Monday, January 25, 2016

His Name On Our Lips

What a week.
    I think this week was the hardest I have ever worked on my mission. 
And it was amazing!! It fleww by and I was happy and tired and happy.
    I finally got to meet the new Visitors'' Center directors, the Wards! They are fabulous. They are SO energetic and motivated, fresh from the MTC. They were so grateful for our warm welcome and they feel like family already. They took each one of us aside individually and expressed their love for us and that they were there for us for anything we need. They also expressed to us that feeling the Spirit we have and the Spirit of the Visitors Center has deepened their testimony that the church is true and that the Savior's love is so real. I am so glad they felt of the powerful Spirit that dwells in our hearts and in the Visitors' Center. It is hard not to feel the Spirit in there. They helped me remember how excited and motivated I was when I first got to the mission, and my similar immediate love for Oakland and the temple and the Visitors Center. I felt their sincere love and trust and cant WAIT to serve alongside them! I love having grandparents here on the mission. LOVE.
    We had an incredible experience this week. We got to watch a word-wide broadcast for missionaries all over the world. This was the first time they have done anything like it in over 10 years. It was powerful to know that about 75,000 missionaries from all over the world were sitting there listening to Apostles and leaders speak of missionary work and give us specific guidance that came straight from the Lord. And of course, Dont forget about all of us singing "Called to Serve" together at the end. I am surprised there wasn't an earthquake. 
    One thing that really stood out to me during the broadcast was Elder Neil L. Anderson's testimony of the Savior. He told us to "always have His name on our lips." He told us that if we were ever unsure what to say, "to testify of the Savior." He ended with, "Speak of Him. Speak of His doctrine. One day He will speak of you to the Father." So beautiful. I tried to incorporate this into my week as we talked to strangers, I tried to never leave someone without at least mentioning the Savior and I felt a new strength and love and power come to me and my testimony. I hope they could feel it too.
    So about this week: We had every single one of our lessons cancel hahaha. Every single one. But luckily, we had backups for all of them, which mainly involved knocking the doors around that persons house. So, we ended up knock knock knocking. We laugh so hard that sometimes we have to catch our breath and stop laughing before we knock on someone's door, and even then sometimes its still hard not to laugh. Especially when an 80 year old shirtless man opens the door carrying a cat and a gallon of strawberry milk (I think). Anyways, I am about to get real cheesy here, but this week it wasn't missionary work, it was missionary fun. We have fun talking to strangers and testifying of Jesus Christ. The more doors you knock that say no, the happier you are when you find the ONE that says yes. If all of the doors said yes, we wouldn't be as excited.
   One night it was about 8:50 and we are supposed to be home at 9:00, and we looked at each other and we were like, "one more." We found the address of a former investigator and went to her house. We didnt find who we were looking for BUT sometimes that is how the Lord works! He sends us to someone who IS ready. We knocked on the door of an young Asian man from the same city as Sister Zhong and he is so open and ready for the gospel. His name is Steven and I will keep you updated. Tender mercy. 
   MIRACLE: I hope you all remember Mary Miner. She was a beautiful lady that came in to the Visitors Center back in October. She loved the VC, gave us her info, and we taught her and her less-active boyfriend, John, the restoration the next day. She accepted it whole heartedly and KNEW that it was true and this is what she had been looking for her whole life (so beautiful). They knew they needed to get married before she was baptized, so they got married a few days later. She came to church, then they moved to Idaho. She fell away and was having a lot of issues, but she came back to church and we have been in contact with them over the last few days and SHE IS GETTING BAPTIZED January 30th. Sister Harper and I get to Skype her baptism since we were the missionaries who taught her! I am beyond excited for her and have enjoyed watching her change her life through Jesus Christ! 
     I would just like to end with my testimony of the strength that can come from prayer and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Prayer is real. Our Father in Heaven loves us and hears our prayers. Turn to Him. You will receive strength to continue on, even when it seems impossible or hopeless. He is Hope. He is Love. I have seen Him in my life. The Atonement of Jesus Christ can change our hearts, if we are humble and willing to submit and change. If we didn't have weakness or weaknesses, we wouldnt be able to use or apply or appreciate or understand or come to love the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Weaknesses are ESSENTIAL for us to come to know the Savior and His Atonement. May we always remember this and welcome trials and weaknesses, grateful that we can grow and change and become more like the Savior.
Have a happy week!
I love love love you
Sister Brinton

