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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Home!

Well this week has been the weirdest week of my life! But I am happy to report that I am still alive. =)
 Coming home off a mission is one of the most tear gripping, entertaining, confusing roller coaster rides EVER! As I was sitting on the plane just about to land at the Salt Lake City airport I could feel my anxiety heighten but with the anxiety came excitement. I was so excited to see the family that I haven't seen in person for 18 months and yet again I was soo nervous. It was a wonderful experience to come down the escalator to see 3 huge families waiting for their missionaries to come home! It was an experience that warranted the tears. It was such a relief to be with my family and once I was all the anxiety melted away.
 It was almost torture to wait to be released at 7 pm but it came quickly. As I was being released I could definitely feel the added measure of spirit leaving. It was heart breaking but at the same time I felt well prepared for it. I knew it was coming and I also felt in my heart that it was okay for it to happen. I know that even though it will be hard to not have it 24/7 I still have access to it. I have made the goal to study each and every day as long as I possibly can (meaning up to an hour if I have time for it). It is there in my studies that I feel the influence of the spirit the most. It is so comforting and calming. It sets the day off right. It makes me more mindful of the things that I do during the day to keep that spirit around. 
There is nothing quite like being a missionary one minute and then suddenly the next minute you aren't a missionary anymore. Once you are released you suddenly have all the possibilities of things to do yet I often find myself staring off in the distance trying to decide what to do next. I have no planner, no plans and a big list of questions. Some of the questions are When do I go find a job? Where will I find a job? How do people contact me (I have no cell phone)? etc. It took about 3 days but I finally got brave enough to get on Facebook. Its amazing of all the things that happen in 18 months! Truly Fascinating! Other things that have fascinated me are how well trained my body is to wake up after 8 hours of sleep, how different my reactions are to things, and how much I have truly grown closer to my Savior. I knew there were things that would change as I changed but I didn't realize just how much I would need to continue to change regarding myself as I settled back in. I reference the movies I now watch, the conversations I now participate in, how I respond to comments, and how I treat my family members. All these changes are for the better and if it wasn't for the mission I would never have been able to see the changes that still need to take place. So coming home is not only the strangest and hardest thing ever it is the most rewarding. I imagine that going home to Heavenly Father will feel much like coming off a mission. So my advice is to never stop looking for the changes that we can make. Our full time missions may be over but our mission here on earth isn't, so we must make the most of it =) Love You! 
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Randall Cottrell (that's still weird) 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Last One!

This is her last letter to us, from Sister Cottrell's mission. We have loved having her serve, we will really miss these weekly letters, but we are so excited to have her back home again! She comes home tomorrow!


Well I am faced with 2 choices. I could either tell you all about the week or I could share something else. I might do a little of both.
This week I had the opportunity to go to the temple twice. On Wednesday I went with the mission and enjoyed getting to see so many missionaries that I love very much. Then onFriday just the departing missionaries went. I got to ride with the other sister going home in Pres. Halls car. We enjoyed the ride down and talked about our missions and the memories he has of his mission so far. It was quite insightful. I love President Hall so much. The session was amazing and the spirit was so strong in the Celestial room. While there I started to pray. I hadn't been able to come up with a question to take to the temple so I just prayed. I am so glad that I didn't have a question because I would have totally missed what he had to tell me. In my prayer I heard the words, "Its okay your mission is ending. Its time for you to go home." The peace that accompanied it was overwhelming. I had been having little panic attacks over the matter and needed to be comforted and calmed. As I sat in the temple I could think of nothing but the peace. I didn't want to leave the serenity with in its walls. But the time eventually came to leave. 
Over the next couple days we continued to work hard and to do the very best we could to share the gospel. On Sunday night I had my departing interview with President. Normally I could expect he would ask me questions. This time it was just a conversation. The things we talked about were very interesting and were all tailored to the next chapter in my life. I had been warned in a letter from Pres. Hall that he would be asking me if I had been faithful to my mission call. For days I had been asking myself if my mission was worth it to the Lord. I know that it had been worth it to me but I was wondering if it was worth it to him. At the very end of the interview President Hall gave me a blessing. It was such a sweet blessing and a very special one at that. Its not everyday that your mission President gives you a blessing. At the very beginning of the blessing I had the distinct impression that the Lord had accepted my efforts as a missionary and that my mission was worth it to Him. Then President Hall told me as a voice for Heavenly Father "Well done thou good and faithful Servant." (Matt, 25:21) It was so wonderful to feel the burden lifted. 
As I have been reviewing my mission in my mind there are certain things I have learned that I could have only learned on the mission. I am so grateful for all those lessons. They were learned through trial and at points I couldn't see why I was going through the trail but I am very grateful for them. 
I will close with my testimony:
I know that this is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was necessary so that we could have the fullness of the gospel on the earth. I know that Joseph Smith as a young boy had a question. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and answered his questions by telling him that Christs church was not on the earth. I know that in the coming years Joseph Smith was prepared to be the prophet who would organize the church back on the earth with Christs Authority, the priesthood. I know that through the Priesthood the Book of Mormon was translated. The Book of Mormon is the Word of God. It was written for us today so that we could pattern our lives in a way that we could follow the Savior. I know that when we do all that the Savior has asked us to do we will have the opportunity to live in our Heavenly Fathers presence. I know that through the Atonement we can be forgiven for all our mistakes. I know that he is waiting for us to come unto him and to give our burdens to him so he can lift them. I love my Savior and I have been able to come to know him so much more through the scriptures. I know that when I get down on my knees to pray that an answer will come, no matter in what way or what the answer may be. I know that my Heavenly Father loves me and that he has prepared me and others to learn and grow together. I know that my mission has been worth it to the Savior and that my efforts were enough to bring some of our Fathers children back home, where he is waiting to receive us. I love this Gospel with every fiber of my being. Amen.
I am so excited to come home and to see you all again.
Hurrah for Israel!!!!!!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Getting Better!

