Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Week 30

Hi Family! It was so good hearing from you this week!

I am so glad that you had a good Thanksgiving. :) I have to tell you, mine was pretty awesome as well! See we celebrated on Friday with the YSA, so that was pretty fun. Sister Ray and I were asked to cook one of the 3 turkeys. That was quite an experience! We were cooped up in our apartment for about 4 1/2 hours trying to prepare and cook it. We named him Birdy. I had to reach inside of him and pull our the bag of guts. That was gross, but I survived. We were so nervous that he wasn't going to be ready in time, so we prayed that heavenly Father would sweeten the meat like he did for Lehi and Nephi when they were in the wilderness... Ha ha! He did, and everything went well. :) He was delicious! So we successfully cooked our first Thanksgiving turkey. Maybe I'll show you my skills next year... :) Ha ha! (P.S. I ate some turkey heart; it was interesting...)

So I have to tell you- my joy is completely full right now! Teya was baptized and confirmed this weekend and I have to say it was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life! Oh my goodness! I found this kid almost 2 months ago and he was not believing in anything, but now he has an amazing testimony and the gift of the Holy Ghost to help him in his life. I seriously feel like this kid is my brother- I love him so much! So his last week before baptism was very difficult. He wanted to invite his family and the members of the church that he went to with his sister and their family, but when he tried, they thought that he was crazy and basically told him that he wouldn't be accepted there anymore. This freaked him out big time. He told us this on Monday night. We had the elders give him a priesthood blessing and after the blessing he said that he was still getting baptized. I was super worried about him, I don't think I have ever prayed so hard for another person in my life! I just wanted him to be happy... Oh man- it was so stressful! Anyways, we were meeting with him everyday to help him prepare. So on Wednesday, we watched the long Joseph Smith movie with 2 members from the ward. We also had some ben & jerry's ice cream to share because he had never had american ice cream before. :) It was so awesome! He loved the movie, and afterwards, we had a little testimony meeting. It was amazing!!! Friday evening, we had Thanksgiving at the institute center and he was there. (Funny story about that evening- we were supposed to be able to teach him before dinner, but he didn't show up early, so I was super worried. Well, when we finally got a hold of him, he told us that he was cutting his hair for the baptism tomorrow- he wanted a new look for his special day! It was so funny!) He fit right in with all of the YSA that night. He loves the elders so much and just kept talking about his baptism the next day. He was very nervous and anxious and kept asking if I was going to be there, so before bed, I sent him a text with a chapter in the Book of Mormon to read. Saturday morning, when he got to the church, he told me that he had read it and that it pumped him right up! We got him all suited up and took some pictures. It was so hectic trying to get everything ready, but then as I look back at it, it was so peaceful. The program was beautiful. His sister and her daughter came to support him. :) Teya was so nervous before he went into the water, but he told me afterward that as soon as his foot was in the water, his nerves were gone and he just felt good! After the program was done, we gave him a gift from the mission- a nice leather triple combination. He was so excited about it! On Sunday, he came to church in a suit and looked so darn cute! He went to priesthood with the elders- I was like a proud mamma! Ha ha! Right before sacrament meeting he pulled out his nice new scriptures and asked me to hold them for him while he was getting the Holy Ghost. (It was so funny- I had asked him who he wanted to give him the Holy Ghost and who he wanted in the circle. He didn't really care who gave the blessing, but he asked if I could stand in the circle... ooops! The lesson he missed to cut his hair was the one on the priesthood... good thing that one is not necessary before baptism. Too late! Ha ha! We will be teaching that one real soon...) His blessing was so good- I took notes for him so that he could read it later. Afterwards, he was just so happy! He looked different even. I can't explain it! After church, he wanted to go do missionary work- he was in his suit and he had his backpack- the only thing he was missing was a name tag. :) As we were out n the street he told me that he felt like he could do anything! I am so happy to see him so happy! This gospel is so amazing- how it can completely change a person and just give them so much joy! I am sooooooo HAPPY!!! I never ever expected to feel this good- I cannot even begin to explain it! My heart is too big for my chest... I could just dance down the streets and sing from the mountain tops! :) (I hope that all made sense... it's a bunch of jumbled thoughts- I am too happy to focus!)     