Brother and Sister Neves and Brother and Sister West

Monday, January 18, 2016

rain rain rain

     Rain rain rain here in California! I woke up to it and fell asleep to it every day this week. I love the rain, but I do miss the sunshine. 
     We got to go to Zone Conference in San Francisco! We had to wake up way early, but the drive over the Bay Bridge covered in fog was totally worth it. It was way more exciting and beautiful than it should have been, I was freaking out. It was Sister Zhong's first time to San Francisco and she was in awe. She loved it. She goes, "It looks just like Hong Kong!" haha So Zone Conference is a lot like a fireside/classes where we receive training. I was expecting it to be really uplifting and spiritual, like a devotional. Instead, it was a lot of training and lectures and pressure and responsibility and I got so stressed out. I think if I would have gone in with a different mindset, like the mindset that I was going to receive training and guidance, it would have gone differently. I was expecting a "Good job! Keep up the good work!" and instead I got a "You arent working hard enough. You arent being exactly obedient." The Spirit was definitely teaching me and telling me what I needed to work on. It was extremely hard to hear and stressed me out way bad. Once I was able to take a deep breath and sleep on it, I decided to let this experience motivate me to change and work harder. I am feeling much better now, but only because I turned to the Savior and asked for His help. Theres no way I could do this on my own. 
     The Poulsen's (The Visitors' Center Director and his wife) left today, so that was sad :( I only got to serve with them for 4 months, but they are incredible people. They live in Logan, Utah, so I will totally see them when I go back to school. I am excited to meet the couple replacing them, the Wards! So exciting! 
     So I had this killer knot in my back for the past 3 weeks. I kept trying to have people rub it out but nothing was helping. I started getting headaches from the pain and couldn't sleep! I lost feeling in my left arm and decided to go to the chiropractor. I showed her where the knot was and it wasn't a rib had popped out of place haha. So she popped it back into place and now everything is good! It's a little swollen, but it feels much better. I asked her what causes that and she said it just happens sometimes... weird.  Updates on people:
Keith's baptismal date got pushed back because he smoked.
Tori's date is still February 6
Emily picked a date, February 13th!
We dropped Ron. He doesnt understand the restoration and keeps going on and on about his visions where God told him that he has been chosen to unite all the religions. He came to church yesterday though so who knows.
     The work is slow. The Visitors Center is slow. They actually cut our hours at the VC so we have more time in our area, San Lorenzo. One day we spent the whole day trying to contact former investigators and no one home and it was raining and I was tired and my back hurt and nothing nothing nothing. I was pretty done. That night I was reading my scriptures and I came across this in Acts: 
     Doing missionary work, Peter and John got stoned and arrested and cast into prison and brought before a council. They were commanded that they were to not speak of Jesus Christ anymore. These verses follow: 
"And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to bear shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Acts 5:41-42
      I was absolutely overcome and I broke down in sobs. Here are two men who have dedicated their lives to missionary work and they were stoned and arrested and cast into prison. They were brought before a council and commanded not to even SPEAK of Jesus Christ. Then what do they do? Do they quit? Give up? Go home? Cry? Whine? Feel sorry for themselves? Complain? Nope. Not for a second. The minute they left, they REJOICED that they were counted worthy to bear SHAME for Jesus Christ. And they kept teaching in EVERY house. Wow. I was overcome with humility at these Apostles dedication and love for the gospel and the Savior. They demonstrated perfect hope and faith and hard work. I hope I can get to the point where I truly forget myself and go to work, where I have complete faith in the Savior, where I rejoice that I am counted worthy to bear shame for His name.
      I love the Savior. I testify that He is the Christ. There are miracles happening all around us. He is the Prince of Peace. The world cannot provide the peace that the Savior can. 
"Peace can come to an individual only by an unconditional surrender --surrender to Him who is the Prince of Peace, who has the power to confer peace."
 Have a happy happy week. 
I love you.
Sister Brinton.