This week did get better as I hoped it would. We went to our Bishops house to go teach Rock the next lesson but we didn't teach him. The Bishop did! It was great. He taught about the Priesthood. Once again we were able to see how the influence of the spirit works on Rock's kids. We told them that once their dad has the priesthood he can baptism them if they choose to be baptized. One of the sons just gets so excited when we talk about it. He lit up and you could feel the happiness and excitement emanating from him. The only sad part is that other son is refusing to be happy about anything to do with baptism. I am sincerely concerned for him. Rock is getting his first true test after being baptized. His company his having a business trip down to Cabo, Mexico. In this trip there is a lot of drinking and other temptations. Rock has had to mentally prepare for this trip for 3 weeks and has set limits and boundaries of activities he will and will not participate in. We have been on the edge of our seats for 3 days now because we cant talk to him. We just keep praying he will have the spirit with him and make good decisions. If he can get through this trip he can overcome anything! 
Yesterday was an amazing day! We had the special privilege and opportunity to have Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Wong come! It was so fun to watch him arrive early and go around the entire building to meet everyone! Our Stake has over 1300 people in it and a good chunk of those individuals got to meet him. My companion and I happened to be standing next to some other Sisters and when Elder Oaks shook our hands. He took just a couple extra seconds to ask where each one of us is from. It was so fun to see him get interested in the people. It was an amazing conference and there was a lot of laughter. Elder Oaks is funny!!!!!! He had met a lot of our investigators and made a point to speak to them about the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. He is the only person I have ever heard gracefully bring up our Heavenly Mother. It was quite amazing and had me on the edge of my seat...... I got worried for a little second. hahahaha silly me. Probably one of my most favorite parts of the talk and the most memorable was when he shared a story of cornering his RM grandson and asking him why he wasn't married yet. His grandson's response was, "Well grandpa in the last year I have dated 106 different girls." To which Elder Oaks responded after thinking about it for a short time, "It seems you are putting forth a lot of effort and I commend you. But your standards must be wrong if you have not found a wife in those 106!" He is now married. But the memorable part of this story was when he raised his voice pounded the pulpit and said to every young man of the dating age. "STOP HANGING OUT! YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DATING!" I will tell you every Elder we saw after the meeting felt chastised in advance. It was so funny! There were many other things said that all missionaries just drooled over. He referenced the Articles of Faith 1 and 3. They are the short statements of pure doctrine of the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. He also said that the Roman Catholic church is our natural ally. Their beliefs run so closely to ours that they are our best natural ally. The church has done a lot to put our forces together to stand for right throughout the world (i.e. abortions). It was insightful to say the least. 
We tried to ride bikes again this week. Last week my companion crashed. It was hilarious after I figured out she was okay! On this weeks particular day we talked to some very nice people who took the time to have a conversation with us. It must have been the Lords will that we just talk to them and no one else in the Park at the moment because as we went to continue on up the hill, my bike pedal snapped off! Not so funny! I had to walk up the rest of the gigantic hill! =) Luckily I could coast down the hill back to the apartment. So now I need to go get some new pedals. 
It has been super hot this week. We have already broke 100 degrees. It just tells you what this summer is going to be like. Not cool weather! Everyone is worried about fires and how hot it is going to get. Its not normal at all that we are heating up this fast. 
Well I think that is just about it for this week. 
I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Webs of Entanglement

I am going to apologize in advance. I am not sure how positive this email will be. My heart is heavy and my attitude is somber. This week has been so hard. With all that happened last weekend with our Bully it has really put a damper on a ton of other things. We had a lesson with Rock to start his new member lessons this week. Everyone failed to tell us that his ex-wife was coming and we were NOT prepared to teach a lesson for her. They wanted to move the lesson time up and gave us 45 minute notice. Then when we got there we still didn't start until the original time because they kept talking and wouldn't sit down so we could start!!!!!! Oh and the ex-wife didn't show up till then! Not only that but because of our Bully and his attitude towards us and the way we felt in his home we couldn't teach with the spirit to save our lives. It didn't go well and Rock's ex-wife was no more convinced what we believe is a good thing for her kids than when she arrived. Its a nasty situation and totally stressful. Our ward mission leader met with us to talk about what to do with the situation. He felt it important to talk to the Bishop about it and we told him we weren't comfortable with it because it might cause another flare up if the Bully got word of it. Wellyesterday (luckily) our Bully was out of town. The Bishop asked us to come and meet with him after church. We were slightly apprehensive. The whole time he talked and then when he wanted us to "vent" we didn't. When we tried to talk and inform him of the details we felt were important for him to know he justified every single thing said and done to us with "Well he has a big heart and is like a bull in a china cabinet and you are dainty flowers so you got stepped on." What we didn't know before that meeting was that our Bishop and our Bully are super close friends. So of course what we have to say about how we feel and what happened is totally unbelievable to him. All he kept saying was that he was going to talk to the Bully and when we said we weren't okay with that because of  fear of having a repercussion it was totally dismissed. It appears that no matter what we say to the men in this ward it doesn't matter they dont listen!  I AM SO FRUSTRATED! I can't do anything here! I am totally and completely stuck in Castaic. Like a fly stuck to a spiders web! I have tried so hard to love the ward and the area and I just can't seem to accomplish it. We aren't sleeping, we can barely work, I have had a migraine from stress the last 4 days and I want to leave. I have no idea what I am supposed to learn. I dont understand why it has to come this way. I get yelled at everyday, I get doors slammed in my face but I know its not personal. I can deal with it, but this is personal and I can't handle it. That is it. 
On the lighter side of things.....my companion and I went on a little road trip with some other missionaries to the Arcadia mission for a doctors appointment. It was so fun to see more of California and to have the time to get to know other missionaries on a level that was personal for all of us. It was a grand ol' time and the break we needed from Castaic. It felt so good to not have to focus on our area while we were gone. Doesn't that sound horrible?! But its the truth. Now my companion is doing much better with what the appointment was for. I am glad it got worked out just in time for things to keep blowing up. 
Our investigators this week asked about baptism and the things they need to stop doing so it can happen. It was a step in the right direction and we were so excited. Also they were able to read Alma 32 and got so much out of it! Baby steps are necessary for these particular people and its beginning to show. That is about the only highlight this week I can think of. 
So I apologize again for this email. Like I said its been hard to stay positive this week. I have no idea what this week holds in store but I hope its better.
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Difficult Week!

