Monday, March 26, 2012


I'm a firm believer in Shakespeare's warning to "Beware the Ides of March!" For some reason the middle of March always brings drama and change in my life. Mission Marches apparently aren't any different. Last March I entered the MTC which was a traumatic, scary, wonderful experience of its own. This March I had an unplanned surgery. Some of you might get upset with me for not letting you all in on this sooner, but in my opinion it didn't really concern people besides my insurance company, my doctors and my companions until this week. Sorry. For those of you who don't know yet, for about a year now I've been seeing doctors about some pains I've had in my abdomen. Up until Wednesday the doctors thought it was a small cyst and were trying to treat it with medicines. I went back to the doctors on Wednesday because of some persistent pain and this time the doctors were able to figure out that we aren't dealing with just a tiny cyst. The very next morning I went in for laparoscopic surgery to remove the "mass" as they were calling it by that point. After going in and getting a clear look at the mass, the doctor decided it was a little too risky to remove right then because if there was too much bleeding she might have been forced to give me a hysterectomy, making it impossible for me to have children. THANKFULLY, the doctor stopped the surgery on what they are now calling a tumor and has referred me to a well-credentialed doctor at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville.

This doesn't mean I have cancer. It just means that I need to see a doctor who has more experience with tumors like the one I have. In addition to the referral I was given to this well-respected doctor in Louisville, I also have an uncle who is internationally known with many years of experience and training in whom I have the utmost confidence who works with oncology pathology at UCLA and has offered to help in consulting and diagnosing and everything that comes along with all of this March Madness. I'm not telling you this to scare you or anything, I'm telling you because it's gotten to the point now where it would be disrespectful to hide it from my loved ones back home who have blessed me with their support and prayers thus far. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers so far. I'm asking now for continued prayers in my behalf. I know the Lord is mindful of all of us and I know that He is in control. I also know that He hears the prayers of His children. "Tumor" and "cancer" are words that are a bit more serious than "small" and "cyst". I would really appreciate prayers for the doctors who will be seeing me and for the procedures that will follow. My main concern right now, a selfish worry, is my prospects of having children of my own someday. I know that everything will work out for the best and that the Lord has promised me children in priesthood blessings before. If they're mine or if they're adopted doesn't make much difference when we consider the blessings of temple sealings. But, if I'm going to be asking for prayers and blessings right now, I figure it can't hurt to just ask that I have children of my own.

I don't really know how appropriate it is to share all of this with you or to ask these things of you, but I've tried to share all types of experiences from my mission with you. I've tried to be as honest and real as possible with the ups and downs of being a missionary. And this is something I don't think I can skip over anymore. I know that my family fasted for me yesterday. I was still recovering from last week's surgery and wasn't able to fast myself. But I felt power from the faith and love my family showed through their sacrifices all across the country yesterday. I don't know if any other missionary has ever felt as loved and supported and as close to those who care about her as I've been blessed to feel on my mission. I know that the Lord loves me and He sent me to Kentucky so that when this trial came upon me, I'd be close to some of the best doctors the Lord had to offer me. I know He gave me Sister Hunt as a companion the week before all of this happened because He knew she'd know just how to help me and take care of me through all of this. I know he sent President and Sister Woodbury to the GKLM so that I could have them here with me through some of the scarier parts of this since I wouldn't have my own parents here. I know the Lord is in control. I feel too blessed. Thank you for your prayers and thank you for the prayers you will yet offer in my behalf. Please let me know what I can do for you all. I love you all. I'll try and be better about keeping you all updated on... Toby? Toby. I think I just named my tumor Toby, "Tobes" for short. I have an appointment at the James Brown cancer center this Wednesday so I'll have updates next week. Oh yeah, and I know it's not the same James Brown, but I still think it's a good omen that James Brown is best known for shouting, "I feel good!"

Not much else has happened this week. I guess I was a little weird when I came off of the anesthetic on Thursday, but that's no surprise. I've been doing a lot of sleeping since then. I'm going to have a couple tiny scars from the surgery. Interesting fact: I'm allergic to Percoset. What else, what else... I don't think there's much else to tell you about medical stuff. Oh. Well, I do have pretty cool pictures of my insides. You know, your insides aren't as pretty as the diagrams make them out to be. But it's still cool to see what you look like underneath your skin. Oh yeah, Toby is about the size of a golf ball. But that's apparently not too big or too dangerous, so that's comforting. And I've had a priesthood blessing and will have another one before I go into surgery again. If I forget something, my mom can fill you in or I can fill you in next week. We haven't been able to see many investigators this week but I'm hoping this next week we will be able to.
 There is this one person who isn't an investigator not because he doesn't want to be, but because we won't allow him to be... I know that sounds harsh, but let me explain a little. His name is Creeper John. Well, that's not his real name, but that's what the Sisters have called him for the past couple years or so. Creeper John lives on our street. He has a head injury that left him a little crazy. He's 39 but he has a guardian because he's just off enough that he can't be trusted with his own bank account. He loves knocking on our door and telling us how if he had a girlfriend he'd give up drinking and weed but since he doesn't, he still does it. He thinks its a good thing that all he does is drink beer and smoke weed because that means he's moved away from the hard stuff. He's saving up right now for a gold tooth. He always wants to help us and he always wants us to find him a girlfriend. He's not dangerous or anything. He knows the rules.   He's not allowed to knock on the door late at night. He's not allowed to try to come inside. He's not allowed to smoke when he's talking to us. He's not allowed to cuss or be crude. He really is a sweet guy. He's just lost a couple too many screws. If he was more there, we'd try to teach him, but he's not. 

