Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 32 - Start Looking Through The Window

Well greetings my fellow family members:]

Before we jump into all the greatness of my life as a missionary i want to point something out. I'm so freakin tired. I'm just really tired all the time and i keep thinking when am i gonna get a break? oh oh yeah that'll be in like 10 months. So when i get home and everyone is super excited that Macall is back, don't be mad if i just crawl into my bed and sleep for 5 days:]
There is seriously one of the greatest ladies i have ever met in the ward named Sister Hanna. She's number one and i really look up to her and admire her. Her husband mm i think about 9 or so years ago fell away from the church. Her two older sons both came home early from their missions. She has had thyroid cancer and all sorts of other health issues, and yet she is by far one the most christlike ladies in Texas. This past tuesday she took us out for lunch and as we were sitting and talking she gave me probably the best advice i have ever received. She was talking about how her daughter served a mission and how probably 90% of the time she just wanted to come home but that her mission president would never let her. Her daughter says now just how grateful she is that she stuck it out to the end, because now she has been able to endure her current trials a lot easier. She has this famous quote "Stop looking in the mirror, and start looking through the window" and as she said it i just thought oh oh wow. How many times do i still get so caught up in what's going on with myself that i miss a lot of beautiful experiences that are right in front of me? At the end of the book of mormon mmm i think around moroni 7 he's talking about how his father, friends, everyone has passed away. He's the last one standing and he really doesn't care whether he lives or dies. What moroni didn't see however, is the huge blessings that heavenly father had in store for him, if he just endured through his current trials. I mean come one Moroni ended up being the man! he's on all our temples, he's the angel that spoke with joseph smith, he is number one. And he's number one because he endured. This past week that's been on my mind a lot, i'm trying to keep my views not on myself but on those around me. If we look at things with an eternal perspective i know that challenges and trials will be easier to face. we just gotta hang in there:]
Karen Foreman got a blessing this past week from the elders and is CANCER FREE. After the blessing we left and told her to keep us posted, a half hour later she texted us saying the doctors had just called and everything was going to be ok:] She came to church this past sunday and at the end of sacrament meeting i turned to her and asked her how she felt, she started crying and said that even though it had been 10 years, she still remembered the sacrament prayers word by word. We're gonna keep going over there and teach the discussions and hopefully her family will start being more involved. While we were sitting next to her in sacrament meeting a couple and a younger girl in jeans walked in and sat right in front of us. The couple was from Utah and they had brought their younger sister. During sacrament they were explaining to the girl what was going on and i kept thinking holy crap, i'm so glad we sat back here with Karen or we would have missed them. Right after the bread and water they got up and walked out, as the door shut behind them i just thought there is no way you can just let them leave!! So i grabbed combs and we kinda chased them down.. haha awkward i know. We talked to them in the hall and the couple is visiting their family for thanksgiving they are members but the young girl is not. Long story short we know that the young girl's family lives by an elementary school in our area and i've never prayed harder to find someone. I'm hoping that by some miracle we're able to run into them and start teaching the family.
It's been FREEZING this past week in Texas! who knew?? there never was a colder missionary in all of Texas than this girl right here:] We've been walking a lot in this area because in Katy, sometimes you have a safe sidewalk and then other times you don't.. haha and it seems like all the really busy roads don't have sidewalks. Even though it's been hard, walking has provided a lot of opportunities for us to share the gospel. haha this past week a cop stopped us and said that they saw us walking everywhere and they wanted to know what we were doing. We also got to meet Jeffrey the crazy salvation army bell ringer! oh my heck:] haha ok so jeffrey is the guy that rings the bell and you put donations in the bucket guy for 31 years! We started talking to him and oh heck, some people are just crazy. he has no teeth and when we told him we were missionaries or representatives of Jesus Christ he burst out into some old man song.. haha it was.. inspiring. The cool thing about being a missionary though is that i'm seriously just supposed to talk to everybody, and man have i met some pretty interesting people because of it.
OH YEAH! ok so the Katy 2 ward is pretty funny, at basically every meal appointment at some point or another they start talking about either their son, nephew, brother, or second cousin once removed, ya get my drift? and then they start talking about how cute, funny, fantastic all these boys are and how the majority of them live in Utah. It really always cracks me up because they are trying to set us up with them but the best part is, I've become a pro at using Sister Combs as the perfect decoy. hahaha, as soon as they bring it up I'll say, "Oh my heck combs did you hear that? they have the cutest (son) and you are so available!"  haha it drives combs crazy but i just know that when she gets off her mish and she has 73 dates lined up, she'll be thanking me:] Combs gets all awkward and every time we leave she punches me or something but heck i think it's so funny. This coming week should be interesting though because most of these candidates are in town and i'm sure we'll be invited to a couple of members houses just for the purpose of introducing us, mmmm awkward. 
 Well heck i can't even believe this week is thanksgiving! where has the time even gone?? I'm super bummed I'm gonna miss shooting cuz we all know that last year i was a legend! it's the weirdest thing how you can beat everyone even with your eyes closed:] ok so i kinda miss you guys a lot now but hey! next year will be the greatest! Also i just wanna throw in there that this is the first year in mmm what 8 or 9 years that I'm NOT doing nutcracker?! haha the other day i busted out some sugar plum for sister combs and she sat there and said please don't do that again.. yeah i miss ballet. but i just gotta accept that that ship has sailed! I love you all so much and i hope this next week is a good one! Eat a lot, sleep a lot, miss me a lot, and just know that I'm grateful to be serving the Lord.