Christmas has officially exploded all over Oslo! It is like a Christmas wonderland without the snow. :) We listen to Christmas music every morning while we are getting ready and when we walk down the streets, there are lights everywhere- it is so magical! I will try to take pictures today, but I doubt they will do it justice. Today we are going to go to a Christmas festival in the middle of the city- they have an outdoor ice skating rink in the middle of it all. It is Wonderful! We have started getting lots of invitations for Christmas from ward members, so that is super nice... I won't be in Oslo though. I can't wait to be able to skype you all! It is getting so close! Wahoo!!!! :)

Well, that's about all I've got at the moment. I'll send you some pics of the baptism and our turkey adventures. :)

Have a great week! I love you all so very much!! You're the best!

Lots and lots of love,

Søster Jessica Taylor

Monday, November 21, 2011

Week 29

Hello Family!!

Oh my goodness, it is so crazy to me that it is almost Thanksgiving! Time is just flying by!

I hope you all have had a great week!! :)

I have had a really good week... we have a baptism on Saturday!!! Yahoo! :) It is for Teya- he is the one I told you about last week who had a date for December 10... However, we had zone conference this week and president told us that we need to get 20 baptisms in November, December, and January. We decided (with friendly pressure from the AP's) to invite Teya to move up his date 3 weeks and so he did! He is so amazing- I seriously love this kid! He is like my adopted little brother- can we keep him? We are the best of buds. :) He is a little jokester, but his testimony is so strong! That has been a big thing for him- having a testimony. We brought him to a youth fireside a few weeks ago, and they had one person stand up and share their testimony. He turned to me and asked what a testimony was. I told him that it was an expression of our beliefs. He then told me that it was his goal to build up his testimony. And boy has it grown since then! Last night, to review the restoration, we had him teach us about it with little pictures to help him out... It was so good! He bore such sweet testimony and the Spirit was so strong. He wants to be a missionary now so that he can share his happiness with others. :) He is inviting so many people to come to his baptism- his sister and her family, his friends, even members from the church that his sister goes to! I'll be sure to take many pictures and I'll send them home next week!

Sad news, Jacek, our Polish investigator, moved to Arendal (another city in Norway) to live with his father. This is definitely a bitter-sweet thing. We won't be able to teach him anymore, but now he will have a roof over his head and food to eat and there are missionaries in Arendal so he can continue being taught. Hopefully he will still reach his goal of being baptized on the 3rd of December.

So on Wednesday, we had zone conference. It was really, really good! I love being with lots of missionaries and President Johansen is such a fireball! Everytime he opens his mouth the Spirit is there. He has such a way of motivating us and getting us to be better missionaries. I am so grateful for him! I got to have another interview with him after the conference- I was very grateful for that. This transfer has already been kinda difficult and so he was really able to help me with how I should handle it. :)

It is still not very cold here... Everyone is just anticipating the snow. I did, however, bust out the Juicy Couture earmuffs the other day. They are fabulous!!! :) If you talk to Amy Miner anytime soon, tell her I love them!

Family, can I just tell you all how much I love 1. missionary work- it is so amazing to be able to bear testimony all of the time! I have never felt it so strong in my entire life. It makes me so very happy! 2. this gospel- for how it strengthens us in every aspect of our lives. 3. Jesus Christ and His atonement- never have I ever felt the power of the Atonement so much in my life. I watch it work in the lives of others and in myself. We can do anything It truly gives us the power to change, be better... Oh man! It makes me so happy! Greatest expression of God's love right there! :) 4. My family... hey, that's you!!! ;) I am so grateful for you. You all make me so happy! I am so grateful for all of your support and for everything you have done for me. You're amazing! I love and miss you tons and tons! I can't wait to skype you in a few weeks (less than 5!!!! Holy cow- that's so soon!) I hope you all have a great week and a happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy it for me... (Eat lots of yummy yams! Ha ha! Ouch- I just realized how much I am going to miss those... Oh well)

I love and miss you tons! Have a great Thanksgiving!! :)

Lots of love,
Søster Jessie Noelle Taylor

P.S. Yeah, elder Davis's family died when they heard that he had met THE Jessica Noel... Ha ha ha!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Week 28

Hello Family!

How is everything going? I love and miss you all so very much!

Oh my goodness- this has been the hardest, best week ever! I would love to tell you all a little bit about it:

First item of business... So last night, there was supposed to be a dinner for everyone at the institute center, but it didn't end up happening... Well the only problem with that was no one cared to tell us missionaries and none of us had any food. So we all raided our cupboards and made a bunch of random stuff... We ate french toast, hash browns, and chicken-potato soup... it was interesting! Well while we were cooking, Elder Davis (the one from our stake) asked me if I had ever heard the song "Jessica Noel." Of course I told him that that was where my name came from. I was floored that he had actually heard of that song... Well he proceeded to tell me that somehow he saw my full name (probably on my email) and was reminded that his family used to make fun of that song all the time... So the whole Davis family gets a kick out of my special song! Yeah, I have never been so ashamed of my awesome name. It was kind of embarrassing and pretty darn funny!

