Monday, December 28, 2015

A Missionary Christmas and What I've Learned.....

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy upcoming New Year :)

This Christmas was one of the most interesting Christmases I've had! The weather has contributed to a lot of it. Two days before Christmas we had tornado warnings and bad thunder storms. Christmas Eve was completely blue skies and it was in the 70's. Christmas day we were woken up at 5:30am by thunder and we had rain the entire day, which brought on flooding. It's been crazy!! But our Christmas was good. :) We had breakfast at a member's home, went to Skype our families (YAY!), took a nap, had dinner at a member's home, then went to another member's home. We were really grateful for everyone who took care of us and made sure we had places to eat!

Every once in a while, I reflect on all the things I've learned from my mission. I'm so grateful! I don't know what I'd do without it! Here's a list of some of my blessings:

1. A much wider knowledge of the Restored Gospel.
2. An understanding of how the Church runs and how Church leadership operates.
3. An appreciation for my faith
4. A better understanding of other religions
5. An increased love and respect for those who differ in beliefs.
6. A better perspective on life.
7. A bigger desire to serve.
8. A love for the scriptures
9. Experience out in the "real world"
10. Knowing I can do hard things

I will forever be grateful for my time spent here serving the Lord,
Sister Griffith

Went out to eat Chinese food! It brought me back to my China days.

On an exchange!

Walking in Capshaw.

Our little Christmas tree, and presents ready to be unwrapped. :)

We set our cameras on our mailbox and took selfies. This was Christmas Eve!
My favorite Christmas lights I saw this season.

We had a rainy, rainy Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

'Twas the Week Before Christmas.....

Hey family and friends!

Last Monday we had the sisters Christmas activity/surprise birthday party for Sister C! It went really good. :) We played games, sung happy birthday, had snacks & cupcakes, and took silly pictures! Our P day then ended by playing gator ball with other missionaries! We love gator ball. It's a missionary favorite (mostly because it aids in ridding ourselves of the dreaded "Southern Squish") and it's a combination of soccer, football, and tag. We'll be playing gator ball later today!

Tuesday we did lots of finding and had multiple lessons. It was a good day.

Wednesday would have been transfers for us, except Sister Castagno and I got our transfer news last Saturday and found that we'll be staying here at least until February. So Wednesday was just a normal day for us and we did our usual work! We went tracting, had lunch at a Relief Society luncheon, attended a District meeting, and then later in the day went on a team up with a Russian member here and had great success!

Thursday we had a lengthy session of Weekly Planning, then for the rest of the day we focused on in-active and less-active members. It's always interesting to learn that usually people end up going in-active or less-active because they slowly stop doing the little things and their resolve to stay consistent in acting on their faith decreases. Another reason is someone getting offended by someone else at church, and then they stop coming. My mission president has talked about this quite a lot. Imagine you are that person and you're on your death bed and think, "Oh yeah...I sure showed them...I went inactive for 26 years!" What good does it do?   There are of course many other reasons why people go inactive, and it's really sad to see. The Gospel offers so much if you have sincerity and motivation to act on your faith.

Friday was our 10 month mark! We were super excited about celebrating that mark, but it was a little bit of a discouraging day because all of our plans (except for one) fell through, including our dinner appointment! But the one appointment that did go through went really good, and we now can officially say that we have survived 10 months on a mission!

Saturday we had our ward Christmas activity! We had a few less actives and some non members come, and it was really good!

Yesterday was the BEST Sunday I've ever had on my mission thus far! We had three investigators come to church, and one of them brought four of her kids!! Another one set a baptismal date with us; another one we'll be seeing tonight. Everything went really well and we hope they will continue to progress!!

Well, that's our week in report! I wish everyone a joyous season, a Merry Christmas, and may we always give praise to our Heavenly Father for the best gift we've been given---our Savior, Jesus Christ. I love these testimonies from the New Testament Apostles:

(2 Peter 1:16-18)

16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

(1 John 1:1-4)

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Merry Christmas,
Sister Griffith

So close, Alabama. So close.

Sister Castagno and I the day we spent the whole day visiting less-actives!

Thanks mom!

Despite looking adequately large, the road was not wide enough for us to park on. So this is what Sis Castagno restored to. Luckily the less-active we were going to see wasn't home, so it wasn't parked that way for a long amount of time. ;)

I get comedic relief from Alabama's street signs.

I didn't find any ward buildings on this street...

Driving down Memorial Parkway!

