Saturday, March 21, 2015

18 months to serve and an eternity to remember

I'M HOME! It still doesn't feel like real life. Do you know how weird it is to wake up in my own house? My family. English. America. Cold weather. Peanut Butter. Technology. Music. TV. Internet. Jeans. The real world is crazy!

Being released as a full-time missionary and having to take off my name tag was a lot more difficult than I ever thought it would be. That`s my identity! I don`t know how to be anyone else but a missionary.

Good thing I still can be. And will forever be.

I've always heard returned missionaries say that their mission changed their life. Now I have seen it for myself. I am not the same person I was when I left. Well, I'm still Sydney of course (do you know how weird it is to hear my first name??) but my heart has changed. I feel different, I am different! And this change doesn't stop here. I'm on the journey to become the person I once was. The person Heavenly Father knows I can be.

What an honor and privilege it has been to represent my Lord and Savior every day and every minute for the past 18 months. It is He who has lifted and carried me, who has been by my side every moment, moments of happiness and moments of trial. I can`t even express the joy I felt as I walked down the escalator stairs at the airport and saw my family for the first time. Knowing that I returned with honor. Knowing that I made them proud. Knowing that I was able to find lost sheep for the Lord and bring them back into His fold. Just imagine how Heavenly Father will feel when we will return to Him. What joy!

The day before we left Brazil, all the missionaries in my group that were going home had the chance to eat a special lunch with our mission president, President Farnes. His last counsel for us was this phrase: "No Empty Chairs". Now that we have completed our mission, we are on to the next- to keep our spot that is saved for us in the celestial kingdom.

My chair is there waiting for me. Yours is too. What can we do TODAY that will assure that our chair will be filled?

And I will give him grace and assurance wherewith he may stand; and if he continue to be a faithful witness and a light unto the church I have prepared a crown for him in the mansions of my Father (D&C 106:8)

I know God lives, He is our Father, He loves us, and He has prepared our place in His kingdom. More than anything, He wants us to return to Him, and this is why He sent us His Son Jesus Christ. Only through Him, His Atonement and His gospel, can we return with honor. No empty chairs!

Let us all strive to LiVE Valiantly!

-Sydney

Monday, March 9, 2015

Itapetininga Letter 12 (Happily Ever After)

Dear Family & Friends,

"Then spake the Lord to [Sister Jorgensen]... Be not afraid, but speak, for I am with thee...and I have much people in this city. And [she] continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them" (Acts 18:9-11)

Well, today begins the last week of my mission. I'm laughing to myself as I write this because it doesn't seem real!!! Sunday March 15th after church I'll travel back to São Paulo. That Monday we will have a special training, Tuesday will be transfer meeting, Wednesday our last lunch with President Farnes, and that night I'll board the plane...to the United States... home.... March 19th.... AHHHHAHHHHAHHHHAAA! Ok that's it.

Not sure when I will get to email next week or how much time I will have so this just might be my last email home!

Just have to share something that happened this week. On Thursday we were traveling home on the bus from Mission Leadership Council. My companion was asleep beside me and I was just sitting there blinking back tears, deep in my thoughts about how the week had been going. I have to admit I was a little bit depressed because the people we were teaching were not progressing like we wanted them to. I was silenting praying and asking Heavenly Father to help me know if we were doing anything wrong, desperate for a spiritual confirmation of peace and calmness. A few minutes later I heard a voice from behind, "Sister, why do you have a mad look on your face?" I turned around and saw a man I didn't recognize, but turned out to be Alessandro, the brother of our less-active friend in the branch. He is 25 years old, inactive too.

So we start talking and I explain why it probably appears like I am mad but I am really just trying to do everything I can to help these people accept the true gospel. He asked me how my mission was going and he talked a little bit about his life story and how he fell away from the church. Then he says a few words that went a little something like this: "The work that you missionaries do is incredible. I know that you are helping so many people and your converts and their families will remember you forever. Missionaries always worry about their baptisms but what you need to see are people you are helping. And the change that you've seen in them." Heavenly Father put those words in his mouth. I cried. 