Love, Sister Bowden

Monday, November 18, 2013

Week 31 - The Walls Come Tumbling Down . . .

My favorite people!

Well there goes another week and i can't believe that i'm already sitting here again trying to figure out what to share! This past week was awesome:] 
Tuesday night was probably the first time that i have ever actually felt frustrated with Combs.  We were getting ready to go to dinner and i asked her ok what do you feel like sharing with the family and she paused and said well i don't know.. ahh i was so tired and i was hoping she would have something she wanted to share but... no haha so i whipped something out and then when we got home we had to get ready for exchanges. I was feeling pretty excited for exchanges cuz in my head i was thinking woo hoo! i'm gonna be with the sister training leader, i get a day to just let her take the lead, i can just take a breather.... haha oh oh good one. So i get with Sister Morris and we start doing a little planning for the next day... she talked for an hour and a half. i was so tired that i just crawled into bed and passed out. The next day ALL the appointments that they had planned fell through.. so ya know what we did?! it's probably my most favorite thing to do as a missionary... we tracted. ALL DAY. But it wasn't just that we were tracting it was the fact that as we started out Sister Morris made the comment it usually takes me awhile to warm up to people. So instead of getting the day break that i was planning on getting, i ended up working my butt off in somebody else's area and found them a couple potential investigators. When we got back to our church to swap back me and combs were SO excited to see each other! hahaha my heart got all happy and you would have thought we hadn't seen each other for 5 years or something. I read during studies Alma 29:3 which basically says we need to be grateful for the things which the Lord has given us instead of just wanting something better all the time. Thank you exchanges for truly making me so so grateful for a companion that laughs at my jokes, that keeps me laughing even when we wanna punch something, that has my back at all times, and who is truly someone that i can rely on. I've realized that having a good companion really can make or break missionary work.  It affects everything haha so maybe president should just let us pick our own companions from now on right?:]
We've been doing service at an Alzheimer's place here in Katy and freak can i just tell you how much i love it!! The first time i was kinda nervous not really knowing what to expect and the ladies basically took us to the people and said have at it. The first time we just sat and talked with different people and the second time we taught a painting class hahaha aka we painted circles with them. It literally was the greatest thing i have ever done. You talk to one of them and la la la within 5 minutes you are reintroducing yourself and they are telling you how pretty you are for the 17th time. They are so precious and i love going over there. The only crappy part is that they don't allow us to take pictures:/ cuz seriously i would love you guys to see Edna and Jackie haha Jackie is hilarious and ALWAYS has bright red lipstick. she's always excited to see you.. over and over again. They really do put a smile on your face.
Me and combs have this inside joke where we say mmm we don't work hard we walk hard. Which is probably the truest statement i have ever said. We walk the streets of Katy like no one's business i don't think i have ever walked so much in my gosh dang life. One day we had to walk to other side of China to try and track down a less active lady just to find out that she didn't even live there... one thing's for sure i will not be gaining one gosh dang pound while i am serving here, not even one:]
We had dinner with a family in the ward this past week whose son is hilarious he's i think 12 or 13 and sarcasm is his finest trait. At one point during dinner the dad said Braden will you pass the rolls, i'm gonna eat one? and he responded with oh no way dad i thought you were gonna put it in your wallet! haha me and combs were busting a gut the whole time even though i think at times it annoyed the parents. Ah, i love people who can make me laugh. 
That night after dinner we got back to our apartment and low and behold ricardo was walking to his mailbox. He made the statement I swear i keep running into you guys for a reason and you bet your bottom we jumped all over that! of course you keep running into us ricardo! Heavenly Father is clearly trying to get your attention! We had a really really awesome lesson with him about the word of wisdom and we were asking questions to try and get a feel for where his testimony was at. He said that he believe the Book of Mormon to be true! So i feel like this was not all in vain! We fasted for him sunday to go to church... well he did go to church just not ours. haha but hey we ended up getting him over there last night for a tour and it was a really neat experience. I think he really is starting to get excited about the church and the impact that it could have on his life. At one point he asked if he would be able to do what me and combs do and it completely caught me off guard. I asked him why he was thinking about it and he said that he just wants to impact other people that way that we have impacted him. He also made the comment Sister Bowden i don't think you realize how influential you really are.. the way you say things and the way you act towards people really does leave a lasting impact on them. I'm not really sure what that even means but hey if something i said clicked with Ricardo then by golly i just moved a mountain people!