On the road

Sister missionary "Ugly Christmas Sweater" party!  Merry Christmas everyone!  :)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Festivities, A Baptism & My Companion's Birthday!

Hey y'all,

This past week we had a fun time at our mission Christmas party! It first started with a devotional given by President & Sister Hanks, which was super inspiring and spiritual. :) Then we had a big lunch with lots of yummy food!! Following that we had a talent show that was full of beautiful songs and funny acts. It was great! You always need a good laugh now and then!! After that we all watched "Big Hero 6". I had seen it previously before my mission but it was fun to watch again, and yet super strange to be watching a movie other than the Restoration or The Testaments. ;)

This week we also had the opportunity to volunteer at/enjoy the Huntsville Christmas Festival that the Church puts on. They've been doing it for the past 11 years and it is amazing! They set up a live, walk-through nativity, the whole cultural hall is decked out with Christmas trees, quilts, and hundreds of nativities, and they have choir/orchestra performances---which blew me away! They were just regular members of the church, yet they sounded like a mini Mormon Tabernacle choir! I guess they had been practicing for months, and it definitely paid off because the 30 minute concert they did was a-m-a-z-i-n-g! 

Saturday morning was a good day for us, because one of our investigators was baptized! Her name is Daphne and she is 8 yrs old! Most of her other family has been baptized in the last year or two, and it was a sweet day for all of us to see her baptism. It was really fun to teach her because we often tried to incorporate games into the lessons! She was baptized by President Nolan, who is a counselor in our mission presidency, a member of our ward, and a neighbor to Daphne (the Nolan's originally introduced Daphne's grandma to the Church, and look what that sparked! Member-missionary work actually works!)

Today is Sister Castagno's 20th birthday and I've had a few surprises up my sleeve. Last night she went to bed a little early and I told her I was going to stay up to read for a bit...little did she know that I was actually hanging up streamers and decorating our apartment! We also had "birthday pancakes" for breakfast this morning. :) Later today we have a sisters Christmas activity, and there will be a few surprises then as well!! I know that it's nice to feel special and appreciated on your birthday, especially while on mission when you're away from home, so I'm making my best effort! Hopefully everything turns out well!

Something funny that happened a couple days ago was that I was quoting something from someone back home and instead of saying "you" I said "y'all" (which of course that person didn't say being from out West). I realized then that the South has officially ingrained itself in me.

Well, I love Y'ALL, and wish you a great day!!
Sister Griffith

We met this guy who was out walking his dog the other day while we were out tracting. He is agnostic and from Scotland, and was an absolute pleasure to meet. He knew a lot about our religion from his own studies. It was refreshing how he showed us that you should respect others and have a genuine conversation, despite differences of belief---and that chivalry is still alive! It was also fun to meet him because he is Scottish and President Hanks went on his mission to Scotland, so we had some connections there!

The sisters in our zone at the mission Christmas party!

Daphne, President Nolan, and us! 

Setting up for the talent show

Some cute sisters in our zone!

Sister Castagno, our friend Vanitey, and I at the Christmas Festival!

The amazing Huntsville choir at the Christmas Festival!

Us today!  Happy Birthday, Sister Castagno!
Some of the surprise decorations for Sister Castagno's birthday!

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Missionary Christmas Month!

Hey y'all, Happy December!

This past week Sister Castagno and I have been busy doing exchanges with the sisters in our zone, lots of finding, and helping to coordinate upcoming Christmas activities. We also were able to go to the Birmingham temple on Thursday, which we of course loved!! I love the spirit in the temple. It's unlike any other place. And it's amazing the different ways Heavenly Father teaches us, and how the more we progress spiritually the better we recognize and understand it.

We had lots of different experiences this week, some good, some bad. Through it all, I have gained a deeper, true testimony of who the Savior is to me personally and how His example and His Atonement very realistically has a role in my life if I so choose.

We've  been thinking a lot about Jesus's birth, life, and mission since it's the season where we take extra time to remember Him. Lately while tracting or contacting, we've been sharing the new video on Christmas. It's been fun to share with everyone :) Last night we were also able to watch the Christmas Devotional and I especially enjoyed Elder Bednar's address! He talked about how Christ is the Light of the world.

It's my challenge to remember the reason for the season! And do things that will invite Christ into your life.

Sending prayers your way,
Sister Griffith

Sister Castagno and I emailing today!

Our dear President & Sister Hanks and I :)

Finding our inner spiritual gangster.