He has these two big pitbulls that he loves to walk by our house and let us pet. His house is painted bright pink with white trim and a sky-blue fence. The other night he was talking about how he wishes he had a girlfriend and asked if we'd be his girlfriends and I immediately said, "NO!" and he was like, "No, I mean, my heartfriends. Friends that are girls that see my heart the way it is. Just close your eyes and imagine a sandy hill and at the top there's a cooler and a beach chair and the breeze is blowing and it's the sweetest, nicest, calmest thing ever. That's how my heart is on the inside. That's the kind of friend I want to be with you." I told him we could be his heart friends but not his girlfriends. Then he said how he wishes he was good enough to go to church and I asked him if he liked to read and he said, "Honestly, Heart-Friend, I'd rather drink tequila through the nose than read a book." Haha. So, I offered him a dvd we had about Joseph Smith (I kind of wanted to go inside and thought giving him something would get him to leave). He looked at it and said, "Is that a book?" "No, it's a dvd." "A cd?" "No, a dvd. You watch it." "Like a HSV?" "You mean, VHS, kind of, except it's on a disc." "How do you see it?" "You put it in a dvd player." "Like a cd player?" SERIOUSLY!?! We had a ten minute conversation trying to tell him what a dvd was. Then he left after making sure we wouldn't let him buy us some beers. Haha. He's crazy. But again, he's not dangerous. He's just a little creepy. If Nina ever decides to break up with Brother Winslow, I know John would be interested...

This week we visited Sister Vonnahme a lot. She's still in the nursing home. She's doing rehab and the aides have to tell her to slow down with all of her exercises because she talks the whole time and doesn't really pace herself so she just goes and goes and goes. Then afterwards she's exhausted. A man in the ward came to visit her and said, "Judie, I can tell that you're feeling better because I can't get a word in edgewise." Haha. I can't wait for you all to meet her. She and "Marv" (Brother Vonnahme) have been good about checking on me and making sure I'm feeling well and taking it easy.

Extra Blessings: Amy Morgan Haynes, Kubo
Quote of the Week: If life is a bowl of cherries, how come all I've got is the pits?"

Ether 12:27 talks about how if we come unto the Lord He will show us our weaknesses and how that's actually a good thing. I've thought about my weaknesses and how the Lord has promised that those can be strengths. How? I have no idea how He'll do it. But he's promised He will. I can't even imagine them being things that aren't my weaknesses anymore, let alone something that I'm strong in. The Lord is so amazing. Everything He does is so merciful. He's always there waiting for us to want to change. And then He helps us change. Then He waits again until we're ready to change something else. Everything He does is for our benefit. Everything He says is for our good. He doesn't give us commandments just to hear Himself speak. He gives us commandments because they'll help us. I can't wait for General Conference. I can't wait to see what He has to tell me this time around. I love General Conference on the Mission because it makes me feel so connected to the people back home. It's like Fievel Mousekewitz. We're all looking at the same thing at the same time. Even through we're far apart, we're connected.

Thank you for being the best family and friends! I love you all! The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns!

Sis Nelson

Monday, March 19, 2012


I'm my own grandma! I'm my own grandma! It sounds funny, I know, but it really is so-ooooh. I'm my own grandma!


Ok, I'm not my own grandma. But I am a grandma... in mission terms; Sister Clemons (my "daughter") is training! She's going to be an amazing trainer. She has her heart in exactly the right place for the work. She knows it takes work and she knows it takes working with the Lord, not just for Him. And I'm not tooting my own horn when I say those things. I didn't teach her those things. She figured them out as she loved the people and strictly obeyed and worked hard. My grandchild's name is Sister Whiting. I'm sure she and Sister Clemons will do amazing things together.


My new companion's name is Sister Hunt. She's from Grand Island, Nebraska. She's almost done with her degree in being a Veterinarian Tech. Her middle name is Jean, as in Erven Jean, as in Jean Anderson. Sister Hunt was Sister Clemons's MTC companion. 

So, usually for transfers we have to find members who will give us a ride to Louisville because we don't have the allotted mileage to drive ourselves. This time we were told by our district leader that we needed to bring our car to transfer meeting. I just figured they wanted to take a look at it and do an oil change or something. So Sister Ford, Leroy and I headed for Louisville Tuesday morning. When we got there we were told to hand in our keys because the Salem Sisters had just won a brand new car! It was like being on the Price is Right except for there wasn't an old man trying to kiss me and there wasn't a skinny microphone in his hand. But it was still pretty awesome.

Killing Leroy - and adopting Elliott Teancum

So, Sister Ford and I killed Leroy and then Sister Hunt and I met our new car. A 2012, just driven off the lot, white Chevy Cruze. I got behind the wheel and realized that I had never driven a car this brand new before. I mean, this car only had the miles on it that it took to drive from the Chevy dealership to transfer meeting. It was amazing. So, Sister Hunt and I mulled it over (well, I actually chose and she accepted my proposal) and named the car Elliot Teancum, otherwise known as ET. Whenever I do a u-turn on a country road and I'm afraid I might not make it I say, "Ellllliot" like ET does in the movie. Whenever I do that he makes the turn just fine. So, we're driving a brand new car. Of course though, he already has some battle scars. We were at a teaching appointment Thursday morning when there was a knock at the gator's door and an old woman was there crying because she had backed into Elliot! He has thick scratches along his backside right now. It's sad. He'll hopefully be better soon.
Saying good-bye to Sis. Ford -- until Friday!!