So I sent another message with pictures hopefully it came. The pictures are of Rock and Brother Tujague (his friend from coaching days. Victory should know who he is! =D BYU Cougars), Rock and his kids and then Sister Hatfield and I spending some time at the Lake on our Easter Lunch picnic. 
This week was such an emotional roller coaster. I will try to spare you the gory details but in short the sister missionaries in the Castaic ward have identified a bully. Without going into what all happened it put me in a very hard situation and President Hall and I have talked for about 2 hours 30 minutes in person and over the phone. Yesterday was the worst of it all. Our Bully sought us out took us outside and proceeded to yell at us and belittle us. It didn't matter what we did or said it was going to be his way. I felt so small, so unappreciated. The focus of Rock getting baptized was entirely lost in this members perspective because all he could focus on was what we had done that he didn't like. I will admit that with all the events it could have been done better but what is done is done and it cant change. After our little show down at church we left. (It was right before the last hour of church) When I had finally calmed down enough to talk we decided to take a picnic to Castaic Lake (the park) to work through more of the emotions of the day. So here is what is now happening; Essentially my companion and I are now slaves to the member (our bully) and for the sake of our recent convert it has to be that way. President Hall has counseled me just to go with what he wants. It stinks because I am not the type of person who goes with the demands of others unless it is for a very very very good reason. The fact that I am literally a slave to the demands of this member is killing me. I have to be at his house when he says we will be there. I teach what he wants us to teach. We get no say and are not allowed to give suggestions. Follow the Spirit?...out the window, mostly. The member is in total and complete control. President Hall was extremely upset when he learned the details of our showdown. He also had to calm down and make sure he didn't do anything that would allow me to see his anger over it all. He was sad that I had to have this experience. It was a good conversation he and I were able to have. We decided the best thing to talk about after all of this came to light is to let it go. He compared our bully to the one year old child that punches you in the nose. You don't throw the child down and step on him because of it. You change the position he is in so he can't punch you. Basically you don't engage. In our confrontation with the Bully I had the rare opportunity to put into practice everything I have learned on my mission of getting out of a heated argument/discussion/situation. I tried so so so hard to not engage. I wasn't perfect at it but I did try. President Hall is very proud of my efforts and that brings me comfort. I was also told that while I am trying to let go of the things that have happened I shouldn't work on forgiving him for 3 years. Why 3 years? I have no idea. Maybe by that time I will realize I have forgiven him and will know that it doesn't matter anymore. I will have let it go. While I have been thinking a lot about letting it go I have thought of Dad's phrase he used with me when I had another bully in elementary school. Set yourself free...Its the same concept and one I believe I will work on my whole life. At the end of the conversation we reviewed things that have happened to me on my mission with bully's. Turns out I have had quite a few of them. President Hall shared with me some of his insight into my mission. He said, "I have just sat here and listened to you talk so calmly about your mission. Not about what was so horrible and bad but the things you have learned." He explained to me that on my mission I have learned a gift of self awareness, the ability to recognize things I need to change. He told me that I have learned to be teachable and that Heavenly Father must really love me because he keeps sending experiences to me so that I can be teachable. I probably wouldn't have learned these things any other way. I am teachable because I love my Savior and want to follow him as best I can. Heavenly Father is hearing my prayers and knows the desire I have to be better. He suggested that Heavenly Father must have something for me to do and so he is helping me now so that I can be prepared to do it later. President Hall then asked me "Why do you think I understand so well what you are going through?" My answer was because he has been through it too. He explained that everything I have been through he has gone through too but much later in life than me. Last night I learned what has changed about me while I have been here on my mission. It was an answer to a prayer. I have been praying to see the changes in myself because I still feel there is so much to change in so little time. He stopped me when I explained that and told me, "but you recognized it!" I recognized that there is still change that needs to take place. And there always will be. Its just a part of life. He also explained that when he finally figured things out he started to love the imperfect him because that was part of The Plan. It was so good and better than the hug I had been longing to have. (Which he ended up giving me...heehee..... shhh....)
That was a really long explanation of a 48 hour period of time but there you have it. Easter dinner was amazing! We went and had some authentic Korean food at a members house! It was so yummy! Still working on perfecting my chopstick skills though. ;) The most important part of this week was Rock's baptism. He is baptized and confirmed and it is wonderful. A word we use in this mission with each other is "Shaka" (shaw-ka) Which literally means "everything is good." So, Shaka. 
I love you all and hope that you had a wonderful Easter! 
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy!

This past week was so full!!!!!  Both my companion and I had health complications that put us out a couple of days. During those days we just rested which was perfect because the first time ever on my mission Saturday morning I woke and literally popped out of bed. I felt so refreshed and happy from the moment the alarm went off. I found myself singing in the shower and laughing to myself. It only lasted that morning but it was preliminary to the mission conference we had with Elder Kent F. Richards and Elder Garnes. 
This conference was amazing!!!! We had so much instruction on how to teach simply and to teach only pure doctrine. Elder Richards shared something with us that has been rolling through my mind since. He said that Happiness is directly related to the Spirit which is directly related to Acting in Faith. As I have thought about this I realize that the more we act on the Faith we have in Jesus Christ the more the Spirit will be with us. And the more the spirit is with us the happier we are because at that exact moment we have no desire to sin which would cause the spirit to leave us. Therefore we have more ability to trust in the Savior. Mind blowing right? Another thing that was taught was that we should be learning new things as we are teaching by the spirit as evidence we are teaching by the spirit. This week I realized this truth. When we were teaching Rock I realized that as I was teaching the 10 commandments I was learning something new! It was awesome! There was just so many good things talked about that day. I went into the conference with several simple personal questions; How can I become more Christlike? What do I need to change to go home without Regrets? How can I get more out of my mission? How can I simplify my teaching so my investigators don't misunderstand? All the questions were answered with very simple answers. It was great!!!!!!! 
The other amazing things this week is Rock. He is getting Baptized on Saturday!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are so excited because we have been working so hard to  get him to progress. We have 2 more lessons before Thursday when he has his baptismal interview. Some of the lessons were hard to teach him because it was going to cause some major lifestyle changes for him. But its all for the better and he knows it. He has also seen many blessing already of being able to avoid and turn down temptations! He needs a lot of prayers still because Satan is still really working on him. 
Its just been a good week. Well time is short so I will need to say goodbye. But I love you all have a great week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Words Of A Prophet!