Sister Nistler
Sister Benosa
Elder Poulsen
Chinese Market
Thanks for the cute shirt ellie!! :)

Brother and Sister Paulsen

rolling sushi

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven

   We had a pretty good week! Things have slowed down since the holidays. I still love Sister Zhong and she is still the cutest tiniest thing on the earth. We get along super well and are experiencing this adventure happily! If I had a scripture to describe Sister Zhong it would be this one: 
      "But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do goodand tlove God, and to serve him, is inspired of God." 
Moroni 7:13 
   She is so pure and kind and just good to the core!! I love being around her and am definitely a better version of myself around her.
   I love my district. It is so fun to still be in the same zone because I get to see people I already know and have already served with! and I love them!! My new district is a party all the time. We all have really outgoing district and so we laugh pretty hard. So fun! Also, the Elders in my district are serving in my old area, San Leandro, so I get weekly updates on my old area!! It's so fun and I miss San Leandro but I LOVE San Lorenzo.
   We have 2 investigators getting baptized on February 6: Keith and Tori. Keith is an older man with slicked back gray hair. He is super religious and has a lot of questions. We do our best to keep the Spirit and not argue. I notice myself just sitting there smiling trying not to stab him sometimes. I just sit there and breathe until I can finally respond in a kind loving way. This is always more effective than the stabbing. He comes to church every Sunday. He is really struggling financially and has no family and is going through a lot. I admire his faith and he has helped me realize that I often take all of my blessings (mostly the people I love so much) for granted. Tori is 15 and her friend Sam got baptized in November. She has taken much better to the Sisters than she did the Elders. The Elders couldnt get her to pray, and knowing this, we went into the lesson and taught prayer. We made sure to emphasize the fact that God is LITERALLY our Father and He loves us more than we can ever comprehend and He knows us by name. He wants to hear from us. He listens to our prayers and He wants to help us. I then offered an example prayer and we asked her if she would pray. She readily agreed and offered the most sincere and sweet prayer I have ever heard. The Spirit was so strong and none of us could stop smiling. I think getting her to understand the relationship we have with our Father in Heaven was KEY. This is another wonderful blessing that I take for granted. My Momma sent me this beautiful passage by President Uchtdorf that really touched my heart: 

"God has given again in these latter days the truth about where we came from.Why we're here, and where we are going. 

Much of the confusion we experience in this life comes from simply not understanding who we are. 

One of the most beloved storytellers of all time was the Danish writer, Hans Christian Anderson. In one of his stories, The Ugly Duckling, a mother duck discovers that one off her newly hatched chicks is unusually large and very ugly.The other ducklings cannot leave the ugly child alone. They punish him mercilessly. 

The ugly duckling decides it would be better for everyone if he left his family and so he ran away. Then one day he sees flying overhead a flock of majestic birds.He takes flight and follows them to a beautiful lake. The ugly duckling looks into the water and sees a reflection of a magnificent swan. The ugly duckling realizes that the reflection is his own. He has discovered who he really is. 
Think of where you come from. You are sons and daughters of the greatest, most glorious being in the universe. He loves you with an infinite love. He wants the best for you. This knowledge changes everything. It changes your present, it can change your future, and it can change the world. If only we understood who we are and what is in store for us our hearts would overflow with such gratitude and happiness that it would enlighten even the darkest souls with the light and love of God. 
Of course there will always be voices telling you that you're foolish to believe that you're swans. Insisting that you're but ugly ducklings. And that you can't expect to become anything else. But you know better. You are no ordinary beings. You are glorious and eternal. 

I plead with you, just look into the water and see your true reflection. It is my prayer and blessing that when you look at your reflection you will be able to see beyond imperfections and self doubts and recognize who you truly are; glorious sons and daughters of Almighty God."