There's this lady in the Charlestown area that I forgot to write about because I was more concerned about getting down all the info of the tornado experience. But this lady's name is Peggy. She lives in the ghetto with a Mexican guy. She chain smokes and wears belly shirts and had really long, fake nails and wears tons of make-up and is probably in her 60's. She's sort of crazy. She's very less-active but loves visits from the missionaries. She gives a special name to every missionary she meets. The Sisters' names always have to do with angels and the Elders' names always have to do with bears. Some examples are: Baby Bear (Elder Ferguson), Gospel of Knowledge Bear (Elder Banks), Guardian Angel (Sister Mikami) & Christmas Angel (Sister Ford). I had heard so much about Peggy and was excited to finally meet her. When we knocked on the door she opened it and said that she was feeling too sick for a visit tonight. But when we started to say bye and walk away she started talking to us and we ended up having a fifteen minute conversation on her doorstep. I was a little bummed because I figured I wouldn't get a name from her since we didn't come in and have a lesson. As we were about to leave again she said, "I know what I'll call you: Blessed Angel. Because you came in my hour of need." Then she pulled me in for a LONG, awkward hug where she ran her nails up and down my back for about 45 seconds. I don't know how I "came in her hour of need" exactly, but I love my name and now whenever one of the Charlestown Sisters or the Spanish Elders call me I refer to myself as Blessed Angel. You all can feel free to do the same. Speaking of Charlestown, Christmas Angel got tranferred there with Sister Noakes! So she and I will get to do an exchange together this transfer and we'll get to see each other every Friday! We're really happy to still be so close to each other.
Sister Hunt and I have been blessed to find 5 new investigators this week. We doubled our teaching pool, haha. We found one tracting, two from member referrals and two from a potential investigator form from when Sister Noakes and Sister Ford had an exchange here in Salem a couple weeks ago. One of our new gators is named Rex. So now I have my brother, Little Rex, my grandpa, Big Rex, and my investigator, Gigantasaurus Rex. This guy is HUGE. I'm talking close to 400 lbs huge. And he has this teeny Pekaneze dog that follows him around everywhere. They're quite the pair. He seemed interested in what we had to say and invited us in but we didn't have another woman with us so we told him we'd come back with a woman next week.

 There's also this lady named Lisa (or Leeser as Paula Lester would say) that I'm really excited about. She's the one we found tracting. It was one of those "let's just knock one more door" cases and she seems like a real sweetheart. We went back for our appointment a couple days later and she had to cancel because she had an emergency come up. She really wanted to reschedule though. I think earlier in my mission I would have been discouraged but it actually made me more excited to teach her because the fact that something came up right when we were supposed to come over means that Satan DOES NOT want Lisa to hear the gospel, which means that she's ready to hear the gospel and embrace it and become a faithful member of God's church. I just hope that she can withstand whatever Satan is going to throw at her to get her away from the truth. We also talked with a husband and wife yesterday who I love. Their names are Chad and Heather and they have two little girls. At first they just listened to be nice, in the middle they wanted to bash a little, and by the end they seemed at least interested in some of the points we brought up and the questions we raised for them, specifically about the idea of a merciful God making ordinances available to the dead and whether or not their pastor believed in Eternal Families. Please pray for them!

Speaking of praying: Sister Vonnahme is STILL in the hospital.  They removed her gallbladder and fixed a hernia she had.  Plus, they found out that she didn't have a heart attack, she actually has leukemia which is why her white blood count was so high.  she also has 3 blockages in her heart (plus she already has a stint) and still has pneumonia.  They say the leukemia is treatable, but it's still alarming to hear.  They're going to transfer her to a rehab center up here in Salem soon.  I miss the Vonnahmes.  I haven't seen them in almost 2 weeks now.  Bro. Vonnahme has been calling me several times a day though to keep me updated.  Please keep her in your prayers.

There's this lady I've mentioned before named Sis. Naugle and her husband's name is Irvin.  I finally met him this week.  He looked like a skinny Uncle Fester.  It thought it was appropriate seeing how much Erven Tebbs loves Uncle Fester.

Now, I have a couple questions. They both involve you all looking up some stuff. The first one is from the Book of Mormon in Ether 3:4 (pg 492). The Brother of Jared says "O Lord" several times in that chapter. But in verse 4, the second time he says it... is there a space between the O and the L? I've checked in several copies of the text and in all of them it looks like there isn't a space. What do you all think? Don't let this affect your testimony or anything. I'm just curious to know if I'm crazy and seeing things that aren't there. The second involves the new George Albert Smith manuals we're learning from this year. On page 202 there is a painting by Del Parson circa the 1980's. If that was painted in the 80's why does Daniel look just like Johnathan Taylor Thomas did in the 1990's? And now I have something that's not a question, it's just a fact. Turn to Mosiah 8:20 on pg 164 of your Book of Mormon. Notice anything? Wisdom is a girl. It's not a boy; it's a girl. And that's scripture. Just thought I'd point that out... humility may not be a girl, but wisdom is.

The weather here is gorgeous right now. And the blossoms are coming out on the trees. The critters are emerging from their winter hideaways. It's just beautiful. And the weather is perfect. It's in the 70's with a light breeze. At night sometimes we have thunder storms, but mostly it's perfect weather, especially for tracting.

Explanation of the quote of the week from last week:  Brother Hobson was talking about how worldly possessions don't matter as much as the spiritual things and said, "the hearse ain't gonna have no U-Haul on the back of it."  which was basically his version of "you can't take it with you."

Quote of the Week: "Honestly, Heart-Friend, I'd rather drink tequila through the nose."
Extra Blessings: Paige, Papa Elf, Mom, Otie x 2, Bon-Bon & Big Rex

Everything about my testimony rests on the Book of Mormon. In the introduction of the Book of Mormon it tells us that if we will read and pray to know if it's true, the Holy Ghost will answer us. It's kind of like proofs in geometry: if we know the Book of Mormon is true then we know that Jesus is the Christ. If we know the Book of Mormon is true then we know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. If we know the Book of Mormon is true then we know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's kingdom in these days. You're never too young to ask if the book is true. You're never too old to ask again if it's true. He will answer us at any age and however many times we ask. If you haven't gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, don't wait. That testimony will bring you peace and guidance. It will anchor your life in Christ. If you have gained a testimony of the book, strengthen it. Read the book again. Pray about it again. The same peace and guidance will be refreshed within you.

The Book of Mormon is inspired scripture. Joseph Smith is a prophet. Jesus is the Christ. The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Blessed Angel

Special Note from Mom:  Brooke wrote a mid-week letter to let us know that she was going to see a doctor for a follow-up appointment regarding some pain she's been having in her abdomen for almost a year now.  They have tried various approaches to solve her problem.  Ultimately, she ended up having laparoscopic surgery which resulted in the discovery of a tumor next to her uterus. She is scheduled to see a specialist next week.  She would appreciate your extra prayers in her behalf.  And so would her family!  Thank you for your continued support.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oy! Theh goes my Ulsah!!