Hello everyone!!!!!!
Wasn't conference so great this weekend???? I love conference and always have. I have reveled in the opportunity I have had to share with members my first memory of conference. I have been told many times that growing up I hated missing conference or getting left at home so one of my parents could enjoy a peaceful session. Well during one of the many times I attended with my Dad I had fallen asleep. When I woke up I saw Howard W. Hunter's face on the screen. Ever since then I have loved conference because I know that a prophet is speaking to us today. In 1 Nephi 22:2 it reads, "And I, Nephi, said unto them; Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh." The words of the prophets we hear come straight from our Heavenly Father to them through the spirit. They receive revelation for the world and then they teach us. This is something that I have learned and gained a testimony of this week. 
So here are some of the things I loved in conference:
President Uchtdorf- "Be grateful IN our circumstances." Already I have been able to put this into practice. During one of the sessions we were at a members house. They made a massive breakfast just for us to help ease Sister Hatfield's homesickness. It was a tradition her family would do. We walked out of there and I thought, "Why do the members feed us so much? I am getting so fat!!!!!!" Then I thought about how grateful I was to have food and that the members love us so much. So I began to be grateful in my circumstance. 
Elder Ballard- the WHOLE talk!!!!!! loved it! In taking his counsel I will try to start sharing things with you that I have learned in my studies in the next coming weeks. I would love to hear what you are also studying and learning from Preach My Gospel.
Bishop Stevenson- life is our 4 min race. "What do I need to do next to get my medal?" "What is the next ordinance or covenant I need to progress to finish my race?" That's a thinker! 
Elder Christofferson- I am not sure if he said this but this is what I wrote down: Christs resurrection is one of the final evidences that Jesus is the Christ, that what he taught is true, and that he is the Only Begotten Son of the Father. I loved his talk so much!!!
Elder Zwick- I have thought a lot about what it means to not have corrupt communication in my home, and initiating more actively the question "What are you thinking?"
And one of the best themes...LOVE ONE ANOTHER!
There are so many other things that stood out but those are the highlights for me. 
Another Highlight was that we got one of our investigator families to the conference yesterday for the last session. Its the family that we have been doing all the service for. They really really enjoyed it and got several things out of it! They are progressing so nicely. I have realized that the reason I am still here is for the families we are teaching. Both have had several sets of missionaries and I think they have all prepared the investigators in some way so that we could help them progress the way they are. I am so excited to see what happens in the near future! 
This week is going to be great we have Elder Kent Richards coming to our mission on Saturday for an All mission conference. This hasn't happened since I have been here so I am way excited! 
Well I am trying to think of anything else and it was a pretty dull week other than conference. =) 
I love you all so much! I hope and pray that you have found things in conference that have touched your heart and encouraged you to want to do better. 
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell
 The Assistants and Sister Hadfield
The Zone Leaders and The "Sisters"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

SERVICE!


This week has been a week of miracles to say the least. Let me tell you a little about what has been happening. This week Sister Hatfield and I have worked our tail ends off with a former investigator continuing the service project from last week. On Friday we called her to verify the service project for Saturday. She ended up venting to us and asking us for more help with other things. In the end we felt like we needed to pray. I was conflicted on feeling if she was taking advantage of us or if she really needed the help. By the end of our prayer we felt very strongly we needed to just serve her. I felt as if there was big block letters going from side to side in my head spelling SERVICE! So we headed over to her place to assess the situation. The project she asked for help with was taking down a wood playground set so we could finish painting. We realized it was going to have to come down anyway and it needed to come down before Saturday. We changed and hurried back over and took down the playground!!!!!!! I have never worked with power tools a ton before but boy oh boy did I enjoy it!!!!!!! We also finished up a couple other things too. In my last area someone handed an animation to me done by someone who works for Disney. In this picture there are angels who look like Cronk from Emperors New Groove. The angels are protecting a set of Elders from a variety of different things. Our personal Cronk angels were watching us that day for sure. At one point a beam from the playground connected to the house fell....right between Sister Hatfield and I. But then the other beam fell and swung and hit my comp right in the bridge of her nose!!!!!! I guess Cronk was too busy with the other beam hahaha It was funny. Her poor nose has a huge knot on it. It was such a good feeling to see the playground taken apart and the area cleaned up. We were there for 8 hours!!!! But it was all totally worth it. The next day was the service project which was supposed to be a ward thing but you know our ward.....2 kids showed up. Oh well it was great fun!!!! Once again I got to use the power tools. =) I sanded an entire deck!  At the end our project we asked to share a message and she said yes. We talked about Gods love and bore testimony of the Atonement. Her friend was also there. We committed them to take the lessons and come to church. WE HAVE 2 NEW INVESTIGATORS!!!!!! It was awesome. After all the hard work and love that we have shown someone who didn't trust missionaries this was our result. It was totally worth the time! We felt very happy and at peace with it. On Sunday we had another miracle day. The Anders came to church again. Another less active came who we had visited this week. Our new investigators showed up just on time. Oh and a mother and daughter who we found in the Elders area while helping them out came as well. (they just happen to be almost golden and ready for the gospel. We were told by them that we came at just the right moment. It was a really awesome experience. We knocked on their door shared a message with the 14 year old daughter who went and grabbed her Mom who then asked for all our information for church. MIRACLE) Who rocks Sundays? The Sisters!!!!!!! Actually the Lord but we helped out. =) It was fantastic. For the first time ever we had members coming up to our investigators and talking with them right after sacrament meeting and offering to take them to classes. Some even knew who they were! Everyone who came to church is coming to our ward activity tonight as well, and their YM/YW kids are going to mutual! It was so cool to watch!!!!! So we are turning the ward around or should I say upside down and its awesome. Love being a missionary!
This week was awesome. I hope all of you have a great week and that you enjoy the "spring" you may be having where ever you may be. 
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Holla! Sista's In The House!