How did he know what I need to hear? How did he know that I needed someone to talk to in that very instant? Here is a guy, super tired after work, thinking about his wife and family, how easy it would have been to sit back in his seat. But he noticed that the missionaries were on the bus with him. And he noticed that I wasn't doing very good. And something touched him to find out why. This was a tender mercy to me. An answer to my prayer. A little miracle from my Heavenly Father to let me know that He loves me and He hears me. 

I gave Alessandro my copy of the Liahona (church magazine) that I had recieved that day and I shared my testimony about the importance of family and why he needed to return to church. Guess what... Sister Vogel and I were able to visit his nonmember wife yesterday and she is super excited about coming to church with him this Sunday!

What is one thing I have learned these past 18 months? This experience is exactly it. Heavenly Father knows each and every one of us. He listens to the pleas of our heart and He wants us to be happy. He works through others to answer our prayers. We need to act on the promptings we recieve because we never know the impact it can make. Through small and simple things are great things brought to pass. 

Just a glance of my mission that began September 25, 2013...
-6 weeks in the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center
-6 months waiting for my visa in Sacramento, California (Northridge)
-2 weeks in the Brazil Missionary Training Center
-10 months in São Paulo, Brazil (Santana, Rio Acima, Itapetininga)

My companions...
Sister Lowther (SC), Sister Zenger (UT), Sister Clevery (CO), Sister Pinon (VA), Sister Garner (AZ). Sister Paredes (Peru), Sister Nascimento (Brazil- Curitiba), Sister R. Santos (Brazil- Recife), and Sister Vogel (Brazil- Porto Velho)

Two missions. Three mission presidents. And lots and lots of memories!!!!

My mission has built, shaped, and molded me into the person that Heavenly Father knew I could me, a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Serving a mission has been the best decision I ever made. I have been my greatest convert.

I know that our Savior lives. I know this is His true church and this is the only way we can return to our Father in Heaven. He wants ALL of His children to return Home. I've seen this gospel touch hearts and change lives. Faith brings miracles. Read the Book of Mormon and pray about its message. And you will see how the gospel will change your life. More peace, more love, more joy, more purpose!

Thank you so much for the countless emails, letters, packages, and most importantly, your prayers. I have the best family and friends in the whole wide world!!!! I LOVE YOU ALL!!!! See you soon :)

Seja Valente e Fiel,
Sister Jorgensen

P.S. Just a flash back from the MTC almost 18 months ago and now (we took this pic at leadership council this week). The four of us are in the same mission, the other two are serving in Goiana, Brazil. I love these sisters!!!! We will be sisters forever :)



Monday, March 2, 2015

Itapetininga Letter 11

Dear Family & Friends,

It's March. I can't believe it! Yesterday was my last fast & testimony meeting at church. It seems like from here on out there are going to be lots of "lasts". I can't even express how I am feeling... so for now, I won't. Let's just put on a smile and keep going!!!

This week was a full one! We did an exchange with the sisters in Cerquilho and Sister Santos came to my area to work with me. She goes home the same day I do so it was neat to work with her and hear about her mission and all that she has learned. We both agree that it has gone by SO FAST and we are going to miss it. She taught me 3 valuable things she has learned throughout all her experiences: pacience, time, and control. Many times, things happen and we don´t have control, so we just have to accept the Lord's timing and patiently wait for the blessings to come.

I think Heavenly Father really wants me to learn this lesson because unfortunately Giovana and Felipe weren't baptized this week and don't want to meet with us anymore. And they were so firm. More shed tears.

These past few weeks I have been learning alot about agency. Heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave us all the ability to make decisions for ourselves, so we could learn, grow, and experience the difference between joy and sadness. As much as I want all the people we teach to accept this gospel, people still have the choice to accept it or not. And sometimes, even after they feel and know that it's true, they turn all these blesssings down. Why??! How? It's hard for me to understand. But all I know is, I have gotten very close to my Savior this week.

Imagine how Christ feels, after all He did for us, and we turn Him down. I have so much more appreciation for the Atonement now.