Ulcers! Sister Ford has ulcers! We just got out of the hospital where she had a camera shoved down her throat and they found a scar from a previous ulcer and the beginnings of another ulcer. They also think something actually IS wrong with her gallbladder. Transfers are tomorrow and she's getting shipped away but she'll be back on Wednesday for the gallbladder tests and then in a couple weeks for the results. I think she's going to be transferred to Charlestown because otherwise she wouldn't be able to come back and forth without putting a lot of miles on the car. I'm really going to miss her. We have so much fun together and I can't imagine having another companion who I have more in common with. The only differences we have are that she hates peanut butter but loves peanuts (I'm the opposite), she's never been sick, I'm always sick and in my heaven I'll be a mermaid while in her heaven she'll be a unicorn. That's basically the only ways we aren't the same person. The worst part about transfers is the not knowing. Even if you don't mesh completely well with a companion, at least you know how your dynamic works and how to go about things together. With a new companion comes new quirks and new temperaments. You lose your personal jokes with your last companion. You have to do all the get to know you questions all over. The first week or two is just awkward. You go from "Hi, I've never met you before," to, "You can't ever get rid of me" right away. It's stressful to think about. But I've loved all my companions so far and I've worked well with almost all of them so I know it won't be too bad. At least I don't have to get to know a new companion and a new area and a new ward and new investigators. That's even more to deal with.

This week has been more cleaning up after the tornado and some teaching and some community service outside of tornado clean-up. Oh yeah, and I've had the flu. When it rains it pours... then it hails... and then it tornadoes. But I'm actually starting to feel a little better today which is good because we have so much to do after we're done here at the library: packing, cleaning, saying goodbyes, plus Sister Ford is supposed to be resting today after her procedure, though I don't think much resting will be done with our checklist looming. But that's later. Now, I have some stories.

On Saturday we went and volunteered at a fundraiser chili cook-off for a non-profit program that is for illiterate adults in Washington County. It teaches them to read free of charge. It seems like something I'd love to volunteer for when I get off my mission. I can't right now because our mission schedule doesn't allow for as much time as would be needed to volunteer. But, the Sisters who were in Salem last year at this time volunteered and so they called us to see if we'd be willing to help out.

 It was fun. We were in charge of the children's games. There was a duck pond thing and a corn-hole game. It's a fun game kind of like a giant bean bag toss that's very popular in Indiana and Kentucky and probably other farm places. It seemed like forever since I'd been around kids. They're hilarious. We're not allowed to hug or be alone with kids but since this was a huge Bingo hall that we met in, we were allowed to be with the kids and not be alone with the kids. The people in the chili cook-off all came and set up their tables and decorated the tables and dressed up. It was insane. There was this one booth where the dad dressed up as Willy Wonka and his wife and three daughters were all Umpa Loompas. There were pioneers. There were cheese-heads. The people in the community paid a ticket to get in and then they could walk around and get whatever chili they wanted and try all different people's. Then there was voting and prizes. Since we volunteered we got free tickets for the food. The lady who was in charge (who looked like a larger version of the red-head from In Living Color told us to get a bowl and try out as many stands as we wanted. I'd been eyeing the cheese head stand for a while because I figured their chili would have something to do with cheese. Then I noticed that the man behind the stand (who was wearing a giant cheese hat) had a long, wiry ponytail. A while later I caught a different angle of him and realized that his ponytail was actually a string wrapped around his dreadlocks. Plus, he had a mustache that was so light that it was skin colored. It was nauseating to be honest. 

After seeing him I decided I didn't want to go to the cheese-head stand. I was afraid of getting one of his hairs in my chili. Sister Ford just brushed my concerns aside and talked me into trying the chili because that wasn't going to happen. So, we try the chili (by the way, people in Indiana chili is made up of noodles, tomato juice and sometimes meat and sometimes beans. It's nothing like our chili out west). The chili was actually pretty good and I just didn't look at the man as I ate it so I was fine....... until I got about 3/4 of the way through my bowl, then I saw it: a hair. GAG. Gag-gag-gag-gag! Ew. I'm getting sick right now just typing it out. That bowl of cheese-hair chili soon found itself hitting the bottom of the trash can. YUCK. I changed my mind. I'm actually glad Sister Ford is leaving. Not really. But I'll never forgive her for talking me into eating dread lock hair. The people who won the awards weren't the people who deserved it. Instead of awarding the group with the best taste, people just voted for whatever booth their church put on. The biggest church (Westside Baptist where Randy had his memorial) was the winner. Whatever. It was still fun to be with the kids.

Sunday after church another work party from the ward went out to Pekin. This time we went into the area where that family died. They have a little memorial set up that's only distinguishable from the rest of the rubble by its caution tape surrounding it. There's these things that look like weird art sculptures that are twisted shapes of metal and debris every hundred feet or so. Those are what used to be mobile homes. There are foundations that have nothing left of the house that used to be there. It's nuts. I'm sending pictures. We got these really attractive vests we got to wear that say Mormon Helping Hands. I also have a shirt of the same design. It's neat to be able to help in something like this. Though it feels like what we're doing is so insignificant. At one point yesterday we were at the "home" of a lady whose house lost its roof and windows and had some cracking in the walls and the inside is just messed up. We were cleaning out the insulation from what's left of the woods around her house. It was everywhere. I don't think we'll ever get it all. 

