Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Miracles, Cheesy Clichés, and Peacing Out‏

Sometimes miracles are barely noticeable, and really can only be appreciated in the aftermath. These kind of miracles happen to me everyday.

But sometimes, miracles are ... really noticeable. Like the miracle that happened in this mission during the month of November. Let me fill you in ...

So, background knowledge: The 5 states that make up our mission are all on the "Top Ten Least Religious States" list. Also, New England has the lowest number of Mormons per capita in the country. But the members who are here are so strong and faithful, and when President and Sister Packard got to the mission, about 20 - 30 people were baptized every month.

Now, we are not a numbers oriented mission. Never once the entire 18 months that I have been here has anyone ever told me my numbers were too low, or for that matter, ever praised me for high numbers. We just care about working hard and giving our all and relying on the Lord. But since the Packards have come, baptisms have pretty much doubled, with between 40 - 50 baptisms a month, our all time high being 59.

But, the Lord's work is hastening, and President felt like we weren't reaching our full potential. So this month, after a series of events including an apostolic blessing from Elder Holland, a visit from Elder Lawrence, and some serious spirit and drive going on in the missionaries, we set the goal for 70 baptisms in our mission in the month of November. I don't know how to describe what's been happening here the past month ... it's like every one is on fire. Everyday we would hear stories about miracles happening somewhere, in addition to seeing it ourselves.  People all over the mission who had been meeting with the missionaries but were too scared to commit suddenly had a change of heart. People were literally committing to be baptized and then 2 hours later the baptism would happen. Every single prayer that each missionary has offered this month included a plea for the Lord to bless and watch over these people preparing for baptism. Each of us sacrificed something specific for this month in an effort to show the Lord we were serious about this.

And guess what? Yesterday we found out the total number of people who were baptized this month. 

100. 100 people. 

So. Here I am. Homeward bound in 3 days.
What to say? It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful 18 months. Although "ending" doesn't really seem fitting - more like a beautiful way to start everything else. As my mission has been winding up, it's been a real hoot to hear the other missionaries tell me what I've been known for over the course of my mission: the Sister who doesn't kill bugs, the one that knits, the one with the bun, the one that hates showering, the one that sleeps with her name-tag on ... looks like none of those will be changing! (Except for the sleeping in my name-tag part ... maybe.)
And how would I define myself? The Sister who learned how to pray, the one who fell in love with the Book of Mormon, the one who learned that putting the Lord's work first really does bring life-changing joy.

Wow, that was cheesy. What has my mission done to me?! Cheesy clichés all over the place ... But alas, the cheesy clichés are true. I have loved every moment of this experience. Even when in the moment I didn't love it, I loved it. Does that make sense? No. It's a mission paradox. A true mission paradox.
Okay, this is just going to get more rambley and nonsensical and nostalgic. Peace out New England. You'll always have my heart.
And thank YOU. All of you who have supported this in any way. Sorry I've been terrible at letter writing and thank you note-ing (looks like some things haven't changed), but I really do appreciate it. Like ... a lot. A lot, a lot.

See you soon!
Sister Gledhill

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's been ... great.‏

So, life.
It's happening. And you know what? It's weird.
Yesterday I had my final interview with President Packard. Strange.
Usually our final interviews happen the day before we go home, but a record THIRTY FIVE missionaries go home with me (can you say "mass exodus"?), so President won't have time to interview us all in one day. Here's a snippet of the conversation we had yesterday:

President: How are you feeling Sister Gledhill?
S.Gledhill: Weird. Like I haven't really comprehended what's about to happen.
President: So, how do you feel about your mission?
S.Gledhill: ... *silence, thoughtful pondering
      ... *more silence, overwhelmed pondering
      ... It's been ... great.
Because really, what else can you say? How do you sum up the past 18 months in some kind of communicable sentence? Or for that matter, paragraph? Or novel? I don't think in 10 years from now I will be able to fully recognize the impact my mission has had on me, let alone when I'm right in the thick of it! (By the way, President didn't scold me for my sassy-ness. He completely understands and more eloquently quoted the words of Ammon from the Book of Mormon, "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." Amen to that President, amen to that.)
And so, here I am. My general emotional status could be defined as "constantly on the brink of weeping." Not weeping with sadness, but with ... I don't know, joy and gratitude and longing and love and praise and desire and drive and happiness. It's strange to feel it all at once, but I think I understand the missionaries in the Book of Mormon when they say their hearts were full and they all just fall to the ground because they are so overwhelmed with emotion. I've been doing my fair share of overcome-with-emotion-ground-laying, and let me tell ya, it's a good way to process all of this "feelings" business. (Some of you may be scoffing, because I know I have a reputation to uphold of being stone-hearted. But, what can I say? Missions change people.)
Which leads me to my plan for the next week: basically just soak up everything. It's kind of poetic that Thanksgiving is in the last week of my mission. Did you know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday? Why is Heavenly Father SO PERFECT?!! This next week should be especially incredible, even by missionary standards. The month of November has been a record breaker in the MBM when it comes to miracles. I'll fill you in next week when the whole month is over, but let's just say it will be a good note to end on.
One Grateful Missionary.
(... Sister Gledhill)

A Game of Battleship‏


NO time to email today - we've been too busy prowling the streets of Boston. In the rain. ALL DAY. We went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, so so awesome! We had so much fun we forgot to eat. ... I'm being serious.