On a lighter note, two incredible youth were baptized in the other sister's branch (Itapetininga 2) last night and now they are inviting all their friends to learn more about the gospel! There are two girls who live in our area, have already been to church, and want to be baptized!!! So I know that this week is going to be a week of pure miracles. Get ready!!! This baptism was SO special. All the youth from the two branches were there to support and it was incredible to see. Reminds me of the powerful Hoover/Inverness youth! They all sang the EFY song "Embark" and now it's my favorite song ever. IT IS SO GOOD. Look it up! It's cooler in Portuguese :)

"Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall LîVE, for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life" (3 Nephi 15:9)

Have an awesome week everyone! I love and miss you all! It's March. Now I can officially say "I will see you soon"!!!!!!!!

Seja Valente e Fiel,
Sister Jorgensen

P.S. I forgot my camera today (my mind is kind of going crazy) so no pics. Sorry! Next week.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Itapetininga Letter 10

Dear Family & Friends,

This week was great! The best part of the week was Wednesday when all the missionaries in the interior got to go to the Campinas Temple. I LOVE THE TEMPLE! The temple is truly the house of the Lord, a sacred place of worship where we go to make special promises with God and recieve spiritual strength. I have no doubt that the Lord visits His temples. What a privilege and blessing it was to go this week. It was awesome! I have never felt the Spirit so strong as I did that day. So much peace and comfort. Just the spiritual reboost I needed. I will really miss the temples here in Brazil.

The low point of the week... our incredible family from english class (Isabel, Eugenio, and Aracele) don't want to meet with us anymore. This one really broke my heart. Isabel read some very anti-Mormon stuff on the internet and researched a lot of deep doctrine. It's tough because they were worried about knowing all the facts and they weren't able to understand the simplicity of reading and praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I'm still praying for them because I know this family will be baptized one day. Aracele will be a future sister missionary and Isabel will be the best Relief Society President ever. Heavenly Father will take care of them.

Giovana came to church yesterday and her mom did too!!! She still has doubts if this is where God wants her to be, but she has had so many spiritual experiences and she knows it's true. She will have a baptismal interview this week and her baptism will be Saturday!

"I delight to do thy will...yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psalms 40:8)

These precious days I have left on my mission are not mine, but the Lord's. Every minute and every hour belongs to HIm. I will keep praying fervently to recognize the Lord's will and be the instrument He wants me to be. My prayer is that the Lord uses me in the way He needs me so that I can help His children on the journey to return back to Him. How great is my calling!

I love and miss you all! Thank you for your countless prayers, your many thoughts, and your never ending support and love.

Seja Valente e Fiel,
Sister Jorgensen

P.S. Ran into Sister R. Santos at the temple. Makes me so proud to see how much she has grown! She is serving in a new area as a senior companion and doing many incredible things. The other pic is of our zone!





Monday, February 16, 2015

Itapetininga Letter 9

Dear Family & Friends,

Once upon a time there lived two little toads. One day, these little toads fell into a milk bottle. The first toad, seeing that it would be impossible to escape and not wanting to keep swimming, said good bye to his friend and drowned. The second toad, the optimistic one of the two, decided to keep swimming and trust that everything would work out. So he kept swimming. And kept swimming. Soon, the milk got thicker and turned into cream. It was harder for this little toad to keep going and he was getting tired, but he kept swimming. And kept swimming. And kept swimming. Soon, the cream got thicker and turned into butter. And with that, the toad was able to jump out of the milk bottle.

When life has got you stuck in a milk bottle, which toad are you?

Just a little story I read this morning that someone gave me. I have it in Portuguese so I had to translate it and I am not sure who wrote it. Someone who has lots of knowledge and a good life perspective of course! Probably an apostle. I read this and thought about my mom who always encourages me to "keep swimming"!!!