Sis C and I at the temple!

Us and the Huntsville Elders!      

Bonus pics from our Sunday evening with Brother and Sister Nelson!  We had dinner, dessert and also watched the LDS Christmas Devotional!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Well Fed, Volunteering, Defending My Companion & A Family Visit


Wow, it's almost December. Where has the time gone? This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving! We were blessed to have 3 full Thanksgiving meals in the span of 2 days. Yikes. We'll have to increase our morning exercises. Our main Thanksgiving dinner was at the Nolan's (President & Sister Nolan are in the ABM mission presidency.) They had all their family over and it was a great meal. Got me a little homesick seeing the little girls in the family playing around with her dad, as that's a regular occurrence at home for myself.

During Thanksgiving day, we helped out at Southside Baptist Church, who had partnered with an organization called "Manna House", to give out Thanksgiving meals. We got there a little late and missed giving out meals but helped as much as we could with clean up. Then we headed over to the Huntsville Hospital and visited people in the Cardiology section to visit with them and wish them Happy Thanksgiving. :) One of the ladies we talked to was super nice and was telling us about her life. We asked her how her faith has helped her. She told us that it has helped through losing her husband and brother, and through her health struggles. She was crying as she told us this and it was very humbling for myself. I think I have problems and struggles in my little missionary bubble, until I talk to people like that and it gives me a new perspective. We all have trials and things we are going through, but hopefully we were able to uplift those people in the Cardiology section that Thanksgiving day.

This past Friday we had a little ordeal as we were out contacting at a Christmas festival Downtown. We were walking down the side walk and a guy walks past us and does a double-take. He stops and seems like he wants to talk with us, and we think, "Hmm, maybe he's ELECT!" So we walk up and start talking to him. One of the first things that comes out of his mouth, as he turns to Sister Castagno, is, "I've been praying for a red-head."  Ohhh boy. Sister Castagno was a little stunned, so I had to quickly step in and rescue my companion by explaining our situation as missionaries, and how a 30-something-year-old man CANNOT date a 20-year-old Sister Missionary!!

On Saturday my aunt, uncle, and cousins came to visit from TN! They took us out to lunch and it was so great to see them! :) Having my extended family visit is awesome, but if I saw my immediate family that'd be really hard for me (not that it's even allowed anyway!) Although we are really looking forward to skyping in less than a month!

I don't have much else to report except that Sister Castagno and I have been working hard to find new people to teach! We only have one progressing investigator at the moment. Sometimes it can be discouraging to not see much fruit come from your labors, but we know it will come. Prayers appreciated!

Love y'all!
Sister Griffith

Sister Castagno and I on Thanksgiving

Sister Nolan and us

The Simper's came to visit!

All decorated for Christmas! 

Bonus pics from our Thanksgiving Activity last week, we had so much fun!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Amazing Zone Conference, Helping Our Fellow Men & Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey everybody!

This past week Sister Castagno and I discovered downtown Huntsville! It's one of the only parts of the city with tall buildings! It has historic charm, and there's lots of places to go and contact people! So we love it. :) This past Wednesday we celebrated our 9 month mark. It was a rainy day but that didn't stop us from enjoying the day. We went to a taco truck here called El Cavador and they have delicious food! The kitchen and dining area is in a renovated bus so it's a very fun atmosphere. I can the enchiladas plate and it was amazing!

Later on this week we had zone Conference and Elder Dube of the Seventy came to train us! Our mission split in two so we were in the northern part. Elder & Sister Dube were amazing and gave us good trainings. Then after zone conference we immediately left to Birmingham to spend the night with some sisters there and then attend MLC the next day. It's been a busy week for us but we have worked hard to keep our numbers up and meet our goals!

Sister Castagno and I decided that we wanted to have a sister Thanksgiving activity, so we planned a small potluck at a park this afternoon. We have 8 sisters in our zone, including ourselves. Everyone got Indian headbands and names, we had a spiritual thought, and we played a couple games. :) After the activity was over, we were heading back to our car to leave and we saw a guy and his wife with their car hood open. We found out that they needed help getting their car jumped. We didn't have any cables, but we called a member who was able to come help them get their car started. What a blessing it was for us to be able to have this opportunity to serve and to be able to get to know them...because little did we know, this guy was actually baptized and raised in the church, and since has strayed. He was open to have the missionaries contact him and let him know the information for church. Blessings!