It is Spring and boy do the Californians feel it! We have had several hot days. I got sunburned just this past Saturday from only a couple hours outside, but it was amazing to feel the Sun that much! I really have missed getting that much Vitamin D! Speaking of Saturday we, the Sisters, had a service project that involved several people from the ward. We had a former investigator we contacted to try and meet with. She had expressed a lot of sorrow over not feeling the ability to trust the Elders before because they never kept appointments and never followed through on their offers to help her with her fence. We felt very strongly that if we were to get in with this investigator it would be through service. So we organized a service project. We were there and ready to go and we even had the youth leaders there. It was an amazing time and I think it really softened her heart. One of my favorite moments was when we discovered a tree needed to come down. A member ran home to go get a chain saw. When they were talking about how to cut it down I remembered a summer where Dad and I took down several tall,tall trees in our yard. I simply suggested that we find a rope and lead it in its fall. You should have seen the Elders faces!!!!! I think they were shocked that a girl knew a little about taking a tree down and avoiding serious damage. Well we found a rope and we got it all tied securely. I took the rope and lead it the way we needed it to fall. As we were cutting the tree I started pulling to guide it. I must have been pulling harder than I thought because the rope snapped and I heard the crack of tree bark. I was running at that point. It wasn't a tall tree but because the rope was so short I was directly in the way of the trunk. The tree missed me but we got a great video!!!!!!!! I will try and have the sister who filmed it email it to me. It was awesome! I don't know why but being able to take a tree down made me feel so empowered in my abilities as a girl/sister. I must have been feeling lately like the ward and some of its leaders don't hold us as Sisters very high, or our opinions. The reason I say this is because of what happened at church yesterday. We have been working with a LA family to get them to church. They have a 9 year old grandson who lives with them and isn't baptized. They haven't been to church in a good solid 10 years and want their grandson to make the decision to get baptized when he is older. I have my own opinion about it but I'll keep that to myself. They are also converts of 15 years. Almost everyone in the ward told us it wouldn't happen and that you can't push someone to make a decision like coming back to church, they have to do it themselves. This has really bothered me because as missionaries we are the loving push to get people back to Heavenly Father no matter what stage in life they are in. Well I am here today to tell you they were wrong..... Who came to church? The Anders family. Who stayed for all 3 hours? The Anders family. And who said that they were excited to come back next week? THE ANDERS FAMILY! Oh and we brought another LA that we knocked into and our investigator family (Rock and his kids) made it to church and also stayed for all 3 hours. All I have to say is:HOLLA! SISTA'S IN THE HOUSE! I am pretty sure our ward mission leader was in shock. Now that I have been a little disruptive of the spirit of missionary work let me tell you why I felt this was such a big thing. Its been so frustrating at our coordination meetings to discuss the progress of our work. Its all about the Elders area. The ward mission leader never asks us what is going on and when we bring up the things we need help with the Elders butt in and take over the conversation again. AGH! I am about ready to pop with frustration but I am restraining myself for my companions sake. =) So they deserved the shock and horror that Sisters actually can do work too. I felt very validated yesterday. Whether or not that is a good thing I will have to get back to you on that. It was just amazing to see everyone there. One of the less actives that came to church had a very touching spiritual experience. In the last ten years she has not lived her life in accordance with the church's standards. When that happens you start to become unworthy of having the Holy Ghost with you. Yesterday she felt it and it was powerful. I think she received an answer that coming back was a good idea. 
This week we were able to teach Rock again and his kids. I sincerely love this family and hope to see them baptized in the near future. Last week things got really thrown off in our lesson and they had to leave before we were done teaching. I walked away less than happy with the appointment. We talked a lot about what to focus on this week and decided to just ask Rock what he would like us to review. He asked us to teach how Christ provides and protects us. I realized we got to teach the Atonement again!!! I was super relieved because this was one point of the previous lesson I felt needed to be retaught. We broke it down into 4 main principles. As we were teaching they had more questions. I am pretty sure his kids have more deep doctrinal questions than an adult can come up with. They are truly teaching me how to answer simply. At one point Rock asked a question that lead us straight into finishing teaching them the plan of salvation. After just having talked a ton about Jesus Christ this couldn't have been more perfect. As I was teaching about the judgement and Christs role in it I told them that when our lives are being reviewed and we are found to be imperfect that is when Christ steps in and shares with Heavenly Father he has forgiven us of our sins and we have done all that we need to receive His forgiveness and that his sacrifice of His life is enough to pay the cost of our sins. Suddenly one of Rocks boys blurted out, "Oh man! I want that! I want that sooo bad!" As I looked at his son I knew that he had felt the spirit very strongly and I could see the tears in his eyes. I continued to explain that with Christ's sacrifice we can live with Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom but that the first step is Baptism. Earlier in our lesson Rock told us that his sons had asked last time (after our failed attempt at a baptismal commitment) if he would force them to be baptized if he was. We told them that we weren't going to pressure them just invite them. Well this time as I explained the importance of baptism and why we invited them to be baptized understanding came to them. Rock's son gave a very affirmative Yes to our commitment. Rock and his other son agreed but also received the special assignment to pray over baptism and see if it is something they feel Heavenly Father wants them to do. When the lesson ended (it was very spiritual) Rock's son who wants to be baptized was asked to give the closing prayer. His prayer went something like this (remember he is 10 and very excited and just felt the spirit really strongly) "Heavenly Father, Oh Man! I am so excited! Tonight was just amazing...uh...I'm so sorry! But tonight was just...oh.... so good!  I hope all the other lessons can be like tonight!..." I made a special point to tell him that he had felt the spirit and to ALWAYS remember how happy it made him. It was a night to remember. =)
Well I think that is it for this week! I hope you all are doing well and that as Easter approaches you take the time to think about what Christ has done for you and what His sacrifice really means to you. I know it means a world of difference in my life. I know that without Christ we would be nothing and this life would mean nothing. I love my Savior Jesus Christ.
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Earth Shaking!

