I don’t exactly know where to begin. This week I had a series of profound experiences. I’ll try to relate them but first I will tell you of the goodness amongst our people!
We had a lesson with Kham this week! She is the sweet woman from Laos. Our intention was to teach the Restoration, meaning God, dispensations, Christ, apostasy, Restoration, Book of Mormon, etc. With Kham we got through God. In about an hour. We’re going to have to take it slower with her but she is wonderful. When we feel the spirit like that in lessons we know we’re doing something right. And she came to church!!!!!! Teaching her is really exciting. There are many inactive people around here from Laos because they dissolved the Laos branch some time ago. It’s heart-breaking. We try to visit – but they don’t speak english. In our opinion Kham is the key. And her brothers Mit and Chom. Anyway, she is wonderful and we’re meeting again this week. She calls us her “angels.”
One of my favorite parts of church is the back row of old ladies. In one way or another they’re all widows, whether their husbands have passed away, or they’re not members, or they live in Texas or something. Sisters Anderson, Upchurch, Lee, and Doutre. My favorite people. We had dinner with them on Saturday night (because they hang out with each other) and they invited LYNN!!!!! So Lynn came and we were eating fried chicken and started having a conversation about the Book of Mormon. Each one of them testified of the Book of Mormon and what the loved and learned from it. Lynn mentioned that she’d been reading the Book of Mormon! Particularly, Mosiah 4 – which Sister Yorgason had recommended to her the week before at the concert. She said she read it over and over. Sister Upchurch told Lynn that she had an extra seat in her car for church and without missing a beat Lynn said that she would love to come!! And she did!!!!! We taught Gospel Principles again (because our mission leaders wife was potentially having a baby) and we chose to talk about faith. Lynn introduced herself and told what she had faith in! So exciting. We’re meeting with her this week!!! She says she’s ready for lessons again. We’re taking baby steps with her – it’s going to be great!
Another hope-of-the-world story is Sister Baker. She is tall, beautiful African-American woman who has two insanely rambunctious boys. They were all baptized last summer. We went and visited with her this week just to see how she is doing. This week before she got to do baptisms for the dead!!! And her calling is to teach relief society!!! She is great. It is so inspiring to see someone who fully embraces the gospels and is eager to apply it to their life. Just in the short time I’ve known her she seems to have blossomed! It’s amazing. What I’ve learned from her is the need for constant prayer. Prayers of gratitude! Her commitment and devotion to the gospel is amazing. We just need to find her a righteous man and our work will be complete!
And Joshua came to church!
Ok. On to my life-changing revelations. A major blessing of the week was being able to attend the temple!!!!!!!!! St. Paul Minnesota Temple. I love that place. We got to go with our entire district! I saw Sister Clark at the temple!! One of our incredible ward missionaries from Cottage Grove! I also saw Sister Terry and Sister Shurtz!! It was like missionary day! It was soooooooooooooo good to just be there. I have a greater appreciation for like – everything – now. But I went to the temple with a bundle of questions. I sat and prayed after the session for a long time because for some reason I didn’t feel good. Lately I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m not working hard enough or trying hard enough or something. Like no matter what I do I’m still incapable of this. I felt so great being in the temple but still not resolved. And now I know why.
Two days after visiting the temple, right after studies, I broke down. It’s been a constant inner wrestle with myself. The whole time being here. I felt sick so I slept for a while. Something just wasn’t right and I could not sort it out. After I woke I had Sister Jenson sit there as I just talked to her. Just talked and she listened. And this is the remarkable part: after talking we sat in silence and the most beautiful feeling came into the room. It was like the scriptures say about being encircled by His love. We felt that. It was so strong and real. For both of us. We decided there were probably angels right there with us. At that moment I didn’t feel a super answer to my questions or anything but the overwhelming feeling of peace. Heavenly Father is so incredibly aware of us. Aware of me. Little me. After that Sister Jenson and I said a prayer and got back to work. Sister Clements had called but we didn’t get back to her until later that day. We should’ve gotten back to her sooner because she thought we were like dying or something. Pres and Sister Clements are still in Utah. But Sister Clements had been concerned and so she set up a meeting for me and President Ehlert.