So in lieu of my usual nonsensical ramblings, let me share with you a short but profound incite that was shared this Sunday during our Relief Society meeting. The lesson was on prayer, and we will call it "The Parable of the Hasbro Game."

In Doctrine and Covenants Ch. 10, we read that we must "pray always to conquer Satan." Conquer Satan in what, you may ask? A game of Battleship. Life is like we are playing a game of Battleship against Satan, except Satan can see both his board AND ours. He knows who we were before we came to this Earth. He knows our potential. He knows our righteous desires. But we can't remember all of those things right now in our puny mortal forms. BUT HEAVENLY FATHER CAN! And so that's why we need to pray - God can see both sides of the board and can help us through this game of Battleship we call life if we ask Him to.

Haha ... This seemed a lot more profound on Sunday morning. Sleep deprivation can do that to a girl. Oh well.

Sister Gledhill

Monday, November 10, 2014

All Manner of Hooplah

Mi Familia!
Time continues to move forward, despite my persistent pleas to the laws of the universe. Pff. What ever.
But every moment of everyday is filled with so so SO many incredible miracles! Josh Katsy was baptized last weekend in Uganda, Radu in Moldova excepted a baptismal date for December 6th, Shazar went to church in Scotland for the first time yesterday, and we get to witness the work of the Lord moving forward in awe-inspiring ways all over the world right here from the Fishbowl!
(Me and Sister Zickella Skyping with Radu)

 (Radu with the Elders in Moldova at the Balti chapel)

But as we know, every time God hastens His work, challenges and opposition also pop up. I've been experiencing some rather interesting and downright comical trials the past couple weeks. Let me give you a glimpse:
  • I haven't had a canker soar in years, but this week I've had two. The majority of the bottom left side of my mouth is alternately numb and stingy.
  • I have managed to somehow break TWO of the computers in the Fishbowl. Elder Worthington, our resident computer hacker, suspects I got hacked, put my USB in the computer, the virus got onto my USB, we plugged my USB into his computer, and battaboom! You got two broken computers. 
  • I woke up a few mornings ago with a Quasimodo eye. Thank you, weird, swollen, face-shape-altering acne.
  • One night while we were getting off the T, my pocket sized hymn book fell out of my bag and into the pit of the train track. It's like a four or five foot drop and we were just going to jump down and get it, but we figured we had better ask someone with train-authority. Good thing because I guess it's a pretty big deal to go down there! Two MBTA workers had to call and halt the next train to go grab it and it was quite the ordeal. It took like 14 minutes! But don't worry, they felt very compelled to get it for me because of it's religious nature :)
  • The very next night after the hymn book fiasco, while getting off at the very same stop, MY NAME TAG fell off of my coat into the pit. Ai, ai, ai. Unfortunately this time we couldn't find it to request the nice MBTA workers help. 
But you know, despite my walking disaster status, morale is pretty high! I feel like I'm in a "miracles-are-happening-and-you-can't-bring-me-down" kind of bubble. I'm like Simba from Lion King, "Challenges? I laugh in the face of challenges!" I'm in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, surrounded by people everyday who are either ridiculously intelligent, successful, or ... just cool. It's like living in a street style blog. (Did I mention the Longfellow Park chapel is right in the middle of Harvard campus?)
Plus the missionaries I'm serving with are fantastic. We have a blast, and their rather supportive of my un-techieness. Elder Worthington didn't even scold me for ruining his expensive hacker computer he had shipped out from home. All he asked was that I make him pudding! You have a deal, my friend. (Don't worry he's fixing it ... I think.) We've been having family dinners together every night, and oh boy. Here is what I've found out: feeding a family of six missionaries is EXPENSIVE. Probably doesn't help that 4 of the 6 are Elders, and as such have "bottomless pit" syndrome that apparently sets in when they are set apart. (hahaha, because that hasn't happened to me at all. #sarcasm.) But you know, it's great for Fishbowl unity.