I will start this email off by telling you that we survived an EARTHQUAKE!!!!! You probably didn't hear it on the news. It wasn't very big. It was classified as a 3.9/4.0. It was on Saturday morning at about 8:15. Just on the other side of the lake. I was kneeling down to pray to start my studies (I was running behind that morning) when all of a sudden the floor started shaking.  It stopped quickly and paused. I thought good heavens what are the neighbors doing!!!!!! All of a sudden there was another big shake! That was all. It was the weirdest feeling ever. Besides the shaking and the rattling of our dishes and the somewhat subtle roar it felt like there was a suction cup underneath us. By the second shake I was up running to the bedroom. I think my "tornado warning-get up and move" training kicked in. I was looking for cover. Sister Hatfield loves telling people my reaction =) I just keep telling myself that if it was any worse she would have been a goner because she didn't move at all!!!! But she felt all of it hahahahaha We had more aftershocks for the rest of the day but didn't feel many of them. So we survived an earthquake. We just found out that there was another one this morning in the south of our mission that was a 4.7 I think I felt it because I woke up around the same time this morning feeling like my bed was shaking. WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA! Dont worry we are taking extra measures as a mission to be prepared. 
This week has been an interesting one to say the least. I have had highs and lows spiritually. We had interviews this week with President Hall. I had things to tell him but by the time I got to meet with him I couldn't remember what I wanted to say. I tell you why this happened.
 For interviews the Zone Leaders and the Sister Training Leaders set up a tour in the church building totally focused on Jesus Christ. They started us off in the waiting room where we were assigned to read Alma 26. When the tour started we were asked to forget all the stress and the worries and the concerns for our area and the work and totally and completely focus on ourselves and our needs and to think about our testimony of Jesus Christ. We were then taken to the chapel and we watched a Mormon Message on "Lifting Burdens." It was amazing and I was able to pull several things out of it that I needed to hear. The next room was full of Pictures of Jesus Christ. They read scriptures that were central to Christs life. After we were asked how the scriptures made us feel or what we felt as they were being read. The 3rd room was another movie, "Climbing High Mountains" (?) by Elder Eyring. That movie had me near to sobbing. We discussed who we turn to in our trials. It was so intense! The final room was another waiting room (for our interview) They had us ponder what we learned and how we felt the spirit, think about Christ and then read The Living Christ and add our own testimony to the back of it. Talk about prepping a Sister to cry before she goes in to see President Hall. I cry anyway!!!! But regardless it was an amazing experience. The church was a temple that day. You didn't want to do anything but whisper. It was an amazing experience, truly inspired and a miracle for myself.
More Miracles: my companion got really sick this week (that isn't the miracle!) and I was able to take a day to just study. It was so wonderful. I studied several talks that have to do with the Atonement and being a missionary. I did an activity that Pres. Hall asked us as trainers to do. I have never done it and thought that I would do it since I had loads of time! The activity was this: Imagine your last day in the mission. What differences would you want people to notice in you? What do you want to say you have done as a missionary? and What do you want to have become? I felt that my answers were totally generic answers from a missionary. Well as I read these talks I found my answers totally validated. I discovered that I am on the right track and that my answers were perfect for me! It was so relieving. 
I am struggling with this area and the members being rude most of the time over us being obedient. Seriously I am not kidding. We totally threw a wrench in their "ignorance is bliss" life style in being around the missionaries. Frustration City! (As one of my dearest companions used to say. ;) ) But what made it totally worth it was Friday night. A member family actually thanked us for working so hard to be obedient after we apologized for the behavior of the missionaries previous to us during the dinner appointments. It was what I needed that night and it helped push me forward until Sunday when I totally lost it and in my way kicked and screamed and ranted about how immature the ward members are acting over the stupid dinner calendar. I would rather NOT have dinners! Anyway I am going to move on now...... 
 I got the dreaded green paper in the mail this week that tells me when I am going home. YUCK! I cant believe how fast time is going by. This thin paper has given me such a hard time. I can't focus!!!!!! Well sometimes when I am at home I cant focus. So, as we should, we stay outside all day and then I can focus. =) Its much better that way. 
We are working hard everyday to find new investigators. We found a 1/2 family last week. Its a single father and his kids that he has shared custody over. He has had some really influential friends who have been members their whole lives or who have converted recently. We love teaching them! His boys are super intelligent and ask really good questions. There is a lot going on with him right now and so its hard to get a hold of him. We teach him at the members home who referred him to us. So please pray for him! He needs as many prayers as he can get right now. His email name is Rock. 
Well everyone I love you all so much! Keep hanging in there. Its going to be a great week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inspired Trainings

I feel like each week is so different than the one before. Maybe its just the area being so different but I feel like our weeks are different up here than in the valley. To start off we had some amazing days of training. We had our one week follow for the missionaries and trainers. We talk about the handbook and the rules and the manuals that are here for our use and learning. I love talking about the handbook. I always see something that I need to improve! And they are always the little details but they will make a HUGE difference! That wasThursday.
On Friday we had a Zone Training Meeting. The zone leaders and the sister training leaders train us on what the President trained them on. At one point we needed to set our zone goals for the month for New Investigators and Baptismal Dates. If we dont set goals then how will we work hard to help the Lord? Also by setting these goals we are actually setting goals to help our investigators progress towards baptism. So as we were talking about it I realized that we weren't just talking about what our goal should be it was a council. There were ideas being put on the table with reasons behind them that we all wanted but we had to decide what the best goal would be for us. So at one point my district leader stood up and shared a scripture. It was D&C 6:8-9. I would type it up but I dont have my scriptures. So you will have to look it up now. Anyway, when he read the scripture my whole body broke into goosebumps and I just started getting this feeling of motivation and extreme happiness. I just wanted to stand up and say, "AMEN!" I wanted to get out and get working. I knew this was the spirit testifying to me that we were on the right track. This was a promise to our zone in the scriptures and we all knew it!  So we set a goal of finding 100 new investigators and setting 75 baptismal dates for this month (March). This day of training reminded me so much of how our Mission Leadership Council's are. I LOVED IT!
As if that morning couldn't have been topped we went on exchanges that afternoon. Sister McQueen is from New Zealand and she is a temple square sister. As we went out and worked hard all afternoon we had some really cool experiences. For the first time on my mission I taught the Restoration on the doorstep of someone's home. I wasn't trained very well in door contacting and I have struggled with it my whole mission. So this experience was amazing! I learned so much from this exchange. I had prayed so hard that I would have the ability to learn what I needed to learn. What was even better is that I was able to go back to Castaic and apply it directly and we had a wonderful time. It doesn't matter how long you have been out you will always learn something.
 A quote that was shared in ZTM has stuck with me really hard. "Love is now spelled T.I.M.E. Serve the Lord with the time you have as a missionary." -Elder Holland. I have been slowly learning that Diligence is the way I show the Lord my love for him as a missionary. I have also been learning that my time is very short now out here in California. So this quote made a huge difference for me. Every time we get ready to go out I think about this quote. It makes me think about how hard I am willing to work with the time we have scheduled for the day. I am not sure if I am explaining it the way I feel it. But I feel it resonanting with in my heart urging me to be even more diligent every day. I want to feel successful as a missionary. I want to say I did my best to share the gospel. I want to show the Lord my love for him. To go along with this quote another one has popped up that I feel goes along with it. Again Elder Holland says, '"The crowning characteristic of love is Loyalty." I feel very strongly that when we are Loyal to the Lord to do His will then we are willing to dedicate our time to him in a way that is acceptable to him. I am a missionary. This was his will for me and I came. Now its up to me to show my Love for Him. Kind of a mind spinner, huh?
Well I love you all very very much! I hope you have a great week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Singing In The Rain!

