Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bula! Yacway! Talofa! Mauri!


This week was fabulous.  I finally learned how to say hello in all four of our zone languages. Bula.... Fijian.  Yacway....Marshaleese.  Talofa.....Samoan.  And Mauri......Kiribati.  Oh, and it was also Christmas.  :) 

The rest of Christmas was wonderful.  It was very different from every other Christmas I've ever experienced but it was still wonderful.  We went to four events in the gym.  A talent show, a music program, a showing of last years Christmas Concert and an incredible Devotional.  David A. Bednar came.  He is truly an apostle! It was one of the most inspiring devotionals I've ever been to.  He passed out 200 cell phones and had us text "Inspired Questions" after he taught us about inspired questions. I was blown away at how well he responded on the spot.  One of my favorite thoughts was when someone asked "Why do I feel so inadequate as a missionary?" He responded by saying that it is a good sign.  It is because we have some sense of what we have been called to do. And it helps us be humble and successful.  So that was real good news. Another answer I really liked was about Sin.  He said that some people think it isn't a big deal to spend their whole life sinning and repenting.  But he said "If we are in the Cleaners constantly we have no time to perfect ourselves and progress.  No time to become more like our Heavenly Father.  We will miss out on so much." Really great insight eh?

Our Fiji Districts also did this adorable gift exchange for Christmas.  The sweetest Elder from Kiribati who barely speaks English drew my name and gave me the sweetest present with an adorable drawing on the front and it was taped shut with Halloween Stickers. Love it. 

 The language is starting to sink in better this week.  We have worked a lot harder on saying everything we can in Fijian wherever we go. My sentence structure is improving a lot. We also have an awesome substitute teacher this week for Christmas break..... BROTHER MATHESON! Yep. We're definitely related and he definitely rocks. I think his Great Grandpa is Great Grandpa Alva's cousin.  But he is definitely from Alexander Matheson's line that came from Scotland and lived in Southern Utah.  He is like 6'6" and reminds me of a combination of Grandpa and Lance Lamoreaux. Everyone says that as a Matheson, I have HUGE footsteps to fill in Fiji.  Literally and figuratively.  He is a Hero there. But seriously, what are the chances that TWO Mathesons will serve in Fiji within like five years? Look him up on Facebook, his name is Patrick Matheson. 

The sisters are as hilarious and sweet as ever.  Yesterday Sister Iro out of the blue said......" Uh. I wish leave MTC tomorrow. MTC make me so fatty and so shorter."  Ha. Cracked me up. And Sister Pauni was vigorously brushing her teeth yesterday when I came into the bathroom.  She had white foamy toothpaste bubbles dribbling all the way down her chin. She had the perfect Santa Clause beard.  I started laughing.  Then she said "Are you ok, Leada?" Like nothing was out of the ordinary.  She always calls me Leader too which is just funny. Sometimes it's rough to be the only Palagi for a minute because the cultures are so different.  Occasionally I feel like I'm babysitting.  Occasionally.  But in the end the Love outweighs the bad by a mile and a half and I feel so blessed to serve with them.  I love helping them and getting to know them.  Elder Bednar said that when we serve missions we are really serving two missions.  One to the people we are called to teach and the other to our companions and the other missionaries.  I have seen the truth of that and love every second of it. They have been my greatest Joy and Blessing here at the MTC. 

I love you all so much and hope you have a fabulous week! I will try and attach some pictures! 

Loloma Levu,

Sister Matheson

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Miracles, Blessings, and....... LICE!


What a week! I can't believe it's P-day again. So much has happened and I don't know where to start. I guess I'll start with Merry Christmas! I wish I remembered how to say Merry Christmas in Fijian.  Unfortunately it's about 18 words long. But Merry Christmas! It doesn't quite feel like Christmas here yet.  At least not the Christmas that I'm used to.  But it's such a blessing to be at the MTC for the Christmas Season because there are no distractions from the true meaning and message of Christmas.  Our Savior Jesus Christ. 

The Fijian is coming along.  It's exhausting to study so much all. the. time.  But, it is motivating to see daily progress.  My companion and I are teaching 100% in Fijian now.  Although I truly admire the teachers who play our investigators for not cracking up at our desperate and hilarious Fijian mistakes. But being able to teach lessons completely in Fijian, however crappy the Fijian is, is a huge milestone for us. I also was able to memorize my purpose as a missionary in Fijian and D&C18:10.  I'm so excited to actually get to Fiji and be able to teach real, live, adorable, FIJIANS! Yay! 