We've also been doing a group scripture study each morning, because if their is one thing we all know, it's that the internet can suck the spirit right out of you if you don't fill yourself up with goodness everyday! When it was my turn to be in charge, we studied Mosiah 22 & 24 from the Book of Mormon. These two chapters tell very similar stories about two groups: the people of Alma and the people of King Limhi. Both groups are in bondage to the Lamanites and both groups are delivered by God. But it was so cool to compare the two stories side by side and look at the differences! While the people of King Limhi merely endured their trial and prayed to be delivered from their bondage, the people of Alma poured out their hearts to the Lord and were made stronger so that they could not even feel their burdens any more. When they were delivered to freedom, they had changed and become stronger because of their trial - not just merely endured. WHAT THE, WHY IS THE BOOK OF MORMON SO AMAZING?! I would highly recommend anyone who is going through some hard thing to study these two chapters.
Okay, enough rambling from me. I love you all and hope your week is fabulous.

Sister Gledhill

Being Reverse-Trunky

This was one of those weeks that so much happened I don't even know how to begin to explain.

Like, really. What to even say?

Elder Larry R. Lawrence from the Seventy came to tour the mission. Let me just summarize the thoughts and feeling I had at our Zone Conference by saying our mission is in a really, really good place right now. The Lord is definitely hastening His work here in New England, and we are ready to make things happen! Everyone is on fire and ready to give everything we have to the work. It's been a little bitter sweet because we have worked so hard the past 18 months to get to this point and now that everything is coming together, I'm almost done! But my heart is so full of joy for all of the people who are finding the Gospel and I really wouldn't want it any other way. (Well ... actually I want to stay longer, but alas, the Church is all like "Continue on with your life!", "You have work to do at home!", "MARRIAGE." #Gross.)

And President and Sister Packard made me even more reverse-trunky when they made a surprise visit to the Fishbowl yesterday and were all, "You six missionaries are shaping the way the Gospel is going to be shared in the next 20 years - you are changing the world!" And I'm all, "WHY AM I ONLY GOING TO BE HERE FOR SIX WEEKS?!!"

Okay. Mission-ending-rant over. 

On the bright side, it snowed yesterday and it was really pretty. Also, it's becoming really, really cold outside and I won't have to be here for the frigid winter! #lookingforthepositives

And Bill Greenfelder WENT TO THE TEMPLE FOR HIS ENDOWMENTS. Sister Bailey and I rode the bus to the beautiful Boston Temple on Saturday to go with him, and it was heavenly. Bill always thanks us for how much we've done for him, and all the missionaries always think, "We did nothing." Bill's is just one of those stories I'm so happy I was blessed to witness on my mission. He is stellar.

I will close with a little quote from Radu, our investigator from Russia. We were teaching him the Plan of Salvation and asked him what he knew about the story of Adam and Eve, which resulted in this little gem of a rendition (imagine in endearing Russian accent.):
"God created Adam. Adam was on the earth for a period of time, perhaps a long time? Then Adam told God it was too boring and maybe he needed a wife or something. Then He created Eva out of ... how do you say ... sand." Oi. We love him.

Well, gotta go spread the gospel to the whole world. (literally. We're about to have a Skype appointment with a Pakistani in Scotland. Go technology.)

Sister Gledhill

p.s. Every single one of my companions except for my trainer Sister Bringhurst (she finished at the beginning of Summer) was at zone conference this week!
Sister Roy, Bailey, Batschi, Badham, Jessop, and Zickella. Aren't they cute?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Greetings from the Fishbowl

Oh wow. Where to begin?

I'm here. In Cambridge. Bean-town. We live in the city. We ride public transportation. The subway smells ... smelly. 

And we preach the Gospel online. Like, all. the. time. And let me tell ya, it actually works!

So the six of us digis (digital missionaries) spend pretty much all day at Digital Mission headquarters, the "Fishbowl" in the Longfellow Park Chapel. It's called the Fishbowl because it's a room with a window wall so everyone can look in at the cute little missionaries and tap the glass and stuff. #don'tscarethefishes. Our proselyting process basically goes like this: 

Step 1: Find someone online willing to chat about the gospel.
Step 2: Teach them over Skype (we try and 3-way video call a member as often as we can.)
Step 3: Continue teaching them over Skype until they are ready to meet with the local missionaries.
Step 4: Contact local missionaries, investigator takes lessons there, investigator gets baptized.
Step 5: Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

At first I was like, "This is going to take FOREVER." And then I had 2 Skype appointments in the first 45 minutes I tried it. And then I was like, "Whoa. This is sweet." It's been really really neat to realize that the same love I've had for my investigators my whole mission still applies to our online investigators! For example, we've been teaching this boy named Radu in Russia. He's a university student and we've had 3 lessons with him so far. After we taught the Restoration he told us, "I knew that Christ set up a church when He was here on the earth, but I didn't know the Heavens were opened again!" Like, who has that much faith?! And who says that?! Only people prepared by the Lord to receive the Gospel, that's who.