Moves were this week. I was super stressed before Sister Johnston left Oslo because I knew it would be me holding up the area with a missionary who has only been out 3 months more than me. I was freaking out to put it simply. Anyways, Wednesday- moves day came and Sister Johnston left at 6 am which meant that I had about 3 hours of personal study until Sister Ray arrived at 9. Well within that 3 hours, many missionaries came to the center to meet their new companions. There were many from my MTC district and it was so good to see them. One in particular was Elder Lillywhite. He has been in Norway 3 weeks longer than me and he is serving with a missionary that got here 2 months after him. He was freaking out worse than I was. Ha ha! President Johansen came and was interviewing the new missionaries who had just gotten here. After he had interviewed them, he pulled me aside and we had a little chat. He told me that I need to be super strong and not let the work slow down here in Oslo just because I haven't been here very long. He complimented my skills as a missionary and also my language abilities. So basically he freaked me out and smoothed it over all at the same time. Ha ha! I went back to studying with Elder Lillywhite and I just started to cry. Thank heavens for good friends!! He shared with me a scripture in D&C 121:7-8 and one in 122:7-8. I am so grateful for good friends! It made me feel so much better. Anyways... Things have been interesting. My companion is Sister Ray. She is very nice and sweet and funny. It has been a hard adjustment though. I am really just relying on the Spirit and trying to do my best. The coolest part about it is that I have found this buried faith in myself and my ability to do missionary work- I'm pretty good! :) Ha ha! I have a lot of work to do, but I have a lot of skills I didn't know I had. I love it!!!

So as far as our investigators go, it has been really good for some and kind of hard with others. For a while, I thought Ugo completely fell off the face of the planet, but we were able to talk to him and figure out that he just isn't committed enough to be baptized. Oh Man... We are still going to meet with him, but we just don't know when it will happen. He still has potential. Onward and upward... We have been teaching this kid named Teya. He is from India and has lived in Norway for 3 years. He was very very religious back in India, but when he moved here, he lost his faith. Well now he is trying to find it again. He came to church with us yesterday and ate dinner with us. He comes to almost all of the activities and reads in the Book of Mormon. His little testimony is just growing and growing! :) He made his baptismal goal for December 10- what a nice early birthday present for me! :) He is ready to just jump in that water! David is from Africa ( I have mentioned him before) will also be getting baptized on the 10th of Dec. He has a very hard situation right now. His twin sister just died in a car accident in Belgium and she was his last living family member... So now he is all alone. He was at the center earlier and so we turned on the testaments for him in French because he doesn't speak very much English. We walked past him towards the end of the movie and he had tears running down his face- it was so sad! After the movie was over, we asked him if he wanted a blessing and he did. We got the elders and they gave him such a sweet blessing! I am so grateful for the gospel! Anyways, Jacek- He is a walking missionary miracle! So we have just been barely teaching him maybe once a week, but in the last couple of days we have seen him turn completely around. So we met with him on Wednesday, and he had lost his apartment because he couldn't pay the rent and he couldn't find a job, so basically we just had a big pep talk. The next day, we met with him again. This time, we talked to him about baptism and what it means. We challenged him to set a baptismal date-goal. We had a girl named Liv come with us. (She was baptized about the same time that I got to Norway and she is so stinking amazing!) So Jacek told us that he had read in the Book of Mormon the night before and as he was praying, he had the weirdest, strongest feeling come over him. He told us that he was disturbed by it because he had never felt it before. After about an hour of pondering, he came to the conclusion that it was God. Liv explained her situation with reading and praying and it helped understand that God speaks to us in ways that we can recognize.  We took the opportunity to testify and seriously, the Spirit was the strongest I have ever felt it thus far on my mission. It was so strong that we all just sat there for a couple minutes in complete silence- just basking in it! IT WAS SOOOO GOOOOOD!!! And even though he was super depressed about his situation, he left there in peace and happiness because he had truly felt God's love. We met with him the next day and he had lost his light a little bit, but we got talking again. We shared with him the story of when Christ was baptized and how God spoke saying, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." We asked him what he thought God would say if he got baptized. He said "Probably the same thing." He began to cry and told us that he would like to set a date for 3 months away. We asked him why so far out? He told us that 3 was his lucky number. Then we thought of this promise that we have been given as missionaries that if we teach a person 3 times a week for 3 weeks, 30 minutes each time, they will be ready for baptism. (Also, if he committed to that, he could be baptized on December 3rd). How perfect, right??? God loves this kid so much! He accepted and is preparing rapidly! Can I just tell you- I have never felt so much love for random people in my entire life! I love these people so much! They all mean the world to me and I love being able to see how much God loves them too- it is incredible! I love being a missionary!!! :)