So the next day Sister Jenson and I drive to President Ehlert’s office and the whole time in my head I’m planning out what to say – all the reasons I need to stay on a mission. Apparently the Lord sometimes has other plans. After talking with President Ehlert for 3 hours (not kidding), and crying, and praying, and a priesthood blessing I KNOW that the Lord has plans for me. And they’re no longer here, or as a full-time missionary.
It’s so strange. I thought that typing that sentence would break my heart, but I feel a quiet, constant peace. I’d said the words over and over throughout my life but it wasn’t until that moment with President Ehlert that I realized what it means to know that I am a daughter of God. I thought that my dearest desire was to be a missionary, so I was fiercely clinging to that even though it caused me a lot of pain and struggle. I then realized that my dearest desire is to serve the Lord. To serve Him. During that conversation I felt incredible. Heavenly Father is so smart. He knew that in some way He needed to get me and President Ehlert sitting in the same room together at that point in time. President Ehlert is ridiculously inspired. I can’t even share all of what was said and felt. At the beginning of the blessing I felt anxious, at the end I felt like I was on holy ground. I can honestly say I’ve never felt that way before. It was the most sacred experience maybe ever. We read Moses 1. What I know is that God has a great work for me to do. I don’t know what that is, and President Ehlert doesn’t know what that is.
As we were talking we thought of a CES devotional be Elder Bednar. The one about knowing if you have the faith to be healed. Or the faith not to be healed. Do you have the faith that no matter where the Lord takes you it’s where you’re supposed to go? Do I have the faith to stay on my mission? Yes. Do I have that faith not to stay on my mission? Yes. If that’s the Lord’s plan, yes. It may not be what I want. However if it’s what the Lord wants then it’s what I want. he doesn’t want me to unnecessarily suffer.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Or if it’s sunk in yet. But I know that it’s going to be ok. I have honestly learned and changed so much. President Ehlert told me that I am quick to observe. He told me that I have a great capacity to help people through my talents. He told me that when I accepted mortality that I knew what was coming with it. And that I would be ready for it. I’ve learned what I needed to learn here. I could write a book on what I’ve learned. Perhaps I will today, all we’re doing is like buying bananas and writing letters.
So in conclusion, I’m a daughter of God and He’s got something He needs me to do. President Ehlert has been making phone calls. Talking to President Webb. Talking to Salt Lake. At this point I’m not sure what but I trust him with everything and he told me that he doesn’t want me to go home to nothing. I agree. My missionary work is not done. Whether it’s some type of service mission or something – I know not. But I’m excited! I feel good! It’s a little terrifying but good. Faith over fear, every day.
I’m staying until at least that end of the transfer, which is next week. So, potentially, I’ll see you soon. We’ll all probably get more details soon. This is a big fat decision. I’ve made it. I can’t wait to tell you and show you all that I have learned!! Heavenly Father is so smart. And He loves me. I trust Him with everything. I like thinking about the Plan of Salvation and ponder and wonder think about what my small part in helping others back is.
One thing that President Ehlert wanted to make sure was clear to me is that this is not a fail. That I am not a failure. I came here to serve, and serve I did. My world is kind of spinning around right now. This is kind of the definition of leap of faith.
I love Minnesota. It will always be a part of me, and I highly doubt this is goodbye forever. Man, is this the most dramatic email ever?? It really is. I’ll end it shortly.
I encourage to all go and read Moses 1. It’s amazing.
Here’s some photos. On the way to the temple.
My beloved district at the St. Paul Minnesota Temple!
I love you all
Love, Sister Gessel
That’s for you, Dad.
Crazy things this week! Our entire thursday was swallowed up in a blizzard. Minnesnowta. It’s ok, summer someday.
Oh – want to hear something crazy? So something happened in the lives of Pres and Sister Clements and they had to go home for a few weeks!! President Ehlert is now our temporary mission president. Interesting eh? He sends out a lot of punny scripture texts and we haven’t been allowed to go outside too much because of the windchill and road conditions.