It's been kind of a crazy adjustment. It's a lot less scheduled than regular missionary work because we don't have to go from appointment to appointment. Because of this it's easy for me and Sister Zickella to just be chattin' away with people and all the sudden we realize it's been 5 hours and we haven't drank any water and all we've eaten is candy corn. We emerge at the end of the day and we're like, "Wait ... it's dark outside? Where did the day go?!" It's a work in progress. Hopefully this week we'll be able to pace ourselves a little better. But besides feeling like a fish out of water at the end of everyday, I am loving it! I feel super blessed to have this unique opportunity and I'm already sad that I will only be here six weeks. It's so much fun! 

Sister Zickella is awesome. I think out of all my companions, she's the most like me and we've been having a blast. The Elders in the Fishbowl have been taking great care of us (especially when I break my computer. They are very patient with my computer-illiterateness.) We live with 2 Chinese angels. Seriously Sister Hung and Sister Ng are probably the two most adorable and hilarious Sisters I've ever met. Everyone in the wards we serve in is a successful genius #whatevs.

Love you all and hope all is well!
Sister Gledhill

(The Fishbowl.This one really captures the "caged animal" effect.)

 (Me and Sister Zickella, Fishbowlin'.)

The Final Transfer TRANSFER

Skipping the pleasantries and getting down to the nitty gritty:


Can I get a "Woop woop!"? I am so stoked!!! Concrete Jungle here I come! (Wait ... does "concrete jungle" apply to only New York City? Or any city? OH WELL WHO CARES I'M GOING TO BOSTON!)

Well, clarification, I am actually going to CAMBRIDGE - home of the ridiculously smart and classy. For those of you Westerners out there, Cambridge and Boston are like twinsy cities separated by the Charles River. (Except take that with a grain of salt because I myself am a Westerner and haven't actually lived there. YET.) But here's the kicker: I'm going to a working in the DIGITAL MISSION. 

What is this "Digital Mission", you might ask? Let me brake it down. So the church has official websites like Mormon.org and LDS.org where anyone who is looking to know what Mormons believe can go on and find answers. However, there are literally millions of people out there in the world who are looking for answers to religious questions and don't know that WE HAVE THE ANSWERS. Mormon.org isn't really designed to reach out to these people, and in fact the Church right now doesn't really have any way of interacting with these millions of people having religious discussions online everyday. Cue: the Digital Mission. Due to the fact that the Massachusetts Boston Mission has incredibly talented and wicked brilliant members and missionaries, they've programmed these amazing web-crawlers that find relevant religious conversations that allow us to answer the questions they didn't know to ask us. There are 4 missionaries in our mission who pretty much full time find online investigators all over the world, teach them via Skype, and once the investigators are ready to be baptized the digital missionaries contact the missionaries serving locally and they get baptized there! 

And guess what? This transfer the Digital Mission is getting Sisters! (That's me!) I don't really know very many details about what I will be doing on a day to day basis, and how much of my time will be spent online vs. normal proselyting (we're also assigned to two wards - Longfellow Park 1&2).  But here's what I do know:
  • My companion is going to be Sister Zickella, who was Sister Jessop's MTC companion. She is 19 and from Florida and I've heard lovely things about her.
  • We will be living in 4 sister apartment with the 2 Chinese Sisters in our Mission. 
  • SISTER BAILEY MY BEST FRIEND COMPANION FROM SCITUATE IS IN MY DISTRICT!!! (We are so excited to end our missions near each other.)
  • This is the 3rd out of my 4 areas that we will be shotgunning. (Aka both companions are brand new to the area.)
  • Elder Tait, who saved me and Sister Badham when we opened Foxboro for Sisters, is working in the Digital Mission right now. Hopefully he can work his magic with me and Sister Zickella!
  • The people working in the Digital Mission are smart. Like smart-smart. Like computer hacker smart. I DO NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT COMPUTERS. I'm not sure why they are sending me there ... I think maybe so I can hang up cute little quotes on the wall or something.
But, I am seriously so so excited! Hopefully this week we'll find out more details about what we're actually supposed to do. If not ... we'll have no idea what to do, obviously.

Also, I'M TURNING 21 THIS WEEKEND! What the heck? How did that happen? I'm not sure. But it's real. Unfortunately it's 2 days after transfers and no one in my new area will know me. BUT I'LL BE IN THE CITTYYYYYY! So, it's like the best birthday present ever.

I love everyone. I love being a missionary. The gospel rocks. And I'M GOING TO THE CITY!
Sister Gledhill