Holy cannoli guacamole I have SO much to tell you. Hold on to your hats, it's gonna be a long ride. ;) I'll share a few highlights from the week and then the ultimate highlight (this weekend). By the way, no apologies for the length of this email...there is just too much goodness not to tell you (almost) all of it! Ha ha :)
Tuesday evening, we had a church tour with Donny and Rose (you prolly remember them, right?). As you know, we haven't been pushing baptism with Donny because he told us he's not ready for it. But when we were standing in front of the baptismal font, Donny told us that he was baptized as a baby, but had no say. Then, he expressed his desire to be submerged, to be baptized in this way. We were shocked. He wants to get baptized!! We will all be praying a ton that his work schedule will allow him to start coming to church.
Wednesday and Thursday we went on exchanges with the Greensburg sisters, and I got to be with my granddaughter, Sister Beckstrand! She is awesome! We had an amazing lesson with Tonya and when we followed up with her, she told us she felt really peaceful when she prayed, and that she also feels like everything in her life is falling into place. It was sooo good!! She's on date to be baptized December 10th. I can't wait!!
We also did several hours of service!! Part of that consisted of helping with the Gigliotti's annual leaf harvest (pictures included). Another involved baking cookies at the Carlson's (they're non-members) for a big event in December (more pictures included...with the GIANT dogs they have).
Okay. Now for Saturday. Saturday was an AMAZING AMAZING day. We got up at 5am to pick up the elders to drive to Altoona (about 2 hours...#roadtripsfordays). We got there early enough to visit with missionary friends, practice our song, and then sit quietly in the chapel. Oh, ha ha, I forgot to tell yinz! Sister Johnson asked a group of 16 of us to sing "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul" (I have positively decided this has become my mission song...and my favorite hymn as well :)). President Johnson showed us the new initiative video, "Light the World"...and oh my heavens it was AMAZING! I felt the Spirit beautifully strong. I am so excited for yinz to see it!! Elder Stevenson walked in not long after we watched the video (about 20ish minutes before the meeting started), and we all stood as he came in. It was such a reverent moment. After he was up on the stand, President announced that Elder Stevenson, Elder Hallstrom, and Elder Kunz all wanted to shake our hands. So we all got a chance to shake their hands. It was amazing! The Spirit in that room was incredibly strong. And as I felt that Spirit, I felt the love of my Heavenly Father and Savior so strongly and so purely. As we recited D&C 4 and Our Purpose, I couldn't hold back the tears. I got so choked up, especially as I looked at President and Sister Johnson on the stand wiping away tears. It was one of the most powerful moments of my mission and my life. When Elder Hallstrom spoke, he said, "We want this mission to change you forever." As I reflected on that, I realized that is absolutely true for me. It has changed me forever. And I felt distinctly that at this time, I can't even begin to comprehend how much my mission will continue to bless my life. That was an amazing and humbling thought. Elder Hallstrom stressed the importance of coming away from this meeting with a determination to act, a determination to change. He said "If you don't come away from this meeting and do things differently than you did before, it will have had no purpose." I made the decision then and there to apply what I learned in that meeting to my missionary work and be a more effective instrument in His hands because of it.
When Elder Stevenson began his talk (keep in mind he knows President and Sister Johnson really well), he said, "Now, Brad and Rosie...President and Sister Johnson. Can you believe Brad Johnson married Rosie Miller?! I couldn't believe it, it was like a head-liner!" We DIED. It was hilarious!! He then took some time to talk about how when we go home and unlock our hearts, that the elders should "find a Rosie" and we sisters should "find someone like Brad". It hit me that when it comes time for me to find and marry my eternal companion, I want a marriage like President and Sister Johnson have. Next to you, mom and dad, they are my two biggest role models. I love and appreciate them more than I could ever say. He talked about how disobedience never was happiness...never was, never will be. But obedience *always* brings blessings. He said, "When Elder Hallstrom and I get up at 6:30 in the morning, we're just tired. When you get up at 6:30 in the morning, you're blessed for it." And it really is so true! God *always* blesses us when we are obedient. He taught us a great deal on helping people make and keep commitments, which really is a process of repentance, which helps them to change and prepare to make and keep covenants. It brought so much direction, instruction, and clarity and I am so excited to implement what I learned. He bore his testimony at the end, and to say it was powerful would be an understatement. The Spirit was incredibly and undeniably strong. I knew without a doubt in that moment that he was called of God. I shed so many tears during that meeting because of the magnitude in which the Spirit was present. I will never forget that day. ** Don't get me wrong, I love all church meetings we attend. But nothing will ever compare to meeting with large groups of missionaries--the Spirit there is unreal.
