Monday, March 19, 2018

Remember, remember

Three years since I came home. Three whole years.

"... I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you ..." -Mosiah 4:11

From left: Me, (former) Sister Debora Silva and
(former) Sister Niara Kurtem, both from Brazil.
Taken July 2017.

Last summer I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go back to Brazil to do an internship and spend two months in the beloved city of São Paulo where I served. I was lucky enough to visit each of my areas and spend time with members, less actives, investigators and former fellow missionaries I had worked with on my mission. There are several memories of this trip that stick out, but this is a small and simple one I feel like made a big impact on me:

I spent my last weekend in Brazil in an area called Itapetininga. After church that Sunday, my friend Niara Kurtem and I went to visit the people we wanted to see who weren't at church. I felt like it was one of those, "I came all the way from the U.S. to see you and you weren't at church?!" kind of roundups. A sweet, kind member offered to drive us around (HUGE blessing because it was pouring down rain and that area is ginormous) and we felt prompted to go see Hugo and Sandra, a less active couple we had worked with while serving there two and a half years prior.

This couple was quite surprised when they looked out the window and saw us at their gate. We chatted with them for a few minutes, catching up on life, and then Sandra looked at us and said, "I don't even remember why we went less active." We all went silent. A few moments later, Niara asked, "Is it alright if we sing you a hymn?" The couple agreed. We sang "Nearer My God To Thee" just as we had done countless times on the mission. The Spirit filled the room and we were brought to tears. We challenged them to go back to church and reach out to their friends in the branch. Hugo prayed vocally for the first time in years and they thanked us for remembering them. I felt like a missionary again.

I never want to forget that feeling. I don't ever want to forget that spiritual rush from head to toe when you know you have been an instrument in the Lord's hands to help someone feel of His love. This is true JOY.

From left: Me, Niara Kurtem, Sandra and Hugo. Taken August 2017.

God is SO good. I need to remember His goodness. I need to remember how great He is. He uses us in small and simple ways to bless us and help each other. I am surrounded by so many people who uplift me and help me feel important and remembered just by being who they are. I need to make a better effort of doing this for others.

The more I look back at old journals and read past experiences I've had, the more I see miracles that I didn't recognize in the moment. I can have confidence that He'll continue to provide for me as I strive to always remember Him and put Him first. You know that "state of never-ending happiness" that King Benjamin talks about in the Book of Mormon? I want that more than anything. Sometimes I lose sight of the grand purpose of it all, but I just need to remember.

The Lord never forgets us.

"... And if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." -Mosiah 2:41

This family is one of my favorites from Votorantim, Brazil. Joaquim and Generosa.
I brought them BYU shirts :) Taken July 2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

“The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life.”

Today marks two years I’ve been home from my mission.

Crazy. Long gone are the days I used to keep track of time by transfers, dream in Portuguese and plan every half hour of every day in my missionary planner (actually, I still kind of do that).

Three weeks ago, my sister Teagan came home from her mission in Guatemala. I flew home for a few days so I could be with her and my family. After a few days, she was feeling kind of down and a little purpose-less, as most freshly returned missionaries feel. I remember feeling that way too. I reminded her that real life didn’t need to be overwhelming and that Heavenly Father would take care of her.

Heavenly Father always takes care of His missionaries. That’s something my dad constantly told me.

Then, when I was stressed about having to fly back to BYU and face reality again, Teagan reminded me: “Syd, Heavenly Father takes care of His missionaries.”

That hit me. It hit me hard. And probably made me shed a tear or two because I do that from time to time.

Just a simple truth I needed to hear: I was one of Heavenly Father’s missionaries too. And He would take care of me too.

He has been taking care of me all along.

Today I went to the temple grounds to do some much needed pondering and reflecting. I started making a list of all the blessings I had experienced in the past two years. It didn’t take long see that every blessing, every single I wrote down, was somehow related to my mission. Everything that has happened in my life during the past two years is a direct result of someone or something I gained from the mission field.

Even though there are some days when I wonder why my life plan hasn’t happened the way I thought it would, I know Heavenly Father has guided me every step of the way. Figuring out the plan for my life IS His plan. I’m learning and growing all along the way – just like he intends for me to do.

“The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children.”

Every single day I see blessings from my mission. Every single day I am reminded of something I experienced or someone I met I during those 18 months. And I’m still seeing the fruits of my labor! The labor the Lord and I did together. The labor I did through Him. Joy, true joy.

The more I reflect on my mission, the more I realize there is no way I could have done any of that alone and I’m so glad I didn’t have to. The Lord gave me strength beyond my own. He still does. All of the blessings I have received during these past two years are things I could not have accomplished without Him.

God lives and we literally are His children. He sent His Son Jesus Christ so He could show us the way to return Home. I am so grateful for a Savior who knows me personally, who knows how I feel, who has walked where I have walked. He understands the pressures and disappointments of life. It is He who empowers us and strengthens us so we can become the kind of person God intends for us to be. I will continue to follow Him day by day so I can stay on this path that leads to eternal joy.

Though my faith is sometimes tested and life has a way of throwing curve balls when I least expect it, I know the Lord will never abandon me. I can call upon His name at any moment. He hears me. He will never leave me comfortless.

And though I sometimes doubt it, I know He has a perfect plan for my life.

I remember going back to BYU for spring term, just five weeks after I got home, and meeting people who had been home from their missions for two years. I thought to myself, You’ve been home for two years and you’re still here? What are you doing with your life? You know, like two years was an eternity and so much was supposed to happen during that time.

Well, look at me. Two years, and yes I’m still here. And no, I’m still not completely sure what I’m going to do with my life. And that’s OK.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Year in Retrospect

Today is March 19.

A year ago today I came home from my mission. It was today that Teagan surprised me during my layover in the Atlanta Airport (I was so shocked I didn't even know what to say to her. In English. Haha) and we flew to Birmingham together where I was greeted by my family, ecstatic and full of tears.

Being able to hug my mom was the best feeling ever. And then to hug my dad and hear him say "Syd, I am so proud of you." Nothing better. Because I knew Heavenly Father was proud of me too.

I reflect upon that moment of taking off my name tag, how incredible painful it was. Feeling like my identity was being taken from me.

As I look back over this year, I think about how I have had to re-discover myself and who I really am.

2015 was my year to LiVE (little victories everyday, forget about the "i").

2016 is my year of light. Seek the light of Christ, be worthy of it and share it with others.

As I have striven to LIVE and be a LIGHT, I have found myself again. And this time, better than before.

I have to admit it hasn't been easy, and my heart still deeply longs to be on the mission again. I would give anything to go back for just one more transfer.

But the Lord needs me here. And He's got another mission for me to fulfill. I must follow His example and turn out instead of turning in. I must be His LIGHT for others.

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!


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 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!