Sunday, November 20, 2016

This email was sent by Sister Welker on November 21st.  We received it on November 20th.

Week 14: December 3rd, Making a Difference, and Feeding the Homeless

It's amazing what a difference a week can make.  So much happened, that it was hard for me to pick my favorite highlights.

To start, we have a family of 5 preparing to be baptized on December 3rd!!!  They are amazing, and we were lucky to even find them in the first place.  We received a list of referrals from Bishop Crawford, about a month ago on people he wanted us to visit.  On that list was a less-active member in the Mount Ward.  When we visited her, we also meet her nephew who was visiting her that day.  We got a return appointment with the nephew and his family, and now his whole family is set for baptism!! They love the lessons and have been coming to church for the last two weeks.  They even asked for more chapters to read in the Book of Mormon.  It's so fun to see how excited they are to learn the gospel.

Those of you who don't know me well, might not know I'm not a great cook.  The kitchen is actually one of my greatest fears, but you'd be proud to know that I made fried rice on Thursday.  Technically, it wasn't fried but it still tasted good.  We boiled some rice, and cooked frozen vegetables, eggs and sausages that we warmed up in the microwave.  To top if off, we put in some soy sauce and mixed it all together.   Surprisingly, it tasted pretty good and nobody got sick or died, so sounds like I'm making progress hahah.

For the past two weeks, we've been having FHE (family home evening) with a less-active family.  The mother is actually the relief society president in the Mount Ward, but her family hasn't been to church in a couple of years.  Every lesson we've had with them so far has been amazing.  The girls have taught me so much, and I'm surprised how powerful their testimonies are about the gospel.  The father actually volunteered to speak in church.  Bishop was quite surprised, but was happy to have him speak.  It was such a good talk!!  He even mentioned how the sisters have been coming over and reminding them about the teachings of the gospel. 

For the longest time, I haven't felt as though I've been making a difference.  I've felt as though I was just tagging along for the ride.  Recently, we visited one of our less-active members whose been coming back to church ever since I've been here in Tauranga.  He was a member of the church as a child, but stopped coming when he was about 10 years old.  Now he's in his late 50's.  At the end of one of our lessons, we asked him if he would say the prayer.  After the prayer, I was almost in tears.  His prayer made me realize that I really am making a difference, that he's truly grateful for the lessons we've taught him and encouraging him to come back to church.

I'm sorry if I've mentioned feeding the homeless in previous emails, but it's something I really want to talk about this week.   Every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. we help feed the homeless with the Te Puke Sisters.  A member in the Welcome Bay ward has been volunteering to feed the homeless every Saturday for the past year!!  These last couple weeks we've been able to provide meals for over 20 homeless individuals, and give them enough for a meal the next day.  It may not be much, but it's just a way to help those in need and I'm so grateful I get to be a part of it.

Sorry this email is a week late, but I hope you can all forgive me.  Just remember that it may not be easy to see if your making a difference or not, but I promise you that you are making a difference.  You're in this place and situation for a reason.  Remember have courage and be kind, and try to be better today than you were yesterday, and better tomorrow than you are today.  Have a good week.

Sister Welker

Mosiah 4:19

Monday, November 14, 2016

Email excerpts sent by Sister Welker and Sister Johnson on November 14th.  We received them on November 13th.

Sister Welker responded to some individual e-mails this week, so she said that she didn't have enough time for the normal weekly e-mail.   She did promise to send us 2 next week!  Many of you have asked or have heard that there was a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in New Zealand over the weekend.  It was centered near Christchurch, which is towards the top of the south island.  Sister Welker's mission covers the central area of the north island, and she is in the north part of her mission.

Here are a couple of excerpts from individual e-mails:

Man, I keep sleeping through earthquakes.  I'm safe.  There's no damage.  Life is good.

Yes, she (Sister Johnson) only has three weeks left, and yes, it is transfer week.  There is a small chance they will transfer her, but you never know.  She will probably stay and we will get another missionary, so it will be a trio again.  Then when Sister Johnson leaves, the other missionary will be my new companion. 

Oh and fun fact!  You'd think that by being in New Zealand nobody would talk about the American elections.  FALSE!! When I get asked where are you from, and I tell them Utah or the States, they ask "So what do you think about the elections?"  The annoying part is that I'm not allowed to talk about politics as a missionary, so I have to "avoid" the topic which is sometimes impossible.  But, no I hear about the elections ALL THE TIME!!  Sadly.

I have also been blessed to have access to the emails that her companion, Sister Johnson, sends.  Her sweet mom found me on Facebook, and so I can cheat a little when I don't get all the information I want!  Here are some details from Sister Johnson's post this week:

But that night (Monday), we had a really good Family Home Evening with the Phillips.  Sister Welker is pretty much the queen of object lessons so that's really fun.  We have one with a peanut butter jar, rice, and a ping pong ball about getting through trials with the Lord's help; one about prayer/following the spirit with two cans and a string; and one about sin/temptation with a box with a hole and a tennis ball.  They are the best, because they really help people and they remember them.  That night we had a DELICIOUS dinner with the Arthurs in the Mount Ward.  We are so spoiled here!

But after that (singing for the elderly in Tauranga), we went to visit Dyles and we met our golden family!!! Dyles is a 17 year old boy who is the nephew of one of our members.  Bishop Crawford told us to go visit that member (Kereama is her name) and he happened to be there.  We asked if we could visit him at his house, and he said yes.  So that's how we ended up there.  But it was juct amazing!  It's a three generation family and the grandma and one of the moms are less active members.  But Dyles's mom, Katrina, and Dyles, his sister (Rhyme, 10), and their cousins Lieshane (pronounced Leh-shawn, 12) and Shayniah (9) all sad and listed to the lesson, and loved it!  We gave each of them a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited them to read 3 Nephi 11.  We came back the next day, and they had all sad around reading it the night before.  They have read three chapters by now and yesterday, at church they wanted us to write down heaps of chapters for them to read all together!  The coolest thing is that it's their whole family doing it together.  So they are all (five of them) set for baptism on the 3rd of December!  We are just so, so excited and happy for them.  It's amazing.  The joy of missionary work is so real and so great.

I just have so much fun with my companion.  I just want her to have the best mission in the world!  (Except I think mine is already the best.)

Hope you enjoyed the hodgepodge version I put together for you this week!

Mom of Sister Welker

This email was sent by Sister Welker on November 7th.  We received it on November 6th.

Week 13: Happy Guy Fawkes Day, and Wonderful Weekend

This week was kinda rough, but there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.  We just had to make it to the weekend and then things started to look better.

November 5th was Guy Fawkes Day.  It's basically a day where they celebrate a guy by the name of Guy Fawkes attempting to destroy parliament by blowing it up.  So New Zealanders use the day as an excuse to have fireworks haha.  You'd have to look it up to find out more about it, that's about all I know.  That same day Sister Johnson and I helped set up a wedding for a couple in our ward.  It was extra exciting for Sister Johnson, because she has helped the bride transition from her past life to the gospel, and plus we're currently teaching her mother in hopes she'll follow her daughter's example by being baptized.  They had to drive two hours to get married in the temple early in the morning, and then drive back and have the reception in Te Puke (tay poo-key).  The view was absolutely amazing!  They had front row seats to the beach, so you could see the waves crashing along the seaside.  I spent most of the day helping in the kitchen, chopping up potatoes, fruit, and stirring custard.  They both looked so happy--I'm so excited and happy for them.  I can't attach photos this week, but I'll be sure to send some next week.

Sunday after sacrament meeting, there was a young lady in about her mid to late 30's that walked into church.  She had no idea why she was there, she just felt as though she was suppose to come to church that day.  She doesn't even know much about the Mormon faith but she just knew how much church helped her father.  We invited her to the gospel principles class and we talked about how God is our loving Heavenly Father.  She loved the lesson and we got a return appointment with her for Friday!!

Those were the highlights of my week.  Life can be hard sometimes, but even during our hard times we can still choose to be happy.  President Russell M. Nelson talked of Joy in this last General Conference and said this:
"That’s it! Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!  My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives."

I love this gospel! I'm excited I have the chance to share what brings me happiness with others.  This is where the Lord wants me and so this is where I'll stay.  Our Heavenly Father has a plan for each one of us and knows us personally.  He created us and wants us to be happy.  I love you all so much.  Thanks for all your love and support.  Hope you all have a good week.

Sister Mandy Welker 
Mosiah 2:17

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

This email was sent by Sister Welker on October 31st.  We received it on October 30th.

Week 12: Trunk-or-Treat, Less-Active at the Beach, and Exchanges

First of all I just wanted to say Happy Halloween!! I hope you all have a fun and safe night with lots of sweets and lollies.  :)

I actually got to do some Trick-or-Treating of my own.  Our ward had a Trunk-or-Treat (it's like trick-or-treating but with the trunk of your car instead of houses) activity this last Friday and both my companion and I dressed up.  For having a limited closet, I think we did a pretty good job.  I dressed up as Rapunzel, and my companion dressed up as Cruella De Vil.  I even found little flowers and made a flower chain to stick in my hair--and I couldn't forget about the frying pan. ;)

The other two highlights of my week would have definitely been exchanges, and finding a less-active member at the beach.

For exchanges, I was with Sister Marsh in my area.  We went to go visit a less-active member in the Mount Ward.  Whenever we've visited her in the past, she's either not home or just too busy.  So I was quite surprised when she invited us in and talked with us.  She is one of the cutest people ever!!  Her family is from Nepal but they've been here in New Zealand for I think a couple years now.  She loves to dance, she's studying Hair and Beauty, and wants to learn how to bake.  Sister Marsh also wants to study Hair and Beauty, so she was able to relate with her easier than I could.  We scheduled to meet with her again this Friday, and make peanut-butter kiss cookies!! :D

Saturday, we went to the Mount and talked to people on the beach about the gospel (I know hard life right). ;)  Anyway, we talked with this young lady who turned out to be related to one of the members in the High Council in our stake.  She hasn't been to church ever since her grandparents passed away.  When we talked with her, she cried and explained how she felt it was a sign from God that she needed to go back to church! :)

Sorry for not responding to emails last week.  I got locked out of my email account shortly after sending my weekly updates.  I love you all so much, and I hope you have a great rest of your week.

Sister Welker