   I love this sacred truth and CRY every time I explain this beautiful truth that so many daughters of God have NO IDEA exists. 
  We have two other investigators: Ron and Emily. Ron is Sam's (Tori's friend) Dad! He is also an older man, full goatee. We are having a hard time finding out if he really "gets it." He was a preacher before and he goes along with everything that we say, but it's not like the Spirit is testifying to him that it's true, it's more like he just loves God and its a feel-good experience, more than a lesson. He just goes on these rants about how good God is, which is fabulous, and He knows the King James version of the Bible like the back of his hand. So we are just trying to get him into the Book of Mormon, He just quit drinking coffee so that's great! Emily is an older Hawaiin lady who called us and said I want to be baptized before January 25 because my grandson is leaving. We were like what the. We went over to her house and taught the Restoration and she loved it! It went super well and she came to church! We found out that she smokes and not only that but she doesnt plan on quitting any time soon, so we had to tell her that she cant be baptized before January 25th because in our mission we have a rule that you have to live the Word of Wisdom for 3 weeks prior to your baptism. So we will see how that goes. 
   We love love the ward and I have never seen a ward so focused on and motivated to do missionary work. We are fed every single night and it feels like home! We love it. 
   We had an amazing Visitors' Center Training this week. We all went over to the Poulsen's home (our Visitors' Center directors) and had a big breakfast. They are leaving next week and we get a new couple, the Wards! So exciting, and sad. After breakfast we had an amazing discussion/fireside sort of thing. As a mission, our Mission President asked us to make a personal sacrifice to become more dedicated to our goal of 400 baptisms. So we decided to make a Visitors' Center sacrifice. We discussed all together (10 companionships of Sisters, and 3 companionships of senior couples) what we could sacrifice to become more consecrated missionaries and to improve the Visitors' Center. We decided on our language, what we talk about. We decided that this would be challenging for us because we are all hormonal women living in very tight quarters spending a lot of time together and I know it sounds crazy, but there is drama, yes even though we are missionaries, SURPRISE. It would also have a huge effect on the spirit of the Visitors Center because imagine how hard it is to transition from talking about snuggling with a boy in the back of a truck to bearing sincere testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ. Yeah, the Spirit isn't there and you are distracted and didn't provide what that person needed that day because of what you were talking about. Why would Heavenly Father send one of his precious children to the Visitors Center when we aren't ready to receive them. SO after we all decided on that and committed to hold each other accountable, the Poulsens bore their departing testimonies and we all knelt in prayer. I can not describe the Spirit that filled that room. It was absolutely tangible. Everyone was weeping. 26 set apart, dedicated, righteous missionaries kneeling shoulder to shoulder giving our hearts to our Father in Heaven. REcommitting everything to Him. Expressing our love for one another, our sincere desire to repent and improve and sacrifice. I will never forget that moment and have replayed it in my mind many times since. 