Oh my goodness gracious! The heavens opened and it came pouring down. We had 3 solid days of rain! There was no chance of being dry during the days. We constantly changed shoes and dripped dry next to our umbrellas. It was hard to complain about the rain because we have needed it so much. I wouldn't be surprised if we did get 6 inches of rain. In a canyon pretty close to us there was a mud slide 4 miles up. We were all preparing for the worse. Some backyards ended up in pools because there was no vegetation to hold it in. There were some fires up here over the summer and with no rain to help the grass seed sprayed onto those areas we were at high risk for mud slides. But all is well and things are going to take a while to dry out a little bit. 
My new companion is Sister Hatfield. She is 19 years old and is from Spanish Fork, UT. She has never lived on her own before nor has she lived outside of Spanish Fork. We have had some adventures learning how to bake/cook. And we have had some tough days of homesickness. I wish I knew how to help her better. All I can do is listen and tell her I love her.
 I am currently serving in an area called Castaic (cast-ay-ick). hmmm how would I describe it to you? Its a town located north of the Santa Clarita Valley. The homes and the town are surrounded and built into the bluffs. Its beautiful. This morning I woke up to a fiery orange sunrise just coming over the east bluff. There are lots of canyons surrounding us that we drive through to get to the ward members homes. The "downtown" part of it reminds me of Cheyenne Wyoming. There are lots of semi truck gas stations. The drivers here dont drive like California drivers. Most of the homes are ritzy but the owners aren't rich. Everyone buys the big homes just to go to work everyday to try and afford them. There are also some places of mobile home parks.So its a mix of hick and rich. Interesting, right? Our church building is 9 miles away and for us to go grocery shopping somewhere cheap we have to go down into Santa Clarita. I have definitely been spoiled by being in San Fernando Valley for way too long.... 
This week has been a little frustrating to say the least. When we got to the area I just about died. I quickly realized that the past/previous missionaries were very very disobedient. The ward doesn't know what obedient missionaries are. It has taken a lot of effort to explain why we cant leave our area for dinners (which is an absolute fiasco!), why we cant hold their children or why we have to stay with our companion. I found out also that an Elder who has since returned home from serving his mission made out with some of the young women....yeah, bad missionary!!!! I got so overwhelmed I called President Hall. He assured me that I had been put there for a purpose and that he trusts that my companion and I can get things set straight. We walked all day long in the rain for several days. We quickly learned no one answers their doors! We are learning just how much we will have to work with the ward members. So it may be extremely slow the next couple weeks. 
Last Monday night I made a big boo boo. The apartment I was staying at with the Sister Training Leaders has some problems with cockroaches. One walked over my night guard. So thinking about the easiest way to sterilize it I went to boil it. BIG MISTAKE!!!!!!! I totally warped and shrunk a $400 mouth guard in a matter of seconds. I was totally devastated. I went to bed stressed and woke up sick the next morning. I kept thinking what am I going to do? I need it! I can't afford a new one, not right now. So the rubber one from the store is just going to have to work for now. It isn't the same but it is a solution that will have to work for the next few months. 
So this week has just been an adventure. I know that this next week will get better. So there you have it. =)
I am glad that all the kids from the family were able to get together. It was fun to "see" everyone. 
Well, I need to go but I love you all and I hope that you are staying dryer than I have!
Hurrah for Israel,
Sister Cottrell
My New Companion- Sister Hatfield
Preaching in the RAIN!

Hard Week!

Once again I am not exactly sure how to start this email. And I am not sure I can make it a long one today. This week has been the MOST emotionally, physically, and mentally. Last week I left you a huge cliff hanger as to what was happening. So to address the elephant in my life, my companion Sister Bray went home this week. There were things that needed to be taken care of. It sounds simple but between her and I for several weeks it has been hard. I am drained plain and simple. I made sure to be the rock that she needed everyday. She needed me to be strong so that she could manage one hour at a time. I haven't done a ton of missionary work in the last 2 weeks and that has been weighing on me. When we got the call telling us she was going home it was Tuesday of this week. We were both instructed to pack. That was a mess! I am so glad that I have sent boxes home lately! Sister Bray flew home Thursday. Saying goodbye to our investigators and our ward was so hard, and not everyone we wanted to say goodbye to could we get a hold of. Our dear investigator (the 13 year old)... we almost lost him this week with the emergency transfer. It was so scary! I was so worried that it wouldn't go through. Why? Because we are the only missionaries he has been able to connect with and his legal guardian was being protective and flaky. But we got those concerns resolved and he is getting baptized next Sunday. I didn't think it would be so hard to say goodbye to Sister Bray. She literally became my best friend close enough to a sister for me. I felt torn apart and when I left her with my new companions for the week I lost it hard core. I cried the whole way home. Given that I am back in the YSA ward for the week with the other Sister Training Leaders. It was weird to be there. I have friends there and I absolutely love all of them but I didn't belong. It isn't my stewardship anymore. I felt out of place and like a stranger almost. That was really hard. President Hall called on Friday.......he had 3 things to discuss with me. 1. Sister Bray is doing great. He thanked me for being who I am because it was meant to be me to help her with whatever was going to happen. He assured me that she didn't get sent home because of me, which I already knew but told me he loved me and appreciated all I did for her and with her. 2. He informed me that Great Grandpa had passed away. I knew that is was coming when I saw his name on the caller id. But it was still hard to hear. Its true that no matter how well you know the gospel you still have a mourning period. I couldn't cry at the time because we were at an appointment but I definitely cried later. I miss him a lot. I have lots of memories that have come flooding back this week. The pictures have been amazing to see of him. Thank you all for sharing them with the family. 3. I was told that it was 95% certain I wasn't going back to Van Nuys. President Hall broke tradition and told me I was leaving the Valley. I know exactly where I am going and I am training again. I remember I was nervous to get Sister Bray but today I am on the edge. I feel totally uncertain about this next transfer. I don't know what will work for my new companion, or how she will respond to me, or what I need to do to make her transition into the mission field easy. What I keep hanging on to is Pres. Halls words. He told me that when this area was brought up my name came immediately to mind and he knew that I needed to go there. I trust him and I trust the Lord so now I am just trying to "put off the natural man." What I can tell you about this area is that it is the "country side" of the city. I have never been there but I have heard good things about it. 
So that has been my week. I got a blessing last night because I just felt so overwhelmed. I am trying to not be a burden to the other Sisters but when you unexpectedly throw a 3rd companion into the picture with their area plus all your responsibilities it gets messy. 
I know this isn't a happy email and I am sorry. I am doing well. Just trying to take one day at a time. I love you all and I hope that as you all prepare to go to the funeral that you find peace. Even if the tears come. Death is not unfamiliar to me. I know that the grief will pass eventually but until then I will let the tears come and I will remember the memories and hold onto them. I know that Grandpa is doing a great work on the other side. I know that because of the plan of salvation and the Atonement and the Priesthood we will all be able to see and hug grandpa again someday. I love the Gospel and I am grateful for the peace it brings me. This is what I share everyday. I know its true. 
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Where to Begin