Yesterday was probably one of the best sundays i have had as a missionary. We had decided to fast because we needed a little extra help to get something going with the ward (which i'll be honest fasting for me and combs is a miracle in itself) but i know that the Lord is so aware of the sacrifices we make for others around us. Even if it is skipping out on a couple meals. When we got to church the Hansen family had brought their neighbors who they found out were a part member family! During Sacrament meeting a recent convert got up and shared his story of how he and his family became interested in the church and how they had made the decision to get baptized! It was so awesome and their family had become interested all because of another family in the ward! I'm telling you the big secret to missionary work is the members! but anyways it was a really powerful talk and he gave us a couple shout outs which was awesome. Then Sister Hancock prayed for me and Sister Combs over the pulpit. WHOA. uhmm is this the Katy 2 ward?? Me and Combs had also been asked to teach the Sunday School lesson because it was on member missionary work. we had been planning on sharing Elder Ballard's talk Put Your Trust In the Lord but due to technical difficulties we ended up winging it! It honestly was my Alma and Amulek moment with Combs. ah man. We just went for it and it was so cool to look out and not only see the women crying but to see most of the men getting teary eyed as well. When we started i made the statement that i hoped that the Holy Ghost would be the teacher here and that he would be able to direct us all individually and as a whole and i think that set it off on the right note. We finished up with about 15 or so minutes left so the regular teacher jumped at the opportunity and asked me and Combs 2 questions. 1: What made us decide to serve a mission? and 2: What is one experience from your mission that you will always keep with you? I can't even really tell you everything i said, but it was from my heart. When i answered the second question i wasn't really sure what to say i mean heck, one experience?? i could go on ALL THE DAYS about what i'm gonna keep with me. But i decided to open up to them, i shared with them that i was wanting to go home when a specific member of their ward had us over for dinner and even though we had gone into her house to teach her, she had taught me. She had helped me in more ways than she will ever know. I told them that while we are here to serve them and do all we can, at times i feel like they influence and impact our lives more than they realize. The spirit was soo strong in the room. As we were walking out i had a couple people stop me and say that what i had shared really touched them and that they hadn't felt the spirit like that in months. You don't realize this but people want to try to be better around you, you have this feeling you give off that makes us just want to be more. WOO! I love being a missionary. Who even am i?? and who would have ever thought that i would stand in a room in front of all these adults and be able to inspire them?? It's all because of that great big man upstairs, and i really can't wait for the day when i can give him a high 5 and say oh my gosh, do you remember that one time when i was in Katy and me and Sister Combs finally brought down the walls between us and the ward?? It was one of the best experiences i have had. 
I really just want to be a force for good. I just so badly want people to feel what i have in my heart and to know that they have so much to look forward to. The key to the challenges facing us and to the success of this work is the faith of those who call themselves Latter Day Saints. I know that a huge barrier between our success was moved yesterday:] i know that the members of the ward are starting to feel the love for missionary work, and i'm very very grateful to be a part of it. I know that this is His work, and while most the time i try to make it MY work, i just keep falling on my face. Hey i'm a work in progress and have been since my birth haha i love our Savior and i'm so grateful for the patience and love that he has towards me. 
Oh ps. so this is a picture of my mailbox... and it's the weirdest thing! i keep getting packages and letters from Arizona and yet... i haven't gotten something from Utah in months...:] it's just SO weird...
I love you all and hope that this week is a good one! you guys are number one and i'm sure i'll be talking to you sooner then i realize! Ps transfers are this week (already) but me and Combs are of course still together:]