"For am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily seal upon you your exaltationand prepare throne for you in the kingdom of my Father,with Abraham your fatherBehold, have seen your sacrificesand will forgive all your sins; have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which have told you. Go, therefore, and make away for your escape, as accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac." D&C 132:49-50
   Sacrifice helps us to be humble and allows the Lord to bless us more than he could have otherwise. Blessings are in accordance to obedience. Sacrifice is supposed to REFINE (purify or improve) us, and Christ is the Great Refiner. It's not supposed to be easy. We have to TRUST that our sacrifice will be worth it. Many are called (on missions) but few are chosen (to serve in Visitors' Center, 2% to be exact). 
   One thing that has been super hard for me this week: Sister Zhong speaks fluent Mandarin and Cantonese and so she gives a TON of tours in Chinese. I have to go with her (obviously) even though I dont speak a lick of Chinese (obviously) and I have no idea what's going on. The first 300 tours were really interesting and entertaining. But after that, I just started feeling like such an idiot and I would just stand behind her and not even pay attention. It really started wearing on me. I dont feel like a missionary when I am just standing there awkwardly like an idiot and she is leading tours like there is no tomorrow. Sister Zhong doesnt make me fee like this at all, it's nothing SHE does, it's just the situation. And yes, Chinese people are important too. It's just hard. If there are two groups of people that come in, one English, one Chinese, we always take the Chinese tours. Seeing how happy Sister Zhong gets when she sees a Chinese person almost makes up for it. I just haven't given a solid English tour in a while, so it's hard to be excited when a group of Asian's come in and I can't do my job, I can't do what I am called to do. I try really hard to pay attention and smile but they dont pay attention to me. Sister Zhong is an amazing missionary and I can feel the Spirit when she teaches, even though it is in another language. It has definitely made me appreciate the English tours that I DO get to give. Gotta make 'em count! I am grateful for this chance to forget myself and learn! It's not about ME and how many tours I give and the testimony I bear. It's about THEM. Its for THEM to have a spiritual experience. And if they are going to get that from Sister Zhong and Sister Zhong alone, wonderful :)
   There is definitely a new and special Spirit about the Visitors Center. We have all been naturally more kind and sincere and talk about uplifting things. People that come in can feel the Spirit that's there. It feels more peaceful and sacred recently. AND we have also seen miracles!!! Now that we have a more powerful Spirit in the Visitors' Center, our Father in Heaven is sending the prepared elect to us!!! We have had 4 or 5 people within the last few days walk into the Visitors Center and ask to be baptized (two of them were Asian). I am convinced that Sister Zhong has brought a special Spirit to the VC. She was so excited to come back after being in the field for so long, I think it helped us realize how much we took it for granted. And Heavenly Father is sending prepared people to her because she is prepared to teach!!! It has been beautiful to watch! Also on chat (we answer chats) I had two people message and ask how to join our church. They willingly gave me their address and I sent the missionaries. 
   There is beautiful work happening here and all around the world brothers and sisters! I am so grateful to be such a small small part of it! We recite our purpose as missionaries every day and at the end we both smile and say:
"How great and short is our calling!"
   I love the work. I love the sleep. I love the Chinese accent. I love how all Sister Zhong eats is noodles. I love the knots in my back and the weird dreams. I love YOU! I owe everything to you for all your love and support. But I love my Savior. I am in awe with every new thing I learn as I study the New Testament and feel myself coming to know Him as a LIVING being. He is our Savior. He loves us. He atoned for each one of us and He would do it again. He is perfectly obedient and the perfect example. I hope my life can emulate His one day.
Have a HAPPY week,
Sister Brinton

I'm not kidding she's the cutest thing on the earth.
Mini Golfing with my District

Sister Zhong

Sister Taylor
Sister Benosa

Im not kidding she is the cutest thing on earth.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sister Zhong