We had to say goodbye to three of our Elders this week.  So sad.  They will be missed.  But we welcomed 28 new missionaries going to Samoa, Kiribati, and Marshall islands.  There are 3 sisters and the rest are Elders. And they are HUGE!!! Most are from Tonga and Samoa. All of them are like 6'8 or so and at least 250 lbs..... except the five or so white elders. More guys.  It was a little intimidating to do the orientation and tour last night but they are gonna be a lot of fun.  

I also got to see a few missionaries from home! I saw Jake and Kaitlin in the cafeteria the first day then I saw Karley Williams last night.  So many missionaries came yesterday.  Which is awesome because Monday and Tuesday I feel like this place was deserted. But guess where Kaitlin is staying?!? Right. Next. Door.  So that's a blessing and so much fun. Literally, she couldn't be any closer. 

We had a big Lice scare this week.  Yep, Lice. I'm still scared.  So in class on Tuesday, no one was in District B was in class.  We asked the teacher where they were and he said that all of the elders were sick and the sisters went to the health clinic.  Because Sister Uate had Lice.  I'm seriously freaking out on the inside, because what's mine is everyone else's.  And sister Uate uses my straightener every day. And my clothes and everything else.  Then sister Pauga is like "Oh, ya that's right."  Turns out she found one crawling in her hair on Sunday and Sister Kaititi found one a few days before that.  How in the world do you find lice in someone's hair and then just go on with your day? Maybe it's a difference in Culture. But she did a treatment and no one else has said they think they have lice yet so I hope it will be ok. 

Miracle of the week: 

Saturday we got back from Gym and realized that all five of us had forgotten to take our keys, which never happens.  I was a little bugged that we had to go to the front desk to get a key. But when we got there guess who I saw? Joel Mortenson. I don't really know him, but luckily I recognized his name and asked if he knew Melissa, who I have been worried about all week.  It was the right Joel Mortenson and I got a much needed update.  Such a blessing!

Biggest blessing of the week:


Sister Iro. Hands down.  Last sunday I was really, really worried about her.  I didn't know how to help her or get through to her but I knew she needed help.  I tried to be her friend and bought her a simple pair of $2 headphones for the gym and left them on her dresser with a sticky note, because I knew she wanted some but couldn't afford them. But I knew I needed to do more and it was all I could think about.  I prayed and prayed that I would know how to help her and have the opportunity to help her.  The next day, everyone else was gone to Gym or to run errands and it was just the two of us in the room. I sat down and started asking her about her emails and such.  Then we started talking about her family.  And the church.  And her life.  And her struggles. She spilled her whole entire heart to me. For at least an hour.  Just the two of us.  I  was choking back tears the entire time.  And about half way through I was flat out BAWLING. I have never, ever been so touched by a story.  She is my hero.  I wish I could have recorded her story and kept it forever. She has been persecuted so heavily by her family for joining the church.  She is beaten, and starved and mocked, and punished for her beliefs daily. She kept saying..... "I am crying..... just crying..... so much.....I am crying."  My heart melted.  She had to walk 40 minutes each way to church by herself.  She told me about her conversion almost two years ago and the miracles that she has witnesses in her life. She told me about when she received her mission call and she had no money or posessions to be able to go.  She told me that she cried and cried and begged her mom to let her borrow $30 for a suitcase so that she could go.  And that her mom's heart was softened.  And she told me so much more. She said that her biggest trial here is that her heart aches for her family every time we talk about our supportive families and how the gospel blesses families.  She has a tremendous amount of faith and courage.  And I felt Heavenly Father's love for her.  Pure love.  She told me she could too.  And that she has been so blessed being here.  

But I am the one who has been blessed.  I think Heavenly Father knows we needed each other. She is a daily reminder to me that I am blessed beyond belief.  A reminder that through the Lord, we can do all things. A reminder that the Lord loves us individually and hears and answers our prayers.  Every day, she makes me cry.  This morning it was because after I got off the computer this morning after checking my 5 or 6 new emails, she logged on and stared at an empty inbox.  Completely empty.  She has never received an email. Yesterday it was when I was laying in bed thinking about all of the things I have to do and how hard it all is. And I hear her tiny, beautiful, broken english voice from the other end of the room quietly singing.  "Because I have been given much, I too must give."  I was so humbled.  She went on to sing "I have a Family Here on Earth." And "Love at Home." along with a few others.  Wow. I'm so glad we have each other. 