We did an exchange this week and I went to Sister Kurtem's area on the other side of the city. She has been a little bit down lately so the goal was more faith and excitement for the work. And let me tell you, those two days were days of PURE MIRACLES!!! I am in shock at how Heavenly Father inspired us to find these people. We found an amazing family of 6 who all accepted baptism on February 28th. They had been searching for something to bring more peace and harmony to their family that has been having a lot of difficulties. What an icredible lesson! One of the daughters went to our english class that night. We also found a man named Arnoldo who has despression and had been praying for help and immediately recognized that we were his answer. He found lots of comfort in Mosiah 7:33 and accepted baptism too! The secret: look for green houses with an open door or window. Haha- this was the pattern for the day! In total, 10 new investigators and every single one of them with a date for baptism. THIS is the power of Spirit that comes with our desire, obedience, and hard work!!!

What makes me happy: seeing the other sisters SO excited, happy, and enjoying their missions!!

Other things from the week: Isabel, Eugenio, and Araceli came to the baptism of one of the 8 year olds in our branch and they loved it! Now they have lots of doubts about the bible and eternal marriage but slowly and surely, we are working through their concerns. We were able to get a less-active named Adilson to give them a ride to church yesterday and now this less-active is coming back!! Ian had his baptismal interview on Friday and it was awesome! But when we returned the next day, he told us he didn't want it anymore. WHAT??!! Felipe and Giovanna didn't make it to church so we need to do some more following-up with them. Keep praying for them please!! I know your prayers are helping!

This weekend has been the famous "Carnaval" holiday here in Brazil. It's 4 days of straight party. Everyone has been off of work. Kind of like Mardis Gras from the look of things. It's not super huge here in the interior, but in the city, I can only imagine the craziness!

And the rains keep comin'!
I am going to be the optimistic toad and I know that everything is going to work out! Thanks again for your prayers. I love you all! LîVE!

Seja Valente e Fiel,
Sister Jorgensen

P.S. Fun pic from my companion's camera- looks like hail, but don't worry it's just rain!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Itapetininga Letter 8

Dear Family & Friends,

This week was very... WET. Welcome to the rainy season! But guess what. Rainy season is miracle season so it's all good. And Brazilians are just naturally so sweet and (almost) always let you in.

Truthfully, this week was tough. Mentally, physically, emotionally. But we will not give up!!!

This week President Farnes sent us a letter from a missionary from another mission who baptized every single week for one year. Can you believe it?! 52 baptisms in a row??? Wow. In this letter, this missionary described what they did and how the Lord magnified their efforts. Now we are applying these principles in our areas, things like: focusing on a part of a neighborhood or just a few streets, working smart and efficient more than physically, talking about baptism ALL THE TIME and how to help each person reach this goal, praying together as a zone for the people we are all teaching, and not being scared to invite everyone and anyone to be baptized. Honestly and truly, there is no big secret. It comes down to desire, mental power, and focus. The secret is trust in the Lord: "You were not called to serve with your own strength. You were called to serve with the power of God".

This letter really pumped me up!!! We worked so hard this week, lots of prayers and fasting, doing everything possible to help our investigators. But.... I have to admit I am a little bit frustrated because I feel like nothing is happening. Only one of our investigators came to church yesterday and not a single one came to the big activity we planned. Broke my heart! Satan is working hard and using the smallest of things to stop these people from going to church and being baptized. But we are stronger. And we are smarter. And we will WIN!!!!

"We do not desire to murmur.... we trust God will deliver us, notwithstanding the weakness of our armies, yea, and deliver us [and our investigators] out of the hands of our enemies" (Alma 58:35,37)

Just like Helaman kept the faith when his armies, including the 2,000 stripling warriors, didn't have any more resources and were struggling to keep fighting, I will keep the faith too!!! I will keep praying for the Lord's help so we can do His will for His children.

So these are the main people we are teaching. Every single one of them have been to church at least once, all of them are reading the Book of Mormon and praying. And every single one of them can be baptized this weekend (Saturdayor Sunday) if they accept it. So in your prayers this week, please pray that we can discover their concerns and that the Spirit can touch their hearts.