I hope that everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving, and remember that it is because God is aware of us and loves us that we have such wonderful blessings! Down below I will include a poem and scripture President Hanks shared with us in his weekly email to us.

Warmest wishes,
Sister Griffith

Grace for Thanksgiving Day:
Dear God wherever we may be on this Thanksgiving Day.
Gathered with loved ones in our homes or many miles away,
We bow our heads, remembering those who shared Thanksgiving past
Those who have walked with us awhile whose love will always last.

We thank Thee for the joy of friends, the food before us set
And for a tiny Pilgrim band whose trials we can't forget.
Help us to sift the good and bad, the hatred and the strife
Grant us the wisdom and the strength to lead a useful life. Amen.
(Alice Kennelly Roberts)

Serve the Lord with gladness, all ye his people—Be thankful unto him and bless his name.
A Psalm of praise.
Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him and bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Sis Castagno and I tracting in downtown Huntsville (our new favorite area! Both of us like the city feel of it)

Cute side street we discovered while tracting :)

Cheers to our 9 month mark! We celebrated by eating inside a renovated bus made into a taco-truck!

My delicious meal!

We made a new friend this past week.

Mini MTC reunion

Making some food for a P day Thanksgiving potluck today!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Half Way Through, and a New Companion!

Happy Fall, y'all!

November is just flying by and we have started a new transfer! The Monday previous to transfers a few of us from our zone got together for an activity to play volleyball and sign journals. It was really fun :) Sister Taylor and I were busy the last few days of the transfer, especially with her getting ready to be transferred...HOME! I can't believe how composed she was her last few days, because I know that I would be all sorts of a messy and super "trunky"! Hopefully I'll learn from her example. Transfer meeting was great and as always my love for our mission president grew. President Hanks is an amazing man and we are SO blessed to have him leading this mission!

My new companion is Sister Castagno, and fun fact: we were in the same MTC district and came out together! So we were super excited to be with each other this transfer, considering that we will both be celebrating our 9 month mark!!! Sister Castagno is a super hard worker and we've had lots of amazing experiences already.

One of the cool experiences we had was last Thursday night...we went to contact a media referral. We found the address and it turned out to be some sort of mechanic shop and they were closed, so we picked the nearest street (which just so happens to be called Grace St.) to go tracting. We met a woman there named Kirsten who was very excited to meet Mormon missionaries! We had a lesson on her porch and scheduled a time to come back. We thought maybe because the referral address seemed to be bad that God just sent us that to be able to find Kirsten on Grace St. But the next day we decided to try the mechanic again during the day...we went up to the service desk and introduced ourselves to the lady. Her husband and her own the business. We looked over at their business cards and it was the name of the media referral we received. At first this lady was real closed off to us, but as a few minutes passed she warmed up to us, shared some personal spiritual experiences she's had, and we were able to share a scripture with her and pray. Just as we were about to go, her husband walked in and we explained why we were there. He then told us that he didn't put that online request in to see the missionaries and so he was confused how we got his information. We pulled our phone out and handed it to them so they could see the media text. The wife looked at him very squarely and in such a manner that said, "This is not just a coincidence. God had something to do with this." Now we have a return appt to see them this Wednesday. :)

A a crazy thing that happened this past week was that while on a blitz, another Sister and I were out tracting and got verbally threatened to leave the neighborhood by a lady (who lives there) who pulled up next to us in her car. We tried talking to her, but she wouldn't let up and would only yell "Get out!" and threatened to call the police and confiscate our bikes, as she escorted out of the neighborhood in her car as we walked down the sidewalk. It's unfortunate that people have such hate and anger in their heart. These kind of experiences shake you up a little bit, but I'm grateful for the perspective the scriptures gave me in that moment...I remembered how the Apostles also received persecution, but they never let that deter them!

Sister Castagno and I are praying to find a family to teach this transfer. Your prayers would be appreciated to help us find them!

Love you all,

Sister Griffith

Volleyball and journal signing the Monday before transfers

Missionary volleyball!

The Weatherly district last transfer

Driving down Memorial Parkway (and what a typical ABM missionary car looks like...a Chevy or Ford with a bike rack on the back!)

My current assigned area: Byrd Springs, Huntsville, AL
Look who got paired up this transfer in Wetumpka! Sister Pyrah and Sister Hall, two of my past companions!

My new companion, Sister Castagno, and I!

What transfer meeting looks like...lots of missionaries, lots of bags, and lots of craziness.

I'm going to miss Sister Taylor!