transferly zone activity. We went mini golfing. They
divided us into 8 teams and had us keep score. My team and another's
tied for first place. 18 holes and an average of 47.6 points. Boo-ya.

Read Alma 38:9 por favor. I love you all! (:


Sister Black

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fireflies - Week 18


Man it seems like every time I sit down to write an email I have
nothing to tell you. Hm. Well let's start with the bad news.

We went to go see Dee on Friday and she's still not recovering well
from surgery. So basically she has to put off her baptism for longer
until she's better. She is really upset about it. She's been ready to
be baptized since the day I got here. Everyone pray for her to heal
quickly. :(  On the bright side I saw fireflies for the first time
while at Dee's lesson. I thought I was going crazy because I kept on
seeing random, small, blinking lights out of the corner of my eye.
Sister Taggart was having the same thoughts too. Their light doesn't
stay on the whole time, it blinks. Anyway, as soon as more started
coming out and I realized what was happening, I got super excited and
Dee just laughed as Sister Taggart and I acted like little kids. For
some reason I've never actually believed they're real or I thought
people over exaggerated what they look like but they are exactly as
people say. We had to leave before more came out so Dee said she'll
catch some for us in a jar for next time (:

We've taught the Velasquez a couple times this week. We had a lesson
on Wednesday that went really well. We also had dinner with them at a
Hispanic member family's home. They're doing great and are excited for
the mom and daughter to be baptized.

We were at the Visitors Center Friday and Saturday mornings last week.
They asked us to come in Saturday as well even though we're not
scheduled because there were tons of tours happening. There were a few
weddings going on too so everyone who couldn't go in the temple stayed
at the Visitors Center for a couple hours to wait as well. We talked
to lots of people which was good.

I learned an important lesson on Friday. I was talking to the woman on
the phone again at the Visitors Center who had called asking for a
free Book of Mormon two months ago and who I've talked to a couple
times since. She had questions about the trinity, polygamy, and
revelations. I found out more information and evidence in the bible
for them. I called her again on Friday prepared with my answers.
However, she was not understanding anything. She was arguing and her
arguments were totally illogical and I was getting so annoyed. To me
it made perfect sense but to her it didn't. I wanted to just hang up
the phone. She also told me that I need to pray again and make sure
I'm receiving the right answer. Out of frustration I bore my testimony
to her hard core about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and prayer. I
don't know how it transitioned but after that she started telling me
how she can tell I love The Lord and them she told me about her
conversion to Jesus and the day she was saved. She then asked me about
the day I was saved. I just told her about my experience of praying to
God and receiving an answer that I should serve a mission. We ended up
having a really nice conversation about Jesus. She also told me she
was 71 so then I knew I was done arguing with her. Not that I meant it
to turn into an argument but it did. She sounds a lot younger, maybe
50. Anyway, we discussed our beliefs about Jesus Christ and our love
for Him and she gave me permission to send her missionaries. I then
asked if I could call her again and we can talk more about God. She
said she'd love that and she knows she'll see me in Heaven and then
right before she hung up she told me she loves me. Lesson learned: the
spirit of contention isn't the way to go. We all have our differences
but it's more important to focus on what we do have in common. We
disagree on the trinity and what Revelations and Ezekiel mean but we
both believe in and love our Savior and I'd rather focus on Him than
what we think the bible is saying.

The family history class on Thursday was successful. It was our last
of the three week course. We got some good feedback. I spent most of
the lesson writing on the board and explaining how to merge and edit
people and search for information. I really enjoyed doing the class,
hopefully we'll do it again soon (if I'm not transferred!).

I loved fast and testimony meeting yesterday. Everyone's testimonies
were so solid and really funny and a couple had to do with being a
black Mormon but they love how they are treated like they're white at
church. I was dying. This ward is hysterical, I was in such a good
mood afterward.

It was Elder Jensen's birthday yesterday so we were joking how his
companion, Elder Lim, should get up to bear his testimony and tell
everyone it's Elder Jensen's birthday so someone will offer to feed
them. And he did. He got up there to bear his testimony and right in
the middle he told everyone that it is companions birthday today while
Sister Taggart and I burst out in silent laughter. His testimony
worked too. It was also Ashley Barney's birthday so her parents went
up to them afterward and invited them over for dinner and cake and ice
cream. Another score for the elders.

We also went to Ashley Barney's but we had another dinner appointment
so we missed dinner and her mission call opening. We got cake though
so it's ok. She's going to Fresno California Spanish speaking, leaving
to the Mexico MTC August 27th! After, we went with her and her mom and
three of her non member friends to the Visitors Center for the musical
performance out on by Sister Eyring, her brother, and a few of her
talented musically inclined friends. We were 30 minutes late because
we left 15 minutes late and then we started driving and we realized
that the seats were switched in the back so Sister Taggart had two
seat belts and I didn't have one. We spent 15 minutes on the side of
the road figuring out how to pull out the seats and put them back in.
I had thought about not saying anything since we were running late but
I know that even though God protects His missionaries, He doesn't when
they're being stupid. And we had also just barely been talking about
missionaries who die on their missions and I don't want my name added
to that list. But anyway, the performance was beautiful and we showed
them a couple missionary videos at the Visitors Center afterward as
well until I accidentally locked us out of the iPad used to start
them. Oops. It was a fun night though.

So I didn't come on my mission for any luxuries but I am spoiled here.
A good example of this was Thursday. During personal study in the
morning, Elder Schroer called us and asked if our car is getting high
on miles. We said yes it has 50,000 (so high!). He said ok he's going
to bring us a new car and asked what color we wanted out of 3 choices
and we chose red. After district meeting, he drove up in a brand new
red 2014 Toyota corolla with only 96 miles on it. He handed us the
keys and told us to be careful and read the owners manual and that was
it. He drove off in our "old" 2011 Toyota and we drove off in the new
one. It's a nice car (:

I'm glad you guys saw the family history video on Facebook. This week
is zone training and they'll be showing it in every zone so the whole
mission will have watched it by Friday. Already I have sisters going
up to me telling me they've watched it and it's super cute. I'm a
mission celebrity now, they should just cast me for The District 3
already (: it's a lot different than what it was originally supposed
to be. It was going to be an informational video but it turned into
more of an "I'm a Mormon" feel.

Also, apparently my MTC companion, Sister Wog, went home this week.
Heart problems or something? :/

Well I guess I did have a lot to tell you. I'm getting so fast typing
these up on my oversized iPhone. Btw, how is it June? I swear it's
still April. I'm probably going to say this every time it's a new
month so get used to it haha. Read Psalms 118:24. If nothing else is
going right, still be grateful that God made this beautiful day for us

Love you all!!

Sister Black

All the bracelets, and the ring, that people have made for me here.
Food and rubber band bracelets are how people show their love. And
that's how lovely I usually look at the end of a long day.

There are bikers everywhere on the way to the temple and they like to
make us late for our Visitors Center shift.