The crossroads for Salem and Charlestown

The Pekin Church Rescue effort - Sis. Brooke is in there somewhere

Sis. Ford stand between 2 volunteers - the pictures above were online and in newspapers
When we got there someone said, "You have a beautiful view up here." She replied, "We didn't used to have a view until the tornado." Then she started crying. Her husband had build their home (a genuine log cabin) all on his own and now he's determined to rebuild it. It kept them safe during the storm which is the most important thing. But it's still hard to watch people deal with losing almost everything else. I found some sheet music and some puzzle pieces and a checkbook and all sorts of things out in the woods. Sister Ford found their headboard. There was this tree that was bent but not at an angle, but in a perfect arc. At some point I'll send home all the pictures I've been taking. It's all so crazy. I'm so blessed to be able to be here right now. I'm so grateful to be able to help in any small way I can physically and I hope that I'll be able to help spiritually as well. These people don't even know what they're missing. I mean, they know that they're missing a roof or a car or a pantry. But they have no clue what else they're missing. The gospel is going to be able to fill in any gaps that are left after their physical needs are met. Please pray that the people in Pekin will have their hearts softened.

Sorry this is going to be short, but today is a busy day. Oh yeah, one more thing.

Brother Vonnahme was a Catholic before he found the church when he was 26. And before he graduated high school he thought he wanted to be a priest. He was getting everything together so that he could become a priest when he discovered girls. Or as he put it, "I was seriously considering becoming a Catholic priest; then I got my first taste of lipstick. I discovered the wonder of girls and I haven't looked back since." Speaking of the Vonnahmes, Sister Vonnahme went into the hospital yesterday morning and by the afternoon they had transferred her to the hospital down in New Albany. She has pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, a bladder infection, and a gall stone. They also thought she had a minor heart attack for a while but I'm not sure they think that's what it was anymore. She's going to be down there doing tests for the next couple days. It's really sad. She's "disgusted" that she won't be able to say bye to Sister Ford but we told her that Sister Ford would visit her when she's here for her doctor's appointment so that cheered her up a bit.

Extra Blessings: Bon-Bon
Quote of the Week: "The hearse ain't gonna have no U-Haul on the back of it."

Thank you for your continued prayers. I love you all and I think about you and miss you more than you realize. The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis Nelson

Friday, March 9, 2012

Russian Roulette

Here's my question: Why do people decide to live in a place where the weather is violent enough to wipe everything away within a matter of seconds? Why do people choose to do that? People here have been talking about how horrible this all is, and it is horrible. But then they'll add, "But nothing's as scary as your first tornado. After that they get a little less scary." Oh, the prospect of losing life, home, car, everything, etc. gets less scary? Hmm. But what about the time that you're the unlucky one that gets the bullet. It's like Russian Roulette. Why? Why?

Anyways. This week has been a stressful week. It's almost like a tornado swept through my proselyting area or something. I can't believe this is only the beginning of tornado season. Everyone is saying that that's the worst tornado they've had in about 40 years so we should be safe from here on out, but still, why risk it? Anyways again...

This week hasn't been completely bad. I mean, it's been mostly bad, or I guess sad, but there have thankfully been a couple high moments between the drooping ones. Sister Ford went to see a Gastrointerologist this week. She's still been so sick that we haven't been able to do hardly anything. She's lost 25 lbs. While I was in the waiting room I talked with the people around me and they were all talking about colonoscopies and how horrible they are. It was hilarious. Sister Ford has insisted that she'll only have a scope down her throat, not the other way. This one guy said, "Might as well have them both done at the same time. Because if you do the scope first and then end up having to do a colonoscopy anyways you'll get to thinking and realize that if you have a sore throat after the scope, what's the recovery going to be like after the colonoscopy." I almost had to run to the bathroom I was laughing so hard. It was a whole two hours of talking to these people. One person was like, "I should be embarrassed but if we're here in this office we're all here for the same reason so..." Haha. Sister Ford's face was mortified. I felt sorry for her. But it still made me laugh. While she was gone I actually talked to two women and we're going to go teach them. We're seeing one tomorrow and one later on next week. One of them was raised in Corbin, KY!

There's this woman that we visit named Sister Smith who is a doll. She's in one of the later stages of Alzheimer's so she has a lady named June who stays with her most days. They are a crack up. Sister Smith can't remember much so she'll ask the same question over and over again. June is so patient with her and answers the question every time as if it isn't the 40th time she's told her the information. Whenever you ask Sister Smith how she's doing she replies, "Fat and Sassy!" Haha. She's not fat. But it's hilarious. We talked about starting a Fat and Sassy Club one day. She said, "It'll be great. All we'll do is eat and talk. It will be loads of fun." Haha. Sister Smith talks like the man who did the voices for Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. She holds her self like a bird. Her head wobbles just a little when she walks and she's always smiling. June is the nicest lady I've met here. No surprise she was born in Manchester, KY (where Judy and Mary live) and she's just a huge BYH. She's not a member but she's very nice and will have conversations with you about the gospel. She is quiet and patient and one of those people you expect not to have quick comebacks but when Sister Smith picks on June, June snaps back with hilarious one-liners. Sister Smith likes to do puzzles because they help her mind so she always has one out whenever we come over. She has more money than she'll ever need so she always insists on taking us out to eat as well. Her favorite phrase is, "Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone." She always follows it up with, "You know there's a lot of truth to that." I like her because she chooses to laugh. We saw Sister Smith and June a couple days after the storm. They're always a good pick-me-up.

We had interviews with President a couple days before the storm and he pretty much told me that Sister Ford is getting transferred. It's sad but she's been here for a long time and I hope she'll be feeling better soon and be able to see some baptisms before long. I'm going to really miss her. I've loved all my companions but they weren't the type of girls I would have naturally been friends with before my mission (though they'll be my forever friends now). Sister Ford and I would have been friends before the mission for sure. I really like her and appreciate her. She's not judgmental at all with me and with my faults. She's a good listener and we relate a lot to each other. I forgot to tell you how the appointment went. The doctor is going to do a scope on her on Monday and he thinks that he'll find a bacteria that is carried by water that produces the symptoms she's had. He said the people with this bacteria have to go through the same annoying steps before they're referred to him: first the Dr's think it's the flu, then anemia, then gallbladder. That's exactly what the Dr's have thought so far. So I'm hoping that he finds that bacteria. He said it will be no problem to clear up. He'll just get her some pills and she'll be back to normal in no time. Maybe she and I will be able to serve together again later when we're both healthy. I think we would have been a great team if we would have been able to go full force.