I'm so sorry..... this is quickly turning into a novel.  So I'll leave with one last thought. On tuesday, Elder Rasband spoke to us about Spiritual Gifts.  He challenged us to think of the spiritual gifts we have been given and to find ways to share them with others. Yesterday, when my companion was sick, I was able to really ponder it out and study a lot about Spiritual Gifts and the Spirit truly taught me so much.  I think the greatest gift that I have been given this Christmas is the little black name tag I wear over my heart everyday. It's the trust that my savior has given me.  He has trusted me to represent Him.  To spread His Gospel to the people of Fiji.  I can think of no greater gift.  

Merry Christmas! I love you all! 

Loloma Levu,

Sister Matheson. 

Saying Farewell to one of our missionaries that left for Samoa on Monday morning. 

Aimee and her companion Sister Pauga, Sister Training Leaders

Aunt Lael sent me cinnamon rolls yesterday and we LOVED them.  The sisters were so funny.  It was like a little feast.  They've never had them before and literally licked the wrapping clean. Ha.  So they were definitely appreciated.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bula from the MTC!

Bula! Time is so strange here at the MTC! It feels like we've been here a month and yet I swear I checked in just yesterday. But it's fabulous! I've decided the MTC is definitely what you make of it. If you are determined to have a wonderful experience here.... you will! The spirit is so strong.  Especially when we sing. I love it. Here are a few updates on my life here.

The Language: 

Fijian is a blast.  I have never seen such long stinkin' words in my whole life. For example. The number 21 is ruasagavulukadua. Crazy. They also really like V's and K's.  This first week has been such a testimony to me that the MTC and the programs here are inspired! And also..... the gift of tongues is real. The ability to learn insane languages comes straight from Heavenly Father.  Yesterday I got cocky for a minute before we started to play a game and suddenly, I couldn't even remember the word for "You." Then I was humbled again and remembered that it's not me, it's Heavenly Father. We have four teachers and all of them are awesome. By the second day we were praying in Fijian and the third we were bearing our testimonies in Fijian.  (I am going to try and send you a video of me bearing my testimony on about the fourth day.) Fun fact... I am definitely supposed to go to Fiji because the way you ask a question is by the tone of your voice.  And it's exactly the funny Australian accent that you all make fun of me for. Ha. I am soooo happy when I am studying the language though.  

 We've also taught five lessons in Fijian. It's pretty humbling.  Our investigator, Pita, commited to be baptized yesterday! (YAY!!!) We've only made a few hilarious mistakes so far. Tikina is the word for verse and Tinika means canned fish so one lesson we kept trying to share canned fish with him. He was bummed when it was only a scripture. Ha. Another lesson we thought we were sharing JSH 1: 16 - 17 with him when it was actually the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew 1: 16-17.  Says something about being "With Child." He was trying so hard not to laugh and we were SO CONFUSED!

My Zone:

There are two districts going to Fiji (entered the same day) and one district of three elders going to Samoa (two of which are the Zone Leaders.)  There are 9 Elders going to Fiji with us.  Most are Polynesian or Australian but there is one from Utah and one from Alabama.  They are so fun. There are 8 sisters.  I love them all sooooo much! 

Sister Pauga: my companion.  She is from Samoa/New Zealand so she has great English but it definitely still polynesian.  :) We get along super well and are Sister Training Leaders together. 

Sister Pauni: Samoan.  Hilarious. I can only understand about 15% of what she says. I think it will actually be easier to communicate when we learn Fijian. She is a crack up though and always in her own little world. 

Sister Tongoi: From Kiribati. She is a sweet heart and is ALWAYS taking pictures.  

Sister Iro: I LOVE this girl. She is from the Solomon Islands and is the only member in her family and such an example to me.  Her broken English testimony is one of the strongest I've ever heard. 

Sister Itea: Also from the Solomon Islands.  She sticks with Sister Iro a lot and doesn't understand much but she is precious and is also the only member in her family. 

Sister Kaititi: From Kiribati/Fiji.  She is a funny girl and pretty outgoing.  She always says she's the most "Notorious" which she thinks means trouble maker. Ha. Love her though.

Sister Uate: Tongan. She is Hilarious.  LOVES to eat. She's also the only member in her family. 

The most humbling and spiritual experiences have been with these girls.  It's humbling teach someone to use a computer mouse and "those strange machines that wash your clothes" and the giant black machines that give you food and how to count American coins.  They have taught me more than I can say. You expect it when you are in a 3rd world country but I don't think about it at the MTC until they ask me for help.  I am blown away by their sacrifice, faith and courage.  They don't have anything. In fact I didn't even unpack some of my stuff because I didn't want them to feel bad.  Luckily the MTC helped them out with shoes and clothes etc.  I've also given them quite a bit of my stuff, so you might have to send more mom. But how can you not? Many of them have no support. Their families think it's stupid and refuse to help them.  They have no one to email. No one praying for them.  Please pray for them just as much as you pray for me. Remember them.  I can't imagine what it would be like. I get choked up ALL. The. Time. because of their examples and backgrounds. 