Giovana- 18 years old, her less-active mom goes to the catholic church now and she doesn't know where she feels more "at home"

Ian- 22 years old, accepted baptism with a date on the first contact, GOLDEN, couldn't go to church yesterday because he was sick

Felipe- 19 years old, he will be the best future missionary ever, dating a Mormon girl, he doesn't want to disappoint his parents and leave their other church

Isabel, Eugenio, Araceli- mom, dad, and 17 year old daughter, our miracle family from english class, they still have lots of doubts and don't want to be baptized until they know everything

Every single one of these people will accept the gospel and be baptized. I can feel it!!! They are all just so good!! And I love them all so much. They just need a little push. And your prayers will do the trick! THANK YOU!

I love you all! Happy early Valentine's Day! Too bad Valentine's day in Brazil is in July. I'll celebrate it anyway.

Seja Valente e Fiel,
Sister Jorgensen

Monday, February 2, 2015

Itapetininga Letter 7

Dear Family & Friends,

Welcome to the last transfer of my mission! 6 weeks to apply everything I have learned and give it every ounce of energy I've got. Sister Vogel and I will both be staying in our area and so will all the sisters we are working with. I'm so excited!!!

This week we had Zone Conference and it was awesome!! In spirit of the Super Bowl (which unfortunately the Brazilians don't really understand but they liked it anyway), President Farnes related football to teaching the gospel more efficiently. Everyday I must choose what "team" I want to play on. Our goal is to rely on our "quarterback" and be the best "wide reciever" we can be and "recieve" the Holy Ghost to help our investigators. It was a very cool training and we watched lots of video clips. I learned that my timing has to be exact, I have to be exactly obedient, and I have to do what the Spirit prompts me to do in that very moment. We often ask people "WHEN you know these things are true, will you be baptized?" but in reality, they already know. The Spirit is there and they are feeling it- we just need to help them recognize that. It's this moment when we should invite them.

So our mission, Brazil São Paulo North, is one of the top 5 missions in Brazil right now, and as a reward, the church sent President Farnes a special treat. After Zone Conference, we all got to watch "Meet the Mormons", the film the church recently released in the movie theatres in  the United States. It hasn't been released in Brazil yet, but President Farnes got it in Portuguese for all the missionaries to watch. IT WAS SO GOOD! First time I have watched a real movie in well over a year so that was fun. And it made me so proud to be a member of the church and see how the gospel plays such a valuable role in the lives of so many. If you haven't watched it yet, watch it! And Mom, I totally cried too watching the missionary story at the end. Wow this movie really touched me!

This week was an emotional roller coaster for me. Nelma (our miracle referral) and her family don't want us to stop by anymore. I can't even tell you how much love I developed for this family so this one broke my heart. We had several other people drop us as well. Just not sure what happens with these people but I have to respect their agency...

Thank goodness Heavenly Father is helping us because church was incredible! Isabel, Eugenio, and their daughter Araceli, who have been coming to our english class, came to church yesterday!!!! They loved it. We spent some time at their house yesterday answering questions about everything from the details of church organization to Adam being Michael.... it was crazy. They are very smart people and analyze everything. So teaching this family has been quite the adventure. Yesterday was Eugenio's birthday and on Friday his mom passed away, and they STILL came to church. All I know is, even though they haven't quite accepted it yet, they WILL be baptized!!!

"And now [Sister Jorgensen] this was the ministry unto which ye were called, to declare these glad tidings unto this people, to prepare their minds, or rather that salvation might come unto them, that they might prepare the minds of their children to hear the word at the time of his coming" (Alma 39:16)

What a great and marvelous work we are a part of. Preparing people for that day when we will all see our Savior again. There is no greater labor of love, no greater joy in the world! I will make the most of every minute of it.

Have a great week everyone and remember to LîVE!!!

Seja Valente e Fiel,
Sister Jorgensen

P.S. Pics of the sisters in our zone that we take care of (Sister Silva, Sister Kurtem, me, Sister Vogel, Sister Santos, Sister B. Verçoza- all brazilian) and our awesome family- Araceli, Isabel, and Eugenio on his birthday yesterday.
One more thing... After 7 weeks, we FINALLY have a washing machine!!!!! WOOHOOO!