Last week we were explaining the Atonement to this lady and when it finally clicked to her what Christ did she was amazed. She turned to this kind of quiet, awkward kid that was there and was like, "I mean, I like you, but I'm not going to die for you." The kid just sat there shocked. Then she apologized. But it was too hard to keep from laughing. I couldn't hold it in. It was hilarious.

Extra Blessings: Paige, Aunt Suzanne, Grandpa Rex, Krystal Knigge & Otie
Quote of the Week: "I was seriously considering becoming a Catholic priest; then I got my first taste of lipstick. I discovered the wonder of girls and I haven't looked back since."

A lot of people think that the Second Coming is an event. I think it's a time period. I think it's already underway. Look at the world. Look at the signs that are being fulfilled. The Second Coming is here. It will culminate in Christ's appearance. But it's commenced. Repent. Repent before it's too late. There's not only safety if you do, but there's love and peace and joy.

I love you all. I wish I knew how to express all the emotions I've felt this last week. I can't. But the biggest thing I've felt is love: love for others, love from others and Christ's love.

The Church is TRUE! Share it!




The approaching tornado in Henryville, Indiana - March 2, 2012
Thank you for your prayers and your concern for me and for the people that have been devastated by Friday's storms. The days following Friday have been a whirlwind of their own; it's a lot to remember and write down.

 Sister Ford and I are best friends with the Sisters in Charlestown and had been anticipating exchanges all week because we love any time we get to spend with them. We met up in a town called Scottsburg. The four of us ate lunch and then Sister Ford and Sister Wood headed back to Salem while Sister Noakes and I were aimed at Charlestown. The last time Sister Noakes and I were on exchanges together we tracted into Logan Hall; he was baptized three weeks later. We were determined to "get another baptism together" and couldn't wait to hit the pavement in C-Town. But first we needed to stop in Henryville to see some recent converts.

Sister Noakes and Sister Wood
 The Hicks Family live (or I guess lived) in a small house near the Henryville High School. Like any family, they were experiencing trials of all different kinds and intensities. They were humble yet welcoming. I always enjoy walking around someone's home and looking at the pictures on the walls and the different doilies and keepsakes that mean enough to them to be prominently displayed. We sat on a comfortable couch and played with their dogs and their guinea pig and talked about trying to find the time between work schedules and school to have family scripture study and prayer. Our lesson was supposed to be about 45 minutes or so, but 20 minutes in the husband looked at us and said, "There's a tornado that's supposed to hit here in about 45 minutes. You might want to head home and take cover. You won't want to be out driving when the storm hits." Neither of us were very scared, but we didn't want to undervalue this man's advice, so we said goodbye and wished them a good week and headed for Charlestown.

 Once we got in the car the weather started to look worse and worse. The wind was blowing and the rain was coming in spurts. The drive to C-Town is about 20 minutes or so from Henryville. We're both from Las Vegas so we had no way of gauging the weather to tell how serious this warning was or if it was just a precaution but the storm would avoid the area. When we got into town and could hear the tornado siren screaming full blast, I looked at Sister Noakes and raised my eyebrows indicating my approval if she wanted to push her foot a little harder on that gas pedal. Instead of heading for the apartment (which is on the second floor) we drove to a member family's home. They have a basement. We went down there and tried to all get to know each other without trying to scare their two young children. He's in Dental School and served in Derek's mission. She stays home with their kids. They're a sweet family. 

And we really did have a good time together-- except for the fact that every couple minutes we couldn't take it anymore and would go look out one of their tiny windows at the skies, looking for signs of a tornado. I'd always heard that the sky turns green in tornado weather. It does. Not a rich, leafy green, but it turns more like a pukey, watery green. The sky was foggy and green almost like they draw different gasses in the cartoons. The wind was crazy. The hail was very loud on the storm door. We had to raise our voices to hear each other. The mission leaders were trying to get ahold of us and find out if we were safe and in a basement but the cell-towers were either damaged or crowded because we couldn't get any messages back out besides our initial ones saying we were heading for a basement. 

I kept trying to call the Sisters in Salem because I knew they had an appointment in Pekin (not "the hen was peckin' at the ground" but "the snoop was peekin' around the corner") and Pekin was supposed to be in the tornado's path. Of course we couldn't get ahold of them so we waited and texted because texting seemed to be working a little better than calling. We sat in the basement and watched and listened and waited and when we'd get ready to go upstairs the Werners would check the radio and it would say that the alert had been extended another 45 minutes or so. It was extended a couple times. 

We were safe where we were. I knew we would be. I've been so blessed as a missionary to be able to have complete faith that the Lord will keep me safe if I use my brain and try to avoid danger. I don't know if I've ever had faith so pure and impenetrable as I've been blessed with in regards to my safety as a missionary except for maybe when I was a small child. I felt calm through the whole thing in regards to myself and the people we were with. I was anxious and in awe as I watched the sky, but I knew I'd be safe. I know that faith and peace comes in large part because of the many people I have back home praying for me. Thank you. I really can feel your prayers in my behalf and I know that those prayers have kept me safe and have helped fulfill the blessing of safety that President Teshima gave me as he set me apart last year.

 The storm finally passed completely. There were flash flood warnings, but we were in the country enough that we thought we could chance it. We went outside. I don't know why, but it was beautiful weather. The sun was shining and the clouds were dispersing. The fields were wet and the ground was muddy, but it was beautiful. I looked up at the house to make sure there wasn't any damage to the roof and that's when I saw a double rainbow all the way across the sky. It was enormous and so vivid that it almost looked tangible. I admired it for a bit and then continued my search of the area around us. When I looked back up, the rainbow had disappeared. It left so quickly. 