So I'm the only Valagi (White person) And these are the conclusions I've come to. 

You know you're the only Valagi in a  Polynesian Zone when.......

  1. You are late to everything except MEALS :)
  2. There is ALWAYS something to laugh about. Always.
  3. When you can't find anyone..... they are at the vending machines.
  4. The entire zone gets stopped by every single other Polynesian on campus.  And there are a lot. 
  5. There are 7 different Polynesian languages spoken in your zone - all of which sound the same. 
  6. Lights out at 10:30 is simply a suggestion. - We are lucky to be calmed down bymidnight.
  7. No one ever says yes. It's always a nice eyebrow raise and "Mmmmm." So confusing.
  8. Everyone is always happy. I love this. 
I feel like my experience at the MTC is significantly different than the other Sisters I have observed.  It's both easier and harder. But I wouldn't change it for anything. I love these sisters. 

Other Stuff:
  1. Since I've been here, I've seen Elder Howe (His Tagalog is superb) my old Relief Society President, and a few others.
  2.  It's freezing. I don't know why I ever thought the jacket I'm taking to Fiji would be warm enough for Provo Utah in December.
  3. The Salad bar is my best friend.
  4. The Robe was a fabulous choice!
  5. Milyssa was right.... Mints are a life saver. 
  6. The temple is closed :( 
  7. Pray for our Visas to come!!! Our zone leaders were just reassigned to California because their Samoan Visas aren't here. And apparently that has been happening tons!  
  8. There were like 800 missionaries that reported Dec. 4th. 
  9. I am the only one who plays any piano. So I have to play for everything. I definitely should have practiced more. 
We had a wonderful devotional on Tuesday night.  Elder Cook came and spoke about missionary work. It was so inspiring. He challenged us to look at an area when we first arrive and ask " What can I do to strengthen and help this branch/area?" Then be determined that it will be better off when you leave.  I loved that.  His wife, Mary Cook, also spoke of a little girl Jana who was so excited that she had the most important part of her Christmas play.  Her mom expected that she was probably Mary or something but she was surprised when Jana simply held a huge tinfoil star above.  Her mom asked her about her part after and Jana said it was the most important part "because I showed everyone how to find Jesus."  That's us!!! How exciting! We are called to be the stars that show others the way to Christ.  I love being a missionary.

I love you all and hope you are doing fabulous! :)  

Loloma Levu,

Sister Matheson :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

This is IT.

This is it friends. 

The day has come.
I am finally going to be a Missionary
Can you believe it? Ya.... me neither. But nevertheless, it's happening!
I am so very very very excited, but a little nervous too. But no good adventure starts without a little anxiety right? 

Here are a few goals for my mission:

[number 1.] Love Everyone.
Love my companions. Love my Mission President. Love the Ward. Love the investigators.  
Love the strangers on the street.  Love the Lord. Love Everyone. 

[number2.] Be Obedient.
Be obedient in everything.  Even things that don't make sense to my mortal mind. 

[number3.] Be Happy.
Be Happy. Be Kind. Be Nice. Be outgoing.  Be optimistic. ALWAYS. 

[number4.] Keep Records.
Record the blessings and the trials.  The learning experiences and the mistakes. 
 Write.  Tape. Journal. Photograph. Write some more. 

[number5.] Listen to the Spirit.
Be worthy.  Listen. Act. Repeat.  
Be an instrument in HIS hands.
[number6.] Find the Miracles.
Recognize the Miracles in Everything. Be Grateful. Then Record them. 

Thank you to all of my wonderful supportive family and friends! I love you all! :) 
Write me! I will try and write back. :) 


See ya in 18. 

Thoughts on Preparing

Let me just start with this.........

Preparing for a Mission is OVERWHELMING. 

If you are anything like me, you had all of these grand plans and ideas and schedules and dreams of how you were going to prepare when the time comes..... because preparing for a mission before you actually have your call would be silly. 

I learned the hard way that sometimes that's not the best idea.  In this game.... slow and steady definitely wins the race. 

So now that my preparation time is all but up, here is what I have learned. 