Well family, I hope you enjoy this email. I enjoyed writing it! I love and miss you all so very much! I hope you all have a great week. :)

Vi Snakkes!

Lots and lots of love,
Søster Jessica Taylor  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Week 27 - 6 months

Hi Fam!

I love you all so very much! It sounds like you all had a good week. :) I absolutely love reading your emails and I am so grateful for you letters!

So this week has been a good one. We have been meeting a lot of cool people and we have also had a lot of time to contact. It has been Sister Johnston and my goal to build up our area before Sister Ray, my new companion, gets here on Wednesday. Hopefully it works! (I guess we will find out!) There are three things I want to tell you about:

1. Ugo didn't get baptized. He was worried about being able to keep all the commandments for the rest of his life and so we decided to give him 2 weeks to decide if it's really what he wants and is able to do. Hopefully, he will be able to really feel the Spirit as he keeps the commandments and receives the blessings promised! If all goes well, he will be baptized on Nov 19. (Can you believe that is only 2 weeks away??? Time is flying!)

2. Oh my goodness! This is so cool! We were out contacting the other night (well it was only about 4, but it was really dark like at 7 or 8) and we had said that we were going to talk to every person we past. When we first got out on the street, there weren't too many people out, but then I saw this guy and went up to talk to him. I couldn't really see what he looked like at first- it was very dark- so as I got closer, I saw that he had piercings all over his face and tatoos everywhere. I mean, he didn't just have an eyebrow piercing and a nose piercing, but he had 2 nose, an eyebrow, his ears, and his whole bottom lip was covered in rings. He looked like a skeleton! I regeret my first thought, but it was this guy is never gonna say yes... but it was too late to turn back, so I had to continue with the contact. Much to our surprise, he spoke english, was from Germany, and wanted to learn more about the Book of Mormon. And so we took Alex (that's his name) to the center and taught him the Restoration. He had many good question and the Spirit was definitely there. As we taught him, it was very hard to not look at his piercings and tatoos, but as we were with him longer, I started to imagine how he would look as the Gospel began changing him- lots of holes and old body art, but someone who really took the Atonement and let it change them. This is a prime example of the fact that you cannot judge a book by it's cover. Even though he looks very different than me, I know he is a child of God and that God loves him just as much as he loves me.  :) This guy is super cool! He's a keeper! :)

3.  So last email, I talked a little bit about how we are studying the Atonement a lot. Well, we have noticed this super cool pattern as we teach people the gospel of Jesus Christ. We all know it, but it is something that I, for one, have taken advantage of. It is the 5 simple steps of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the holy ghost, and enduring to the end. The thing we have noticed that is super powerful is faith unto repentance. Every single time we teach faith and repentance, the Spirit is so strong. For example, we taught this guy named James, from Sudan, the other day and we were teaching him this lesson. We shared a scripture in Alma 7:11-15 and talked about Jesus and what He did for us, why He did it, and then how we can use what He did. The second we made the transition in the lesson between faith and repentance, James stopped us and said that he was feeling something unlike anything he had ever felt before and that it was very very good. We explained that it was the Spirit testifying to him that what we were saying was true, then we bore testimony of Jesus Christ. It was incredible! The fact that we can gain forgiveness for our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the most amazing thing to me. It is the remedy for any problem. I read in Preach my gospel that repentance is what heals us spiritually. It is sad that the word repentance often puts such a bad taste in people's mouths when it is the very means that we are able to come closer to God! No change in attitude, behavior, or character is possible without the Atonement, and repentance is the means that we accomplish. Man! I love this gospel so much! I love sharing it! I love the opportunity I have to change-to be better through the power of the Atonement and the process of repentance! GREATEST BLESSING EVER!!! :)

Well, I just spilled my guts... I hope you enjoyed it. :) I love you all so very much and I miss you too! Have a great week and we will talk to you in 1 more!

Lots of love,
Sister Jessica Taylor