We tried calling people in the area to make sure they were ok. That was pointless. The phones wouldn't work for any of us. So, we jumped in our cars. The Werners went to one part of Henryville and we headed back to the area of the Hicks'. We didn't know yet that Henryville had been wiped out. As we drove, we looked around, trying to take in what we were seeing. I wish I had paid better attention on our drive through there an hour earlier. I knew it had all been in tact and in one piece, but as we drove through it was hard to believe that it had ever stood on its own. Trees were everywhere. GIANT trees were all lying horizontally. Their roots, just these huge tufts of dirt were pulled out of the ground like nothing. Power lines were torn and down and wires were strewn everywhere. Cars were dented from the softball-sized hail. The paneling of houses was caught on power lines and in trees and on cars. Light poles were smashed into cars. The insulation was showing on most houses. There were giant chunks of paneling gone where the hail had hit. Sticks and leaves and mud covered the pavement. 
Golfball- and softball-sized hail dented cars

The farther into the town we got, the worse the damage was. The roads were blocked off where the worst damage was and people were parking their cars and walking in past the barricades. It was raining again. Cars were getting stuck in the mud. The truck in front of us got stuck and tried to rev out and just showered our windshield with mud. Families were walking together, hand in hand, to find the people they loved behind the police blockades. We kept trying to get through to the Hicks but the phone lines wouldn't be working well for the next couple days. After an hour of trying to find a way through, we realized there wasn't a way in and the Hicks probably weren't there anymore anyways so we headed to an appointment back in Charlestown.
What's left of Henryville
The neighborhood surrounding the High School
 Late that night was the first time that someone in the ward was able to make contact with Sister Hicks. They were all safe. Their house is gone. It doesn't exist anymore. Those walls I paced, looking at their family pictures, the heater that was making all the weird noises, the comfy couches, they're gone. Just gone. We sat and visited with this family in their home and an hour later that home wasn't there anymore. It's all so crazy. What a blessing it was that the Lord protected us and them. It's almost too much to think about without getting emotional. 

We spent the rest of the night trying to check on people we care about. Driving places was pointless. Calling was almost as pointless. Sister Ford and Sister Wood had been in the home of a member and were teaching her friend. They were listening to the weather report and the reporter said that the tornado would go south of Pekin when the power went out. (They never got to hear the report that actually Pekin WOULD be hit) The Sisters were like, "Should we go down to the basement?" The member said, "It's not that close. We'll be fine here." The Sisters were still a little wary. The member finally said, "You can go down there if you want, we're staying up here." The Sisters felt stupid and neither of them knew much about tornadoes so they sat upstairs and waited the storm out. After it passed they started the drive back to Salem. A mile away from the member's home Sister Wood asked Sister Ford, "Was that junkyard here on our drive in?" "Uhh... I don't think so." That's when they realized how close they'd been to the tornadoes. An entire trailer park was wiped out. It looks like matchsticks. It was just flattened. 

Angel Babcock was found in a field in New Pekin, Indiana, after tornadoes ripped through the area.
Angel - the baby who was found in a field 10 miles from home
I haven't been able to watch the news or anything so I don't know if these stories have been well-covered or not, but there was a family in Pekin that got blown away while trying to find cover. The dad, mom and two kids died. The last child was found 10 miles away from their home and was flown to Louisville to the ICU, but later died as well. There was another story in a different town where a grandma was trying to hold on to her grandchildren and had one in each arm. She was able to hold on to one of them but broke her collar bone in the process. The other was ripped out of her arm and was found dead in a field. It's all so heartbreaking. People have lost everything. They've lost their homes, their cars, their comfort, their everything. Where do you even begin to pick up the pieces? 

Saturday morning we headed to the church to be part of a cleaning party. (I hadn't anticipated this so the only clothing I brought that wasn't a dress was a moose nightgown and some reindeer pajama pants... I borrowed a shirt and had a sweatshirt but I was the only person there without jeans on. Needless to say I looked GREAT.) The other Sisters ended up joining us (Sister Wood went to the apartment and got her jeans). Some of the other missionaries in the zone came as well. 

The High School in Henryville and the surrounding homes were destroyed and the police still wouldn't let people in so we went to north Henryville to a member's farm. All I can say was that it was the most surreal experience of my life. Hands down. I felt like I was watching a movie. I won't be able to describe it justly, but it seriously looked like-- haha, the only thing I can compare it to is like a tornado went through it. The barn had completely collapsed. Half of his house was gone. It looked like a dollhouse where you have three walls but the fourth wall doesn't exist so that you can see inside. That's what this looked like. You could see in and see his tv and his chairs and everything in their proper places, but outside where the fourth wall had been was a dump. 

Henryville High School
The chicken coop had been carried into the mess and there was a shed and miscellaneous other things just all thrown in a pile. The trees looked like those razor commercials where they do a close-up of the whiskers being cut. Some of the trees were completely uprooted and some of them were cut off near the stump. You could clearly decipher the path the tornado took because some trees were still standing but there was a definite line, a WIDE line where the trees were all mowed down. Paneling as wrapped around the power line. Trees were blocking the long drive. Wood was everywhere. I looked around and honestly felt like the best thing we could do for the place is light a match and burn it all up. But of course you can't do that. 

So, we went to work clearing trees. There were men with chainsaws hacking through the branches and us missionaries hauled the pieces out into the field to make a burn pile. We made a salvage pile of non-tree items. We made a trash pile. We made a wood pile for next winter. But most of it went to the burn pile. It was muddy and cold and bright. We got very dirty, sweaty and clammy. At one point we found a little bird that had been injured and probably isn't alive anymore. Because I had gloves on and because of the circumstances, I was able to pick it up without a lot of anxiety and protect it and find a safer place to let it try and recover. At one point we went in to the house and went to the bathroom (though it was hard because there was no power so we went in the dark). The man who lived there was telling us how it was by far the scaredest he'd ever been in his life. Said it sounded worse than a double freight train. 