1. {Learn about your Mission}
From my experience, the more you learn and read about your mission the more excited you will be.  The more excited you are, the less scared you will be and the more motivation you will have to prepare.  I'm pretty sure I discovered almost every single blog with anything that even remotely has to do with Fiji or Missionaries and it was such a help! Pictures and stories and experiences from missionaries that are already there are a huge blessing.  I also stalked facebook and instagram and even profiles for tags and key words that might lead me to missionaries in Fiji.  Also..... talk to people! Take advantage of friends and family that know someone who knows someone who knows someone.  The more you learn the greater the Love you'll have for the people.  And at the end of the day.... it's the Love that gets you through and makes it all worth it. 

2. {Study Book of Mormon Mission Stories}
Some of my best teachers in this preparation journey have been Alma and Amulek and the Sons of Mosiah.  They are Fabulous.  You can learn so much from the patterns and attitudes that are recorded in those stories.  And what's better is these missionaries are coming with you! You can always turn to these stories for answers and advice and learn from the Spirit. 

3. {Study Preach My Gospel}
I wish I would have spent more time on this one.  Sometimes it didn't seem as inviting as looking up the current weather in Fiji or learning to count to ten, or researching the foods they eat, but it's important! That book is packed with information and inspiration.  I'm excited to continue to learn from it. 

4. {Develop a Pattern of Study}
I had a hard time with this one at first, because I wanted it to be perfect.  I was overwhelmed with the details.  How much time in Preach my Gospel? How to mark my scripture?  The important thing is to do it everyday.  Find a time that you can devote to learning.  Start with a prayer and listen to the spirit. I love to imagine Satan cringing every time I open my scriptures or write down a new thought in my journal.  Also, don't forget to use utilize talks and Ensigns and books and mormon messages etc. They are so many wonderful resources!

5. {Prayer}
Developing a relationship with Heavenly Father is essential.  Tell Him your fears and your concerns and your joys and your progress.  Ask Him for help.  He wants to help. Prayer is powerful.  Pray for the people of your mission and for the missionaries all over the world. 

6. {Look for Missionary Opportunities}
You don't have to wait to be set apart to be a missionary.  Real life experience is one of the things that helped me the most.  I realized that it's not that hard and it brings soooo much joy.  Sharing the Gospel here made me so much more excited to be a missionary. 

7. {Add Drops to the Bucket}
I saw a blog post a year or so ago that completely changed the way I think.  If you haven't read it or heard of it, please......

Stop what you are doing and READ IT! 

It is called ....... Drops of Awesome

I am a bit of a perfectionist and often find myself in the oh-so-familiar trap of not starting because you don't have a perfect plan yet.  This concept helped me realize that it's ok.  You don't have to be perfect.  Just keep doing good.  Keep moving forward.  Keep adding drops to the bucket.  Don't get discouraged because you can't spray water in your bucket through a fire hose.  Be grateful for the drops.  

I love what she says here.......

"I believe in a God who loves us and roots for us and cheers for every Drop of Awesome we can manage. Our victories are His victories and He wants us to feel joy. Not later, when we no longer make mistakes, but right now."

I know that Heavenly Father doesn't expect me to be perfect.  But I'm sure he gets real sad when he sees that I am beating myself up and preventing further progress because I expect myself to be. If today I only manage to read a chapter of the Book of Mormon or even a verse - it's ok. It's still a drop of Awesome added to the bucket.  And tomorrow I can try harder and add even more drops.  It's a beautiful thing. 

Don't get discouraged. Keep adding Drops. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thou Hast Had Signs Enough

"But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." ~ Alma 30:44

When I read this scripture last week, it really got to me. 

Sometimes it's so easy to forget.  Easy to forget all of the signs and testimonies we have been given.  It's easy to hear someone else's story of an incredible "Sign" they have received and think..... "Why them...not me?" It's easy to compare their signs to ours and think theirs are so much better. 

I think it's easy for me to think.... well Heavenly Father... if you'll just give me one more clear sign, then I'll believe. 

But it's HARD to remember all of the signs he has already given us.  Especially when we live in this ultra - distracting world. And especially when Satan is trying so hard to get us to forget... to doubt. 

A couple of months ago, I was inspired by Elder Holland's talk "Lord, I Believe". Which is fabulous. He talks a lot about how we need to "Fan the Flame of our Faith" and be careful not to lose the testimony we have gained.  

I love this quote......

".....hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes."

I started thinking about how I personally "Hold Fast" to the knowledge I have.  What am I doing to guard my testimony?  And I got this pretty fabulous idea.  Sometimes the Spirit has some really, REALLY great ideas to share with us. This was one of those times.

So I started my search through old journals and thought back on old experiences and talks and asked for the Lord's help to remember all of the "Signs" and witnesses I had received over the years.  Once I started digging.... the memories and feelings began to rush back. When I started recording......even more. 