On a lesser of importance side note, it was amazing to see some old mission friends and past companions and missionaries I had served with. They were having a Priesthood leadership meeting right afterwards, so I also got to see my old Bishop from the Beaver ward and the two bishops from the Sunbury ward. It was seriously the happiest of days (pictures included).
And THEN on Sunday. Tonya came again!!! The meeting was phenomenal and so rich with the Spirit. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to hear from Elder Stevenson two days in a row. I felt the Spirit so strongly and was reminded that I really am His daughter, He knows me personally. I am His and I was bought with a price. I was deemed worthy of the Savior's precious blood, and I am graven upon the palms of His hands. Sister Stevenson spoke, and she said something that I loved: "Missionaries are the happiness and the medicine the world needs." I feel so privileged to be a part of this royal army, bringing people to Christ through Whom they can experience ultimate joy, peace, relief, hope, etc. There is nothing that will ever compare. I also felt the love that President and Sister Johnson have for me--they really are my other set of parents. They love me like a daughter and I love them so much. I realized that to feel this loved and to be so far from home is a miracle. Elder Stevenson talked more about obedience and I am coming to gain the strongest testimony of how obedience brings blessings and also happiness. During his talk, I received revelation that I know will help and bless me throughout my life. It was beautiful. We sang in the stake choir and sang, "Savior, Redeemer of my Soul" (there it is again ;)) and "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing". I always feel the Spirit sooo strongly through music, and this was no exception. Singing these songs were two very powerful moments.
Are you ready for this?? Yinz'll never believe it. After the meeting, almost everyone came up to shake his hand. I got in line with Tonya and....SHE GOT TO MEET HIM!!! It was so amazing! I got to shake his hand and I introduced her to him. He shook her hand as I told him that she is investigating the church. He was so elated! He asked how long she had been meeting with us (she is usually pretty shy, but she totally talked to him and everything!). He told her to keep meeting with us and that we have a beautiful message to share with her. She told him that he was a really good, powerful speaker--it was amazing!! I still can't even believe that she got to meet him.
This weekend was by far the highlight of my mission and I am incredibly grateful to my Heavenly Father for it. I feel like He has opened up the heavens and poured out blessings upon my head that I don't even have enough room to receive all of them.
As I sat in these meetings basking in the Spirit, my testimony of this gospel was strengthened and reconfirmed to me. There's no way I could feel what I felt and deny that I know this church to be true. I know that this is the true church--the only true and living church on the face of this earth. I know that we have a Heavenly Father Who loves us, wants the very best for us, has a plan for us, and wants us back Home. I know that we have a Savior, who suffered, bled, and died for us. And not just so we could repent and be forgiven, but that we could be strengthened, comforted, carried, healed, and changed. He died for us, and now He lives for us too. He stands at the head of this church and guides it through worthy men who hold His priesthood. The Book of Mormon is the very word of God, and it is one sure thing that will bring you to Christ. I can't even express my gratitude for my Heavenly Father and my Savior and the chance I have to serve a mission. Words are less than adequate.
I invite you to constantly strive to be obedient--as obedient as you can be. Even and especially in the seemingly small things because those lead to obedience in the big things. I can promise you as a servant and representative of Jesus Christ that He will bless you for your obedience. And with those blessings, you will find happiness and joy that you will not find living in any other way.
I love you. God loves you. Remember that you are His. Have the most beautiful week!!
"Keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever." (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland)
All my love,
Sister Bartlett xoxo
New BIG furry friends!
Together again with Sister Schofield! Happy Day!
Sunbury Reunion:Bishop Snowden (former), Sister S, Me,
Sister Thorson, and Bishop Balukoff (current)
Me and Sister T :)
The WHOLE Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission!