Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just a small town girl...

This week we were Skyped with people in Thailand for one of our lessons! Sooo crazy to think we were talking to a real person in Thailand...sometimes I think I've been here so long I've forgotten what real life is. The lesson was AWESOME. We met with a member and despite some issues with skype connections, it was a very powerful experience. I learned a lot and I'm so excited to leave for Thailand in...7 DAYS!!!!! That's right folks, we got our flight plans Friday evening and it's official! I'm leaving the United States for 16 months in Thailand. We fly out next Monday evening from Salt Lake City to LAX to Hong Kong and then we arrive in Bangkok on the morning of Wednesday, August 6.

I've been thinking a lot about Thailand lately, obviously...and it's led me to ponder the steps that led me here. I'm just a girl from a tiny town on Lake Michigan! I didn't have any major plans for my life, and I didn't really expect to go anywhere or do anything important. But here I am, doing the most important work that can be done on this earth for God's children on the other side of the world! And the only answer I can come up with for the why is because God has a plan for me and my life that is very individual and is meant to teach me a lot of humility, trust in God, and love for Him and for other people. I can't get over how grateful I am for this opportunity to serve and be a missionary. On that note, I can say with confidence that God has an individual plan for everyone, and that if we are obedient and work hard, the Lord's not gonna let us miss out on the awesome things He has in store for everyone and the amazing ways He wants to help us grow and develop.

This week was way fun! We've become pretty tight with all the Nong-Thais -- they're a great group of missionaries and I'm so pumped to serve with them in Thailand. The cool thing about being here is seeing all the potential in everyone, the incredible maturity and faith and strength. It brings me up every time I feel discouraged or overwhelmed. On a not-so-spiritual note, one of the Nong-Thai Elders this week said a prayer and he said "Khop khun farang" instead of "khop khun prah-ong" and "farang" is the thai word for guava fruit and also a lightly mocking word for white people, the cultural equivalent of being called a "gringo" in spanish-speaking countries. So instead of "We thank thee" he said "Thank you white dude" and that is something we're still laughing about a week after it happened. Maybe that's just funnier because we've been here as long as we have...

Tuesday we had an awesome devotional from a general authority and all nine of his children, who have all served missions (the youngest is still currently serving). The overall message I pulled from the devotional was the importance of hope. Hope is "an abiding trust" that all things will work together for our good. DON'T LOSE HOPE. Because when you do, you stop trying and caring. So even if you do lose hope, don't stop trying! Never stop trying and pushing forward because sometimes you just have to push through and while life never gets easier, it always gets better and it will get better!

Tuesday night, we ate a fresh mango (shoutout to Mama Nethercott for that one!) with Elder Okimoto and Elder Hilton. Elder Okimoto is from Hawaii and I thought he was going to cry tears of joy he was so happy to have a fresh mango. I've learned so much from him and all the elders about appreciating the simple pleasures and being able to laugh about everything and not sweat the small stuff.

Wednesday was Elder Curtis' birthday! He just turned 19, and while he's not the youngest in our district, he is very young and we all loved giving him a hard time all day. jk, jk, we just liked doing that because he didn't want us to make a big deal out of his birthday. We decked out his chair and desk and the other sisters even made him a birthday crown and fan. I also saw Hillary Hughes because she just got here to the MTC! Shoutout to Sister Hughes, she's gonna be an AWESOME missionary (48th ward represent!).

Thursday was service again! I got to put up the flag for Greece...not many people know this, but when I was 16, I went to a youth activity about missionary work and I was "called" to the Greece Athens mission. Before that time, I'd never thought seriously about a mission, nor did I think I would be any good at it. That day, we learned some Greek (all of which I've since forgotten) and went out to teach a lesson with the sister missionaries in that area. It was a super spiritual experience and made a powerful impact on me and made me mentally open to the possibility of serving. It definitely prepared me a lot for this mission, and it's because of that that Greece has always held a special place in my heart here.

Friday was a wonderful day for the sole reason that we got our travel plans!!! We've been here so long it doesn't feel like we're finally leaving, but we ARE and it's gonna be the greatest thing ever!
Saturday was crazy. Sister Herrmann has Strep throat and so we were up super late with her and Sister Brown helping them out and keeping them comfortable. Being sick in the MTC is soo horrible. You're supposed to be relaxing and staying in bed but you want to be productive but you can't mentally focus so you end up just feeling like you have no purpose and you feel like you're slacking off, which isn't true but that's just how you feel when you get sick here, and I'm guessing on the mission in general. Not fun. Sister Herrmann's been so positive though. She's a trooper. :)

On Sunday, we heard from Sheri Dew and had an amazing sacrament meeting with talks by our own Sister Nethercott and Elder Hinkson! We talked about the Book of, that is my favorite book of all time. I want absolutely everyone in the whole world to read it.

This is my last week here...gonna go hard! To quote Elder Curtis, "Let's freaking go!"

Shoutout to my family for being so awesome and for settling in Indianapolis this week! Shoutout to my Dad because it's his birthday this week! I love you guys so much!

(Extra note for anyone who reads these all the way through to the end: because I'm leaving on a Monday, if you send me any dearelders this week, they need to be sent before this Friday at noon because they don't do those on Saturday and on Monday we leave too early to get any mail. Same goes for any mail, if you want me to get it, send it as early as you can! I'll post my Thailand address probably next week.)

1. me and the greece flag!
2. Sister Nethercott, myself and the Nong-thai sisters! Sisters Hatch, Ong, and Grover.
3. Elders Curtis, Elder Hinkley, Elder Pratt, and Elder Hinkson doing a boy band pic.
Sister Zoller

Thursday, July 24, 2014

know your purpose, be bold, expect miracles!

Sooo...another week. Man are these flying now. Sister Nethercott shared with me a diagram this week that has a long line representing our lives on Earth and another line that is almost equally long that represents our time here in the MTC. Looking back, it feels like forever, but looking forward, it feels like no time at all, because we only have two weeks left here in the states!

Due to unusual circumstances with part of the district, there was a companion transfer for myself, Sister Herrmann, Sister Brown and Sister Nethercott. My new khuu is Sister Nethercott, and Sister Herrmann is with Sister Brown. I love Sister Herrmann and have learned a lot from her! She is a dedicated missionary and knows how to focus on really getting to know the investigator and helping relate the gospel to them with their personal challenges. She also has a love for the Doctrine and Covenants I've never seen, and it's inspired me to study and appreciate that book more. She's extremely gifted with the language and knows how to focus and study effectively. I've been blessed to be her companion for the last six weeks (the length of a normal transfer).

As awesome as Sister Herrmann is, I am thrilled to have Sister Nethercott as my khuu! We sat down at our first companion study to talk about our language goals for the next few weeks and discovered that we share all the same goals! We went right to work and we've accomplished so much in just the last three days. We've already memorized our missionary purpose and half of the hymn "Called to Serve" in Thai, and this week we're diving into memorizing the First Vision in Thai and one or two other scripture passages. We've been so productive, and I've already learned so much from Sister Nethercott about how to be a better missionary.

Because we are missionaries, everything we do here is done in the name of Jesus Christ -- prayers, testimonies, invitations, studying...everything. This week, we had a devotional about remembering the sacredness of that name and not letting our prayers, which end in his name, to become repetitive or commonplace. It helped me evaluate how I pray and make efforts to make my prayers more meaningful. Since learning how to pray in Thai, my prayers have become more powerful and more sincere since I have to really think about what I'm saying. It's a huge blessing to be set apart to learn and speak a foreign language.

As mentioned last week, this week we said goodbye to the Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Hmong missionaries in our zone. It was exciting but also sad, because we've all gotten really close in the last six weeks. Tomorrow, the two Lao-speaking Elders fly out and after that we will be the oldest people in the zone! We had 18 new Thai-speaking missionaries come in last week, though, so that was awesome. They remind me so much of our district when we first got here, all wide-eyed and trying to contain the insane amount of new knowledge being crammed in their heads. They're gonna be so great. We're now majority Thai-speaking in our zone, with two other districts of Cantonese-speakers. So, huge shoutout to the Lao Elders, because they're leaving this week. They've been the zone leaders for the last three weeks, and man do we love them. For those who don't know, Laotian and Thai are pretty similar -- if you know one, you can understand the other pretty well. Lao is actually a little easier than Thai in some ways, so we've picked up some Lao and the Lao Elders have helped us speak/read Thai better. We love them and wish them the best of luck in Sacramento, California!

With the Lao Elders leaving, our new zone leaders are Elder Curtis and Elder Hinkson. As goofy and immature as they can sometimes be (and as loud as Elder Curtis laughs sometimes), they have the Spirit and power of God with them and as I watched them on Sunday go up to the stand and take on their new responsibilities, I was struck with how grateful I am to be in this district to see the growth and change in everyone. It feels like forever for all that's happened, but it's been no time at all for all the growth that's taken place in everyone. It's been especially apparent in the Elders, but everyone in my district is so spiritually mature and has such an understanding and love for this work and it is inspiring.

With all the Nong-Thais (new thai missionaries) we've had some extra substitute teachers stepping in and helping every once in a while. We love them all dearly! Brother Sanchez (who's actually the official Lao teacher but knows Thai, Lao, Hmong, Spanish, and Arabic) was teaching us this week and Elder Hinkson asked him in Thai if Brother Sanchez can translate between all those languages "on the fly." What Elder Hinkson meant to say was "Khun blaah on the fly?" (the "a" sound in "blaah" is pronounced like the A in apple, and it means "to translate") but what he actually said was "Khun bleh on the fly?" and "bleh" means fish and putting "khun" before a noun makes it beloved, so what Elder Hinkson actually said to Brother Sanchez was "Beloved fish on the fly." We haven't stopped calling Elder Hinkson "beloved fish" yet.

Aside from the companion swap, the highlight of the week was probably getting our Thai nametags! Shoutout to Sister Nethercott for asking around and being determined in getting them for us a week earlier than we otherwise would have. We're not allowed to wear them here because we're an English-speaking training center so people need to be able to read our nametags, but they're so cool.

Extra shoutout to the Elders down the hall from us who are going to Madagascar speaking Malagasy! They're so much fun and we love bearing our testimonies to each other in Thai and Malagasy.
I love you all! Have a wonderful week!

1. Sister Nethercott, myself, Elders Hinkson and Curtis (new zone leaders) and Elder Parsons and Griffin (old zone leaders/Lao Elders).
2. Thai nametag! Looks pretty funky, huh?
Sister Zoller

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Week 6 (just put me on a plane to Thailand already!)

Me and my puppy Ginger!
Well, all I've got to say about the MTC at this point is that I'm leaving three weeks from today and that is a wonderful, wonderful blessing! On Monday, we got to clean the Provo temple with our district! The sisters cleaned the chandeliers in the sealing rooms. I've never noticed before how incredibly intricate all the light fixtures -- dozens and dozens of tiny glass rods put together to reflect light. As a Church, we put so much work into our temples because they are truly the Lord's houses, and I feel immensely blessed to have access to one like I do for the next few weeks.

While we were serving in the temple, we were with some of the temple workers who were helping and directing us. We sat down cleaning crystal chandelier pieces and talked for maybe two hours. It was the first time I've had a legitimate conversation with a person outside of the MTC since I got here and I can't tell you how nice it was to sit down with a person who actually knew 80s music as well as I do (shoutout to Dad and Mom for raising me right!).

Beyond that, the only really unique thing that happened this week was our district kickball game against the Cambodian district on Saturday! We lost, but our whole district had a blast. Considering I've never played kickball before in my life, I think we did pretty dang good. I've also started playing catch with Sister Peck and sometimes other people in our district, and there's nothing quite as relaxing as playing catch outside on a beautiful morning in the shadow of a gorgeous mountain and a temple (until I accidentally hit Sister Brown with a softball. She's totally fine, don't worry. shoutout to Sister Brown for being awesome and playing with me anyways!). Oh, and we also flew kites in the rain during companion study this week. Shoutout to the Cambodian Elders for having kites and letting us borrow them! I'm at the point now where literally anything that takes away from our normal schedule is the greatest thing ever. Also, shoutout to half our zone because they're leaving today and tomorrow! We're losing our Vietnamese-speakers, our Hmong-speakers, and all the Cambodians. That's like...half of our zone. But we get 18 new thai-speakers on Wednesday! We're so pumped to have more Thai missionaries (although we're secretly really jealous that our teachers will be spending more time with them instead of us now).

This week I'd like to talk a little bit about enduring trials. On thursday, I had a strong prompting all day that I needed to be praying for my family, although I had no idea why. It all made sense when I received a DearElder that evening that said that Ginger, my family's German Shepherd, had been put down. While the event itself wasn't a shock, it was still a pretty heavy emotional blow, and I'm still reeling in some ways. She was one of my best friends, my baby, and I already feel her absence. Saying goodbye never gets any easier, but I knew when I left home that I was sacrificing that. Maybe that doesn't seems like that big of a deal, but for me, it was huge. Being a missionary is truly a humbling experience. Just when I think I have given my all, more is asked of me and more weight is placed on my shoulders. The Lord has been teaching me some very powerful lessons lately about learning to rely on Him and I don't think I've learned it quite yet.

In an amazing talk entitled "Trust in the Lord" by Richard G. Scott, he said the following: "To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it...Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love." There's another talk by Elder David A. Bednar called "Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease" that talks about how to move on from tragedy and trials: "We are not and never need be alone. We can press forward in our daily lives with heavenly help. Through the Savior's Atonement we can receive capacity and strength beyond our own."

This work is hard, but it is the only work that truly matters in the end. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." This is the only Church on the Earth that has the restored fullness of Christ's gospel. I know that. I've always known, but probably never as strongly as I do now. I love you all!

Sister Zoller

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

living on a prayer

Getting through this week was hard, but I can now humbly say that I'm more than halfway through my nine weeks in the MTC! This week was all about prayer and keeping a constant conversation going with God all day, every day. Someone once made the observation here that we're a lot like the apostle Peter walking on the water to the Savior; and "when he Peter saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me." (Matthew 14:30) It was because Peter was distracted that he began to sink, because he looked around at the world around him and realized what a scary situation he was in. And in that instant after he began to sink, he cried out to the Lord. "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him..." (Matthew 14:31). That's pretty much how this week has felt. When I keep up an ongoing conversation with the Lord throughout my day (in addition to praying on my knees and with my companion/investigators), I feel like I'm metaphorically hanging on to the Savior's arm in a world that I would never be able to face on my own. Even with all that, I often trip and get distracted, but gratefully, the Lord is ever-patient and merciful and willing to help me back up to try again and again and again.

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to serve as hosts in the MTC, which meant we helped all the new missionaries as they arrived with getting books and getting them settled into their rooms and classrooms. The first person I hosted was an international sister from Bombay. She spoke decent English but overall seemed very nervous being alone in a foreign country with just a medium-sized suitcase. I was humbled to talk with her and serve her because she sacrificed so much to come here, thousands of miles, to serve the Lord and do his will.

In addition to this wonderful sister, I hosted three elders and another sister. It was so touching to see the enthusiasm and anticipation in the eyes of the missionaries. One of the Elders I helped was going to Argentina, and as we were walking down the sidewalk with all his luggage, he quietly admitted his feelings of inadequacy. I almost dropped all his luggage to hug him right where he was. I opened my mouth and heard the words, "Elder, the Lord needs you here. He has called you. He loves you. I promise you you're doing the right thing." And that was all we said on that topic for the rest of the time until I put him on a bus to west campus. The coolest part of that experience, though, was that I didn't say any of those words. Those words were spoken by the spirit through me. I've had experiences like this many times in the MTC but it never ceases to amaze me to feel the power of God. I am humbled and grateful to be in a position to be the servant of the Lord.

Being a missionary has made me so aware of God's love for everyone in the missionary equation: the investigator, the member, the missionary, and the companion. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ; that means EVERYONE! Once this week, in a moment of exasperation, I asked God, "what would you have me do?" and immediately I thought of a scene from Lord of the Rings where Eowyn asks her Uncle King Theoden the same question as he leaves her with the tremendous responsibility of ruling a kingdom. He puts his arms around her and says in response, "I would have you smile again." In spite of the darkness of the world, in spite of everything she had to do, her uncle (and father figure) just wanted her to be happy. Doesn't our Heavenly Father, who loves us infinitely, want the same thing for us? I know He wants that for all of us.

Friday was the 4th of July, obviously...I've never been the most into celebrating holidays but my companion more than made up for it with the most patriotic outfit and accessories. But that night was possibly the best night of my life thus far. We started the night off with a musical show that got us all hyped up because we have some insane talent here in the MTC. Then there was a devotional that brought the Spirit like crazy, and then we watched 17 Miracles, which I've heard loads about but never seen before. It's about the journey of the companies of Latter-Day Saints who crossed the plains in handcarts and the miracles that made it possible for them to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley. It was inspiring to see and remember the tremendous sacrifices that were made by those who went before us, but my favorite part was when the main character said, "I can't remember how many times I turned around to see who was pushing my handcart, but saw no one" and as the camera pans behind him it shows angels and people helping him by pushing his cart as he pulled it -- it is the same with us. God does not leave us alone, he sends help, though often we can't see it or even realize it until later.

Then we went and watched the fireworks for the Stadium of Fire! I've never seen a fireworks show that big, so I'm sure there were stars in my eyes the whole night, but as it came close to the finale I remembered that the last time I watched fireworks was in 2012, a few nights before my family and I left Wisconsin. At that time in my life, I had recently graduated high school. I was scared and felt purposeless; I did not know who I was or what I was going to do with my life. The future appeared dark and uncertain, and I did not know what to expect or what to do. Whether aloud or in my heart, in the form of a prayer or just a desperate wish, I begged that the next time I watched fireworks, I would be a different person, I would feel my life had purpose, and I would be happy. That night, at that time in my life, non of that seemed possible, but three nights ago I stood outside watching fireworks from the MTC on my way to Thailand, and I am a better person than I ever thought was possible then. God heard me. The Lord has been in the details of my life since its beginning, and I am and will be forever grateful for all He has done and continues to do for me. As I stood there watching the beautiful fireworks, I was hit with a wave of gratitude that overwhelmed me. I love the Lord and this gospel. The Lord has led me this far and he will not abandon me, now, or ever. And if He has done all that for me, don't you think He's done all that for you, too?