My goal is to reflect on this list of "Testimony Builders" often and add to it! It doesn't have to be anything big or crazy.  Just something simple.  To hold fast to what you know.  

Something to show our Heavenly Father that we love Him and recognize and appreciate these gifts - because that's truly what these experiences and signs are..... GIFTS.

Gifts that our Heavenly Father picks out and packages just for us.  Because he knows us individually.  He knows what we need and how we will be most receptive.  

It makes me so sad to think of all of the gifts that my Heavenly Father sent me that I didn't fully appreciate.  Gifts that I didn't thank him for.  Gifts that I didn't hold sacred and value.  Maybe even gifts that I didn't notice.  

I think that the best way we can thank Him, is to take special care to Recognize them and hold them sacred.  Record them and reflect on them when we are discouraged.  


How sad are we when we plan and sacrifice for the perfect gift for someone.... when we are so excited to see the reaction on their face.... and then.............


They don't even give it a second thought.  All of that preparation and anticipation and sacrifice. And they barely even notice.... let alone express gratitude.  

I'm sure this is how our Heavenly Father must feel when He sends us specific answers to prayers and touches our hearts to testify of a certain principle.  When He gives us life changing experiences.  When He sends personal revelation to guide us in our lives.  When He lets us explore and discover the beauty of this world He has created for us. And we don't even give it a second thought. 

My goal is to not let these Gifts - these Signs, slip by un-noticed in my life.  I know when I will recognize them and hold them sacred, I will be blessed with more and more and MORE! Until it is like Christmas every day.  And who wouldn't want that? :)

So when times get tough and you get discouraged..... 
When you feel doubt creeping in.......

Look around you at all of the Signs.  

Because "Thou hast [truly] had signs enough" 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Farewell Talk

           I’m so grateful for the opportunity to speak this morning on Loving your neighbor. I love this topic because it is so completely central to this beautiful Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m going to try and outline my thoughts on Why it’s important to love your neighbor, How we can learn to love others with the pure love of Christ, and how it all fits in with missionary work!

I would like to start my talk by sharing with you a scripture…. A scripture that you are probably all familiar with.  …..John 13: 34-35 ….. it reads…..
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
What a simple yet beautiful scripture! We know that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God and to Love one another.  I think this commandment, as simple as it may sound, can be quite overwhelming at times! Are we really supposed to love everyone?  As Christ loves us? That’s a lot of pressure right?  How in the world are we supposed to do that? Luckily, our Heavenly Father didn’t leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves.  He sent us a whole set of instructions for us to study and better yet….. He sent His son, Jesus Christ who is a perfect example of Love, to show us the way!
As we study Christ’s life we can see countless examples of his perfect, unconditional love for each of us….. for EVERYONE! Even those who crucified him. Can you even imagine? What a perfect and pure love! That love, the pure love of Christ, is Charity. 
I have always been fascinated by the word Charity.  Growing up I always thought it was a place where we gave all of our clothes that were too small.  I thought charity was just putting your change in Santa’s red bell outside of Walmart.  But I have since then learned that Charity is soooo much more! ……”And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.I would encourage you all to study this scripture, Moroni 7:45, often. 

But Why? Why is it really so important that we love one another.  Love one another with the pure love of Christ? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to let the natural man take over? Sometimes it takes a lot of time and energy to go out of your way to love others.  Where’s the motivation?  I think  Moroni 10:18 gives us a little bit of motivation.  And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God” If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is! Loving others with the pure Love of Christ isn’t optional… it’s a commandment! But luckily we know that our Heavenly Father gives us commandments to make us happy.  He knows that even though sometimes it’s hard for us to see, we will truly be happiest when we love everyone! I have seen this in my own life and I know it’s true!  The more you love, the happier you will be!
I think there is a tremendous amount of power in this commandment….the  commandment to love. The following quote from Mary Ellen Edmunds teaches us why…… it says…..“If we could really figure out how to love, we wouldn’t need a whole lot of other commandments.”  How true! Think about it…… if we truly loved our Savior, we would have a deep burning desire to do what he has asked of us.  We would WANT to read our scriptures and learn more of his life.  We would strive to diligently serve Him in our callings.  We wouldn’t need to be commanded to pay our tithing or to go to the temple.  If we genuinely loved all of those around us, we wouldn’t need to be told to stop gossiping and judging.  We wouldn’t need commandments like “Thou shalt not steal” or “Thou shalt not covet”. And serving others would come naturally. Once we learn to love, everything else falls into place.