      Happy New Year! I can't believe it is 2016!!! So so crazy. 
      2015 was probably one of the most influential and important years of my life. I decided to go on a mission!! A year ago today, I had NO clue I would be here, in San Lorenzo, California, serving a mission. It is so incredibly beautiful to look back and see the Lord's hand so intimately directing me and guiding me throughout my life. I am SO grateful for Him and His love and His plan for me. I am happier than I have ever been and I LOVED 2015. This year is extremely special to me because I will dedicate it ENTIRELY to the Lord. Not 4 months, not 8 months, but 12 months. All of 2016 will be dedicated to the Lord. I know that I will learn and grow so much, but the part I am looking forward to the most is coming to know my Savior even more as I serve and love the people here in California as He would. I cannot wait to see all the blessings and miracles and the Lord's hand as I serve Him. This is also so special to me because of the 400 goal my mission has. There aren't very many missionaries who will experience that from start to finish. Some will see the beginning and some will see the end, but I get to see it from January 1 to December 31. I will see those 400 baptisms come to pass. I am THRILLED that I get to be a part of this. YAY 2016!!!! 
      Transfers were this week! Tuesday morning we woke up at 5 and finished packing and cleaning and said goodbye to our apartment. I tried to force some tears but they weren't coming for once in my life. I was too excited. Then we went to help the Elders on bikes take their stuff up to the mission home. We were at the mission home until 10:30 when SISTER ZHONG got there!!! We got her stuff, got groceries, went to our district meeting, and went to our new apartment! It is HUGE compared to my old apartment. Elders lived there before so we cleaned cleaned cleaned. Can I just take this time to thank the Elders for having ONE cleaning supply, which was a spray bottle entitled "Spray Stuff." It is feeling more and more like home each time I throw away the cereal boxes and Star Wars posters that were taped to the wall with duct tape. Then we headed up the Visitor' Center. Sister Zhong is SO happy to be back. She is called to the Visitors' Center, but she was full proselyting for two transfers. 
     That night we got back to our apartment (I make that sounds so simple. It took 15 minutes to get our own address sent to us, then we got the GPS and finally got there after taking the wrong exit and had to call the elders to ask which parking spot was don't think about little things like that when you get transferred haha oopsies). We finally got home and after trying every key on the ring, got in to our apartment!! We plugged in our heaters because it was freezing and Sister Zhong went into the bathroom. All of the sudden the power went out and I was half dressed. I wrapped a towel around me and hear Sister Zhong in her CUTEST accent, "Sister Brinton?" The toilet was making a weird noise and so I went in and one of the tube things had come unhooked and water was shooting out everywhere. Mind you I am half dressed and it is PITCH black. We were screaming and laughing so hard haha. So I ran and grabbed a flashlight and Sister Zhong helped the toilet stop running or whatever (I'm clueless) and we had to find the breaker in the apartment I was so scared. We finally found it, got the power back on and started planning at 10:45. Planning was stressful because we are brand new to the area, we literally know nothing, so that took forever. Then we had to FIND our toothbrushes and MAKE our beds and weren't asleep until at least 11:30. All of it was WONDERFUL, it is all part of the experience. We were laughing and joking and getting to know each other. You just have to embrace it!! Memories in the making! I love it. We are just manually flushing the toilet by filling up a huge bucket of water in the tub and dumping it in the toilet until it is fixed. Sister Zhong taught me. She also taught me that I was just like an Asian because I shower at night and all Asians shower at night. 
     But most of all, I love Sister Zhong. She is the absolute cutest, sweetest, kindest person on this earth. I love her. She speaks extremely impressive English. I love her accent. She mixes up some words that make me giggle. For example she says "somehow" instead of "sometimes." Like, "I love Cheerios but somehow I eat Froot Loops," or "I try to run every day but somehow I walk." It is my favorite thing. We have gotten along so so well and I am happier than ever. She is experienced but doesn't come off that way at all. She is so humble and sweet and quiet. I love learning about her culture and getting to know her! We are so different. She has one younger brother who is 18 and preparing to serve a mission. Her family are the only members in her extended family and they are all converts!! Her parents found the missionaries when they were on vacation and got baptized in ONE WEEK. They came home and Sister Zhong and her brother were baptized about 3 months later, she was 14. 
     Wednesday night we had our first night in our area. Sister Zhong has shotgunned before, so she knows what to do and what is most important (thank goodness). I am learning so much!! The most important thing to do is to get to know the area, the investigators and the ward! We made about 3 thousand phone calls and everyone said they are so excited to have sisters!! We met the Bishop (awesome, young, Filipino man), the entire ward council, and all of our investigators!!! We have so much support from the ward, it sounds like they get really involved, which is awesome! The San Lorenzo ward is bigger than the San Leandro ward, about 300 active members, 200 inactive. It is a little overwhelming to try to learn a whole new ward and city, but we are so lucky to have the Lord on our side. He is helping us so much, and all we can do is our best and be happy!!! Our area has so much potential and we are definitely going to contribute to that goal of 400 baptisms!! I AM SO EXCITED. I love it. I love all of it. 
     For New Year's Eve, we got together as a zone (I am in the same zone as my last area, which is fun because I know everyone and have become very close with a lot of them. It is also fun because my new District Leader is serving in San Leandro, my old area, so I get to hear updates on my people every week!! So fun. I will keep you updated) and watched movies! We watched Big Hero 6 and Inside Out. Both movies have the Golden Gate bridge in them, so that was super fun and exciting (we WAY overreacted). It was so fun to relax and hang out and eat and watch movies, most importantly in sweats. Kissed my family goodnight, and I was asleep long before midnight, just like every year before that. Then it's back to work! 
I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Years!
I feel that this BEAUTIFUL quote my BEAUTIFUL mother sent me kind of sums up my resolution for 2016:

"Jesus is the Love I want to express, the Hope I want to share, the Joy I want to reflect,       and the Peace I want to sow around me." Mother Teresa
Sister Brinton

In N Out
Last District Activity
Sister Nistler
Last car picture together! :(
BYE Sister Harper :(

Sister Zhong
Our massive apartment!!
Courtyard, SO CUTE
We matched on accident :)
Zone activity... New Years Eve
Sister Nistlers cat shirt lol

Sister Obando

my cute asian!!!
Hannah Williams <3