My shoes
There were forty of us and we spent almost 6 hours there and all we could do was clear his driveway of trees. We didn't even make a dent in the work he needs done there. It was just insane. The next day was Fast Sunday. None of us fasted though because the last two hours of church were cancelled and after Sacrament Meeting we left to help out again. This time Sister Ford and I went to Pekin and helped at the drop-off center for donations. The United Methodist Church in Pekin let us use its gymnasium. Everything you can imagine from clothes, food, hygiene supplies, toys, dishes, clocks, motor oil, rakes, baby formula, everything was being dropped off. Truckloads. Everyone wanted to help in any way they could. As they'd drop it off, we were with a group of people that had to sort it all. It was a madhouse. People were folding and sorting clothes. People were busing food to tables. People were piling toilet-paper. The gym is a big gym. You can't hardly see the walls anymore. There is SO much stuff in there. It was hectic and tiring and hot and frantic. But it was so wonderful to see the people come in with boxes full of anything they could think of to help out with. 

Tornadoes give birth to wide range of  stories based on people’s experiences
United Methodist Church in Pekin loading donated supplies

People were cleaning off their shelves. People were buying things in bulk from the stores. People were coming in from over 100 miles away to donate. There were groups of people cutting trees and trying to clear rubble. It was a full day of helping people as fast as we could. They set up the gym like a store so people who needed help could come in and get a shopping cart and walk through and get whatever they needed and walk out. It was of course all free of charge. People would come in and try to take the bare minimum saying they didn't need everything they were being offered, just a little. It was so humbling to see them and imagine what they were experiencing emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. The people helping at the donation center would insist people take more and usually the person would leave with a carload of things, barely even enough to keep them going, but being so grateful for what they'd been given because before they got there they literally had NOTHING. 

People were coming in and donating and then asking what else they could do. Some would stay and help organize. We didn't need to know each other's names or be formally introduced or have an excuse to speak to each other. We all talked like we were friends and family because we were that day. No one was afraid of us or timid around us because of our name tags. We were just people that day. And people meant family after something like this. It was like living the law of consecration. People had excess. They'd bring it in and people who were in need would come and get what they needed. No money was involved. No bickering over who earned what. It was all of us helping each other like we're supposed to. How sad that Heavenly Father has to send tornadoes to His children before they'll start acting this way towards each other. And the Spirit is so strong when we will show love like that. The Spirit filled whatever was left in that gym to the point where I thought the place was going to burst. It was uplifting and humbling. 

High School parking lot
So often we pretend like we're in control of things. We trick ourselves into thinking that we can do anything we want to. We can do all things. Then something like this happens and we remember Who really has power, Who really is in control. We can do all things through God and not through any other way. There is a man in the Salem Ward who bore his testimony on Sunday. He's a big bald man who is loud and rough around the edges but a good member of the church. He broke down and cried like a baby as he told us that his wife was in the High School under a conference table holding onto some children as the tornadoes passed through Henryville. He tried to get through the barricades to his wife and the police wouldn't let him. He said he almost did bodily harm to a fire fighter.

Once the storm passed, the room his wife was blocked and they had to cut their way to them and it would take a while. They could smell gas leaking and knew they had to get them out quickly. This man was helpless. His wife was in trouble and he couldn't save her. The police gave him a can of spray paint and told him to check the cars in the parking lot for dead people. He marked them with an x once they'd been cleared. He talked about how the only thing that he could do for his wife was pray and put her into the care of Heavenly Father. That's why horrible things like this have to happen. We need to come unto Christ. If we as a people won't come on our own, the Lord will humble us and hope that that works.

 Driving through Pekin, Sister Ford and I noticed of the homes that were hit by the tornado that the ones that had at least a little bit left standing were only the homes that had a firm foundation. The mobile homes, the ones without a foundation were all gone. They were destroyed. This life is temporal. We know that everything we have here is temporary. I've learned that even more this week. But our spirits aren't temporal. They're eternal. If we will build on the Rock, on our Savior, our foundation will see us through life's storms. 

In the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" it talks about the benefits and the need of a firm foundation. In the verses that we don't get to sing too often it says, "When through the deep waters I call thee to go, The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow, For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to the thy deepest distress. Then through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine." 

We're here on earth not to live forever, but to find eternal life through the Atonement. If we will let the Lord refine us, though it will hurt, it will be for our everlasting welfare. I always hated when people said they were grateful for their trials. That makes no sense. Well, that makes no sense to the natural man. But if my trials get rid of my dross and refine me into something worthy of heaven, then I am grateful for my trials. Prayer is real communication with the Father. His whole goal is to bring us back to Him. He knows what needs to happen before you can make it back. Trust Him. Let him change you.

I love you all. I'll write a more upbeat email later today. This is Christ's Church. Share it by sharing His love and His peace.

Love Yuns,

Sis Nelson

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**Note to readers from Mom**
As an addendum, you may be interested to know that Erv and I went the temple the Saturday before and Erv put Brooke's name on the prayer rolls. The Friday that the drama below was unfolding, I was watching the weather news quite closely, knowing that the tornadoes of the midwest were going to be hitting Southern Indiana and coming close to Salem, where Brooke is currently serving. I felt a sudden prompting to drop to my knees and pray for Brooke immediately, which I did - out loud - for several minutes, and then rose and immediately texted my family and extended families and asked for their prayers in her behalf as well. Many responded immediately, letting me know they were praying right then as well. I was at peace that she would ultimately be fine, but I still felt the need to pray for her. The time was late morning. With the time difference of 3 hours, and the reports later that the storm she speaks of hit the area around 4:40 pm, you can see the timing was not coincidental. The subsequent blessings and increase of testimonies for all of us has been tremendous. The tender mercies of the Lord and outright miracle He granted us above keeps up humbled and in awe and full of endless gratitude. Thank you to all who joined us in petitioning Him for his care over Sister Nelson