            Like with anything else in life, the best place to start is prayer.  Once we truly desire to love others with the pure love of Christ we can turn to our Heavenly Father in prayer.  I think one of the best things we can pray for in regards to Charity is that we will be able to see others through the Lord’s eyes.  That we will be able to see all of those around us as Children of God.  Children of God that may not be perfect, but individuals that have divine potential, each with unique strengths and talents.  Moroni 7:48 teaches us…… “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.” I love this.  We must pray with “ALL THE ENERGY of HEART” it can’t be just a fleeting thought.  It can’t just be….. Eh… Heavenly Father….I guess I could use some help with charity, if you feel like it.  We have to truly desire and show Heavenly Father that if he blesses us with Charity we will be willing to do our part. 
            So what is “Our Part”? Well I think first we need to be willing to not judge.  We need to be willing to look for the good in others and not the bad.  As human beings our natural instinct is to find the bad, because then we can justify ourselves right? And sometimes it’s just easier to pick out.  But it is so much harder to truly love someone when we are picking out everything they do wrong. Look past the flaws.  We all have flaws! We are human beings! I think Mother Theresa said it best when she said……“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
How true! I had an experience about a month or so ago that really taught me this concept.  We were working on building a classroom for a school in the Philippines and as part of the project we had to paint every single inch of these long metal beams so they wouldn’t rust in the rain storms and humidity.  It was pretty tedious work because they had these little lips on the inside that were really hard to paint.  After about an hour or two of this, class got out and one by one students would come offer to sacrifice their free time and help us paint.  We excitedly handed these willing students paint brushes and a can of paint and off they went.  As they started working across from me, I started to get really uptight because from my angle I could clearly see that they were missing tons of spots under the metal lip.  My perfectionist brain started forming plans on how to fix their sloppy paint jobs without offending them.  I started trying to think of other things for them to do so I could fix their paint job.  I’m ashamed to say that I was relieved as they finished that row of beams and moved on.  I quickly replaced them in the spot across from where I was previously standing so that I could re-do what they had done. To my astonishment I noticed that from this new angle…. This new point of view….I could clearly see that I had missed even more spots than they had.  I had done an even sloppier job but hadn’t noticed because I was too busy judging them.  I was immediately humbled and felt awful.  I realized that not only had I judged them but I hadn’t taken the opportunity to talk to them.  To take time to learn about their lives and to show that I cared about them.  I had been too busy judging them and consequently had no time or energy to Love them.  From that point forward I was able to see them as the generous, loving, selfless, beautiful students that they were.  And I loved them.  Please learn from my mistake! Don’t judge!
            In one of my all time favorite books called Love is A Verb, the author starts out with this simple yet profound thought.  “ Love, without service, like faith without works, is dead.” This makes so much sense! I know this concept is true! As I have reflected back on my life.  I have realized that when I have served those I love, small as it may be, my love for them is awakened and strengthened.  You love those you serve, and you serve those you love. It’s a never-ending cycle of Charity. 
We have been told that the best way to provide service and show our love for other is to follow this simple formula…… “Observe, then Serve.”  I think there is so much truth to this! If we truly love someone and want to help them, not just “get some service hours” ….we will observe and find what they truly need and how we can help.  We will serve out of love.  There is a quote that states “The major components of Love are an awareness, and a willingness to act.” To me this means be involved! Be aware of what is going on in the lives of others and be willing to help! Not just when it’s convenient for you or when it fits neatly into your schedule but ALWAYS! And especially when you can tell it is needed. It doesn’t have to be big! One of my favorite quotes of all time teaches us about this.  Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”(Leo Buscaglia) I think that if we really knew….. if we really understood what kind of a difference some of these tiny seemingly insignificant acts of kindness can make in someone’s life we would never turn down or miss an opportunity to love.  We would do more of these “small things with great love.” And not only would others feel loved, but we would be significantly happier.
A while back I went on a trip to South East Asia with my sister.  We spent two weeks doing Humanitarian work in Cambodia then went to Thailand for another two weeks to be beach bums.  While I loved my time in both countries, the people of Cambodia are so much closer to my heart.  When I hear the word Cambodia, my heart races and my soul is flooded with the love I have for those people.  I can’t necessarily say the same thing about Thailand. I think they are wonderful people, but I don’t have the same deep love for them. I think the difference is how I spent my time.  Because I served and labored with the people of Cambodia I have a special place in my heart for them.  I can promise you that if you go out of your way to serve someone….anyone…. with the pure love of Christ, your love for them will increase.  You will begin to see them as Christ sees them. 