Love, Sister Bowden

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week 30 - Strengthen Thy Brethren

Hey hey hey:]

Well where do i even begin this bad boy? So this past week was SO good. and i hope we are all thinking well, it's about time:] cuz i sure am!
On tuesday we had Specialized Training with President which is always just a spiritual blast, we talked a lot about the difference between just having a testimony and being truly converted. I think that's one of the reasons i am so grateful for this opportunity to serve i know without a doubt that growing up i always had a testimony, yep i had a knowledge that the things the gospel shared were true, but i now am becoming converted. It means so much more to me. I'm reading Jesus the Christ and i'm at the part where it's going over the whole Christ walking on water story and I think 89% of the time i'm like Peter. I'm super impulsive and when i see something great i say Hey hey, let me do that too. I know i can do it, but then after a little while i start realizing that this isn't quite as easy as i was planning. Here come the winds and the waves and i start to sink. I'm so grateful for our Savior, who at these times is right there to reach out his hand. I know that a lot of the time He does this through other people cuz clearly I am not peter and clearly i am not walking on water right now. 
We had decided during planning that we were going to see a lady named Karen Foreman. She was just a name on the less actives list and we had decided heck, we should try to see her. That afternoon as we were out about some of the elders texted us and said hey we have a referral for a lady in your ward, her name is karen foreman and she's wanting a blessing. I responded and said oh that's weird we were planning on seeing her tonight anyways. So we swing over there and got to know Karen a little bit. She grew up in Utah has some best friends in Hooper actually. She also may have cancer. She wanted to get a blessing of comfort and that's why she was trying to find the Elders. This is her "Peter" moment, and it was an incredible experience to know that Heavenly Father had already directed us to go and visit her. I told her that we actually had already been planning on seeing her and she started crying. She knows just as i do that Heavenly Father knows us, He knows us and he does hear us. His hand is in everything, as me and Combs left that night we both felt a surge of THIS IS WHY IM ON A MISSION! haha it was awesome and i was so grateful for that moment. While training at times can be a little tiring and frustrating, i have grown this love for it. I love seeing the change that starts taking place in new missionaries, I love seeing their desire to serve others grow, i love seeing their own testimonies and conversions being strengthened, because in a round about way it helps me feel like i am doing something right:]
We spent a lot of time over at Charlene's house this past week, she decided to do a bake sale fundraiser for a wrestling team. So man did i just bake my little heart out this past week. I would also just like to mention that one of the greatest accomplishments i have achieved while being out here is that i have gone 7 MONTHS without kissing anyone! haha well that basically all went down the drain when her little 3 year old daughter lip raped me when we were leaving!! she ran up to say bye and she's so stinkin cute that i picked her up (yeah sue me i know it's against the rules) well in picking her up she just laid one right on me! haha probably a moment i will never forget. 
We had mission correlation every week and this past week i FINALLY felt like we were making some progress. The assistant ward mission leader had a couple names for us to go see and there was a good spirit in the room. When he dropped us off afterwards i said Brother Perez you are the best ward mission leader! haha he said oh well i'm not the leader i'm just the assistant. I just hopped out and said oh... well you might as well be. k there i said it! They were all laughing and so were we because honestly that is the truth! Our ward mission leader still has probably said a couple hey how are ya's and that's it! 
On saturday we were asked to help out with a stake young women's conference because it was all about being a missionary la la la. I'm just gonna say it, it was much easier just showing up to those things than actually putting them together. sheesh. When everybody was gone i turned to combs and said well i have no idea if anyone got anything out of that cuz basically i just made soup and filled peoples salad bowls. haha is that how the leaders feel??  That night a boy in our ward was baptized and we were so excited to go because the family is super great and invited their nonmember friends! The spirit was so strong throughout the whole baptism but listen to the best part! Right before we were about to start, some random lady walked into the church asking to learn more! MIRACLE. We started walking with her down the hall and i wasn't really sure where to start and then bam. right in front of the chapel was a picture of the first vision. It was a really neat experience and as we were talking in the chapel she asked what she had to do to get baptized... ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! so we're planning on meeting with her later today:] We'll see how it goes.
I am starting to love the ward, yesterday i really feel like we were finally becoming a part of it. Not just the awkward girls that sometimes we see on sundays. Things are starting to come together, we're starting to pick things back up again. It's crazy to think of all the different things i am able to learn in a week. I love that i really am starting to see how God truly has a hand in our lives and how amazing the gospel really is. I'm grateful for this opportunity because i truly am becoming the person i want to be for the rest of my life. When thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren. I am converted not just to my friends in the church, not just to the doctrine, but to our Savior Jesus Christ. I am not here to earn my way to heaven but i'm trying to learn my way to heaven. 
I love you all SO much:] i hope this week you're able to find just how much our Savior loves us. Miss you all the days!
Love, Sister Bowden