Here’s a neat story: so getting back in with Tanneh and Joshua this week was a bit rough. It was like make it or break it. Joshua has been working like crazy. We stopped by on friday afternoon hoping to catch Tanneh and Joshua was there too!! They explained to us about how Joshua had lost the keys to their car and they had spent an hour or two in the snow looking for them. We gave a quick lesson and just caught up with them. We asked Joshua if he would pray fervently to find the keys before it go too dark or cold out. He said a great prayer and then we went out in search of the keys! After about two minutes Sister Jenson found them and we all rejoiced! From the window Tanneh called down “you girls are awesome – I’m never canceling a lesson again!” We should’ve gotten that in writing now that I think about it. I’m sooo glad Heavenly Father took a simple moment like that and turned it into a teaching experience for them. And us too! We’d been praying for how to approach their whole situation and it all worked out! We’ve decided that the elders are going to teach Joshua with a man ward member once a week, while we teach Tanneh with a ward sister once a week, and then teach them all together once a week. Stratagem. And they came to church!!! Good. We’re also still trying to get a Book of Mormon in haitian creole for Joshua. Exciting stuff!
A big emphasis in our lives right now is still searching out all the inactives and less-actives. It’s pretty neat because we get to find around them and such. It’s interesting to find these people and try to understand their stories and what they’re running from. We’ve got a list of like 20 names per week to go out and find. The ward missionaries try to find them on facebook and email. Missionary work prepares people to be detectives I’m fairly certain.
I almost forgot! I went on exchanges with Sister Schwartz again this week! I love her! She came here to Cedar Lake. We took Hannah out and found some new people! I realize how much I rely on Sister Jenson – especially making sure all our phone calls get made and such. I need to get better at the phone. Seems funny but true. Hahahaah – memories of me walking home from the train station in the summer are coming back to me because of my apathy towards my phone. Ah well. Life skills, so they say.
Our district leader is super pumped about this upcoming week. It’s been building up all month – this is the week we are going to find like a billion new people. We’re really excited too! Things are looking up!
Thanks for telling me all the news from home! Sounds like good things are happening! It’s fun to hear about! That’s awesome Dawson Hollow is going to have a baptism!! Do we have elders in the ward? Or elders in the stake? Or sisters??????? The work is hastening EVERYWHERE!
Every other day we go to the Yorgason’s gym and read the Ensign on the treadmill. It’s funny but it gets us super pumped!
Have a good week everybody!! Love you!
Love, Sister Gessel
OH MY —– BEST NEWS EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Marissa Meline??????????????????????? Baptized!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just freaked out in a public library upon reading that!!!!!!!!!! Oh my goodness!!!!!!! I am so happy for her!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That gives me hope for everything and everyone! How wonderful!! I’d love to hear more about her experiences!! Was she being taught by missionaries in Layton? Do we have sisters at home???
MORE GOOD NEWS: The wedding (and baptism) is on!!!! Tanneh and Joshua are for real getting married on Valentine’s Day!!!!!!!! Bishop is marrying them in the church and we are psyched! Tanneh has truly become humble and submissive and it’s been beautiful to see. Instead of having her dreams of a worldly wedding with fancy stuff and a flashy ring she realizes that what it important is her love for the Lord, for Joshua, and for their family. This is a big deal for her. A lot of her family is still in Africa and Joshua’s in Haiti – so this decision has been pretty emotional. They are faithful. I wish you could know her! She is the funniest person in the world. Joshua is great and has been faithful with his word of wisdom commitment. They are building an eternal family! And finally they all came to church together yesterday!!
What more can be said? True love exists, everybody!
This ward is getting pumped! People are realizing ways that they can serve – something as simple as giving our investigators an encouraging phone call or having them over for lunch. We had lunch with Katherine at SIs Yorgason’s this week – she opened up to us and it was really neat!
There’s a less-active lady in our ward, Shannon, (she’s sooo cool!) who is a personal trainer – we got in with her this week and she revolutionized our lives. She says she likes to watch people change. That’s what we get to do as missionaries too – watch people change! From the very core. And being healthy is fun!