            I have also learned a lot about loving others as I have studied the Book of Mormon lately.  I don’t know if it’s just because I’m quickly approaching the day I will enter the MTC or if it’s just the part of the Book of Mormon I have been reading, but it seems like that book is chuck full of Missionary work.  Alma, Amulek and the Sons of Mosiah have taught me so much over the past week or so.  And the biggest thing they have taught me is the importance of Love in missionary work.  There are countless examples of this.  These missionaries were able to bring thousands of hardened and wicked Lamanites to the Gospel through the power of Love.  Ammon asks to be a servant to King Lamoni and Miracles happen.  Alma and Amulek love and forgive Zeezrom, an Anti-Christ who caused them so much grief, and once again miracles happen. But perhaps my favorite example of the power of Love in missionary work is that of Ammon and King Lamoni’s Father.  After Lamoni is converted, he and Ammon are on their way to rescue Aaron and the others in Middoni but they run into Lamoni’s father – the Lamanite king.  And he is not happy, in fact he’s pretty angry.  Angry enough that he commands his son Lamoni to kill Ammon, then when, of course, Lamoni refuses, the King tries to kill his own son and later Ammon as well.  Well, when the tables have turned, and the King’s life is in Ammon’s hands, what happens is incredible.  The king offers half of the kingdom to Ammon…. and Ammon only requests that the King let Aaron and his brethren out of Prison and that he let Lamoni rule how he wishes and not be displeased with him.  Alma 20:26 says…… “And when he saw that Ammon had no desire to destroy him, and when he also saw the great love he had for his son Lamoni, he was astonished exceedingly.”  This Love caused a tremendous change of heart.  Not only had this ferocious Lamanite King spared their lives and granted religious freedom to his son, he was desirous to learn more! Later, when Aaron tracts into him, the king greets him with “for I have been somewhat troubled in mind because of the generosity and the greatness of the words of thy brother Ammon…..” He goes on to be taught and converted unto the Lord, which opens up the way for successful missionary work throughout all the Lamanites.  These Lamanites later become the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and then the Army of Helaman. What a miracle! All because of one act of great love.
I have learned that perhaps Love is the greatest missionary tool of all.  Because as we truly begin to love and care about someone, hard work, sacrifice, patience and all of those other essential ingredients for successful missionary work come naturally.  We are willing to look past the discouraging times and endure to the end.  I think Ammon says this best when he says “And we have suffered all manner of affliction, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.” This is after they have been starved and beaten and despised and cast in prison. Do you think they would be willing to suffer all of this for some soul? Notice that doesn’t say some souls, That’s singular. One person.  Do you think they would sacrifice 15 years of their lives and suffer like that If they didn’t have a tremendous amount of love for them? I think they knew the secret to successful missionary work.  I think they truly understood that Pure, Christlike Love is the key to the work. 
The Lord understands this as well.  And he does something tricky.  When he calls his missionaries to serve, he almost immediately blesses them with an overwhelming, undeniable, and tangible love for the people they have been called to teach.  I know this is true for me.  Almost the moment I opened my mission call I felt a huge rush of Love for the people of Fiji.  It’s like Heavenly Father was saying.  “Aimee, you are my precious daughter and because I love you so much, I have called you to Love and serve my precious children in Fiji.  I have let you feel just a sliver of the Love I have for them so that you can testify of my Love and bring them unto me.” Our Heavenly Father knows what he is doing.  This is truly HIS work.
I love the story of Lehi’s dream because it teaches us that when we discover something wonderful (whether it be a new treat, a great deal, a delicious piece of fruit, or the Beautiful, life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ) our first reaction is a desire to share it with those we love! We want those we love to be happy!
This is truly the key to successful missionary work. Love, Love, and more pure Christlike LOVE! I can promise you that as you strive to love one another with this same love, you will become happier.  I testify that our Father in Heaven lives and loves each of us. He wants us to be happy! He wants us to love one another! He wants us to share his glorious Gospel.  I testify that he knows us individually and has a plan for us.  I know without a doubt that serving a mission in Fiji is exactly what I need to be doing right now. I am so grateful for the incredible support system of family and friends that I have. And I am so thankful for the book of Mormon and the power that it brings to my life.  I’m thankful for the Prophet Joseph Smith and for a living prophet on the earth today to lead and guide us.  I know that my Savior lived and died for me.  I know that this gospel is true and that it truly changes and blesses lives and I am so excited to share it with the beautiful people of Fiji.  I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

I'm a lucky girl to have such a fabulous support system of family, friends, and leaders. I only got pictures with a few, but Thank You to everyone who came to support me! You are all wonderful!

The Fam.

We're best friends.

These girls are the best!