Monday, November 4, 2013

Week 29 - Last Time I Checked . . . I Wasn't An Elder


oh man well where do i even begin? Ok so our new investigator Ziznedth Kelly is just something else. She's a 60..something columbian woman she's about 4'10" and oh heck is she a little spitfire. We went over there one morning to help her in her yard and let's be honest the most i helped out with our front yard is i watched through the window as you guys all slaved away. but anyways we ended making her this cactus themed flower garden haha i literally had no idea what i was doing but i think i'm a professional "fake it til ya make it" type of person so she ended up loving it. During us planting stuff she said can i take some pictures? We say of course! she asks can i send them to you guys? I said oh no our phone doesn't get pictures but you can send it to my mom, she'd love it.  Before i know what's happening, ziznedth is calling mom and saying all sorts of crazy things. After she hangs up she asks me why didn't you want to talk to her? i laughed and told her were just asked not to so that we can stay focused on missionary stuff and then she says well i called her so you didn't break the rules! This lady is crazy, she's crazy! but we love her and i know she has a heart full of gold. 
We had the ward trunk or treat this past week and ah.... it was just super frustrating. We had invited some random people in hopes that our ward would fellowship them and talk to them, yeah that didn't happen. When we got home that night i was raging mad.  How can they expect us to have success in this area when the members and leaders aren't even doing their part?! But, i think i know why i've been sent to Katy. If i'm learning anything . . . it's that i can't control what people around me do or even what they don't do. I can do my part, i can be myself, and i can react in the best way i know how. While that experience was super frustrating, i'm learning to just slowly let things go that i have no control over. It's not worth me getting stressed and upset.  I just need to keep trying no matter what.  I'm starting to learn that it's not where you serve, it's how you serve. I need to step up my game, do more, give more, love more.  I think that's probably the hardest thing for me to understand is to just be happy with what i have at the moment.  I seem to always be wanting more, whether that be more of myself or more from others, I'm just constantly trying to find what the next thing is for me to do. Sometimes we just need to take a chill pill and let things fall into place for us.
On Halloween we had to be back at our apartment around 7 if we didn't have any set appointments. We had dinner with some members and a less active lady named Amy Hansen. She's been through a lot the past year, separated from her husband and her kids chose to stay in Utah with him instead of coming down here with her. As we talked about the Atonement i just really felt the spirit so strongly. The atonement is everything. It's everything and the more we try to understand it and feel it in our lives i know that happier we will be. It doesn't take away our problems but it does enable us to deal with our problems. I'm so grateful for the atonement and what is has come to mean to me while i have been out here. I heard a talk this past week with the question "Have you been saved by grace?" and the man responded "Have you been changed by grace?" and i thought that was right on the money. The atonement is their to help us change. We need to use it or it was all for nothing, it's never too late, you're never too far gone. I"m so grateful for our Savior who is constantly pulling for us:]
Which brings me to Ricardo... so yeah we've still been teaching him. and yes he's accepting things, and yes la la la but i kinda had to bring the hammer down last night. So we were talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ and all of the sudden he made some comment about how he always thought it would be cool to smoke weed with Christ or something like that and i kept my cool to the best of my ability but i just said, "No.  Ricardo, you would never smoke weed with Christ.  And for you to say that really breaks my heart, he gave everything for you, everything.  And when you come to understand that he truly is the Son of God you would never speak of Him like that."  Ricardo just kinda froze for a second and then was trying to back pedal out of what he said but it was too late. I hope that something sunk in with him last night cuz i never wanna hear someone say crap like that again.
Yesterday was a pretty good Sunday.  Haha, once again the members just asked if we were getting fed and if we had bikes.  The ward mission leader has said a total of 5 words to us so yep we're still just kinda floating along.  A family came up and started talking to us about dinner and how they always fed the elders pizza so that's just what we should expect.  Hmm i could care less about the pizza and last time i checked i was not an elder. Haha i'm here to work and i guess i can do that either with the help of the ward or without it, but i'm still gonna work.  As frustrating as it is, I think that the longer we serve the better things will get:]
I love you guys  and miss ya all the days!! Keep hanging in there and know you're in my prayers:]
Love, Sister Bowden