Ben, you’d be happy to know we spent your birthday evening teaching our gangsta Mike in McDonald’s. It’s neat how even a place like that can be filled with the spirit when speaking of truth! He is open-hearted. How is it being SEVENTEEN? Sis Jenson’s sister turned 17 on the 8th! (you should be friends)
Sister Jenson is awesome! We were having a rough day, and I voiced randomly how much I desperately wanted a bagel. Then at lunch time she went way out of our way to find a shop that had bagels. Isn’t that super nice?
We’ve been doing a lot of record-cleaning. This area is super transient and so there are sooo many people on our ward list that no one has any clue of who they are. Between us, the elders, ward missionaries, and Bishop, we have lot’s of ground to cover. But it’s exciting! And we get to find around them so it’s good! Some lost-sheep wrangling. Soul-reaping.
We ate pancakes last night with the elders quorum. Awesome people!
Things are well!
Anyway – I hope you all are great! Sounds like good happenings are abound at home!
Love you all ! Love, kattyyyy
Greetings (still) from Cedar Lake! Guess what! Sister Jenson and I are staying here together for another transfer!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We just found out this morn. I’m glad we’re both staying – we got a lot of work to do!
Funny you should mention ice fishing on frozen lakes! That’s what people do here. And if the sun is out and it’s over 10 degrees people cross-country ski. Like everywhere. Like on sidewalks. There was a big Loppet this week. Wondering what a loppet is? It’s a big cross-country race that takes place on frozen lake Calhoun. Behold, the joys of Minnesota.
Rough goings for Tanneh and Joshua this week! Crazy stuff. Currently Tanneh is a lot more committed than Joshua is and there has been a lot of contention between them. But worry not! And pray hard! They’ll be fine! We need to have the members be really involved with them and get them to keep keeping commandments. Or start keeping them.
President Clements in his email today talked about being happy through adversity by continually keeping the commandments. He’s a wise man. Elder Holland toured this mission (before I got here sadly..) and Pres talked about a blessing he received from Elder Holland (can you imagine..?) about being happy even through hard times. I thought that was super neat! Being happy isn’t the absence of trials or problems. It’s keeping faith and keeping the commandments despite anything!
We had a really neat lesson with a lady named Amber this week. She’s been taught on and off in the past but it hasn’t really clicked for her and she hasn’t had the best of examples of LDS people in her life. We taught her the plan of salvation and the WHY of everything. For some reason it was so neat! We really connected with her and it was good. It’s always up to them to act on their faith and see if they will continue.
Oh! Here’s something neat! Mike came to church!!! I don’t think I mentioned mike, yet. He has a collection of hats and shoes lining the walls of his apartment. He may or may not have been intoxicated the first time we met/taught him but we returned and had a good lesson with him! And he came to church!! I love this ward! We probably had the most interesting testimony meeting ever yesterday. Two investigators of the elders’ bore their testimonies, Cameron and Joe. Cameron basically had a written list of what he did and did not understand about the church, but it was pretty cool because he basically rebuked all the members for not inviting more people to church. He said “aren’t YOU grateful to be sitting here? Invite people!” This coming from a non-member. Then Joe shared about addictions and overcoming them through a “higher power.” I love this ward. It is made up of the most random people but I love them all. Our stake president and Pres Ehlert from the mission presidency were there too and they bore powerful testimonies. And Mike liked it! He also is interested in the playing church ball! We’re seeing him again on wednesday.
An exciting event coming up: the 17 year celebration of the birth of my favorite brother BENJAMIN CLARK!!!!!!! I’m sending you the neatest things in the mail! I’ve been inspired by Sister Jenson – she’s very good at package sending.
Good news! Today I’m getting my haircut! We’re probably going to go chill with Sis Yorgason. Maybe walk on a frozen lake or something too!
Hope you all are well! Sounds like good things are happening!
Love you! Love, Sis Gessel
I thought I would take a picture of what life here actually looks like! This is
up in North Minneapolis.