I am not exactly sure where to start my email today. What I know is this: I am so grateful for the family connections that we have. I am so blessed to have a close knit family. I am grateful I was raised to understand the importance of families and that Families need to be together forever! I am so blessed to know the Plan of Salvation. I know that Heavenly Father loves us so much. He created a plan just for us to progress so that we could gain bodies to become like him. And through our journey to become like him there are blessings that we will obtain that can be ours through our faithfulness to him. Blessings such as eternal life and eternal families. I know that Grandpa Randall has lived a good life and I am going to miss him but I also know with all of my heart that there is life after death and this is not a final goodbye. With that being said let me tell you about our week.
This week has been the hardest, most stressful week of my mission. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I cannot tell you what has happened to make this week this way. I am not at liberty to give those details at the moment. All I can say is that we are in close communication with President Hall. Don't worry we are safe and sound and our companionship is closer than ever. We have been counselled by Pres. Hall to do all that we can in missionary work but if we need to stay home, to stay home and take care of ourselves. Basically we don't really leave the apartment unless it is for appointments. President Hall told us that our stress levels have been in the white zone. And in the missionary stress book White doesn't exist! So its been a really rough week.
However through all of this there have been some highlights. I failed to mention last week that our ward now has a 4th set of missionaries. They are the Kempf's. The First and only senior couple in our mission! We are so excited to have them and to be working with them. Our Bishop got up and bore his testimony of the miracles that have come to our ward. I broke out in goosebumps while he spoke. Hopefully the picture attached itself correctly. Their main focus is less active work and boy have they jumped on it! We talk to them several times a week and we are seeing miracles already!
One of the sunshine moments of our week was when Sister Bray got to meet the one and only actor from the Best Two Years!!!!! Casey Clyde! He is the missionary that is lazy and wont do anything and who gets the new "greenie." Sister Bray LOVES this movie and when she figured out who he was she freaked out. She even got a picture with him. He lives in the neighboring ward that meets in our same building. It was hilarious and something that brightened up our week. I took the picture and because I didn't want to be the "crazy girl" fan I talked myself out of getting a picture with him. But here is the picture I took for Sister Bray.
On Valentines day the San Fernando Valley Sky was filled with airplanes writing love messages. It was so fun to guess what letters were going to come next. It was the only clear day we had and perfect weather for the "Love in the air." hahaha I am so funny.....
We met a fellow last night who was in a motorized wheelchair. When we greeted him with a how are you sir? He responded well I made it out of Vietnam.... Then he asked what new religion we were pushing or what new God we were teaching about. We assured him it wasn't anything "new." He suddenly looked up and started to do the Holy Cross thing that Catholics do. He stopped and said, Wait are you nuns? We told him we weren't and then he said, "Oh, well great, now you've made me do the holy cross when I didn't have to and now we are all going to burn in hell!" We simply just laughed and watched him scoot away. It still makes us laugh. Oh yeah, he told us that we were crazy for being on the street we were on dressed the way we were. He said, "Seems crazy to me!"
We also had to drop an investigator due to his schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. We seem to be running across alot of people like this who we later have to drop. Unfortuately we do it to keep ourselves safe from harm, and a majority of the time they aren't accountable enough to be baptized.
Speaking of investigators our 2 baptismal dates are moving along quite nicely and they are coming to church every week! It amazing to watch the changes taking place in their lives. When we first met Bill he had a lot of anger in his heart over the situation he is currently in. However over the last month that anger has seemed to melt away and he smiles and laughs more than ever. He is so amazing and I am so glad for the opportunity we have had to teach him.
As much of a hard week it has been there have been good moments and I thank Heavenly Father for sending them. He has been so aware of us this week and sends the blessings that we need as we need them. I am so grateful for the priesthood which allows me to hear from my Heavenly Father in blessings. It brings so much comfort!
Well I think that is it! I love you all! Have a wonderful week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell
 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hello!


What a week! We have had some pretty dark clouds hanging over the valley but as for rainfall...little to none. So if the rain has come it hasn't hit my area of the world. It sounds like it is making all the other parts of the US nice and moist. We would love the rain but it just wont drop down here.
This week we really struggled to get our investigators and less actives to keep appointments. However the lessons we did have were wonderful and the spirit was strong. "Bill" learned about the word of wisdom. Its always entertaining to watch their reactions to the things they cant have and rewarding to watch when they understand the spiritual benefits of living it. Lucky for him he is too poor to be able to buy cigarettes, coffee, and wine. =)
The 13 year old (still can't come up with a name) also learned about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the 10 commandments. When ever we bring up his baptism his face literally lights up. His eyes get all squinty as he smiles big and wide. His eyes start twinkling and he just nods. He is so excited about March 2cd! I love being able to teach him and see the progress that he makes. He is one of those people that are just special to the Lord.
Yesterday was an interesting experience. I have never felt like I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off  until yesterday. We were pulled in so many different ways. I have become the primary pianist for the next couple weeks and it was so fun to watch the kids. I really enjoyed it. Sister Bray also really enjoyed the time. Church starts at 11:30. We got there a little early and didn't leave until 4:30. It was a long day. By the end of the day we had forgotten 2 people we needed to visit and I was just close to tears. Bed came quickly and I am doing much better.
We were asked to do an emergency help packing job this week. When we went over there there was maybe 10 boxes totally packed. We were there for 4 hours helping this pregnant sister and more that doubled her boxes. We found out later that when they were loading up the truck she was still packing. Oy! I thought for sure she would have been ready with us helping her out. But it all worked out!
We had a huge success with the Sister in our ward that we did the stop smoking program with. She is officially a non smoker and is doing so good! She is so much more confident than before and she is sharing the program with everyone.
It was overall a very good week. A little stressful but we came out on top of the messy pile up. Just in time for a new week. Sister Bray continues to lovingly remind me that we only have 2 weeks left in this transfer. HELP! hahaha
So I finally remembered the other funny things that happened last week. Here's a list of things I learned:
I learned to not trust my companion on how to cook a potato in the microwave. Trust me its not 7 minutes. Its like 4 minutes. If its seven, black smoke starts pooring out of the microwave and your potato has caught fire. The smell is disgusting!
When your investigator is addicted to drugs turn your head and look the other way when his brother goes off to make a drug deal.
After it rains dont walk on the sidewalk next to huge puddles of water that are on the street. The cars hit them and huge walls of water come flying at you and soak you through....... However do be nice to the poor young man that stops and looks for a towel that doesn't exist in his car and then politely decline the drink at his apartment once you are dry. =)
These are some of the things that I have learned and that have made me laugh. The wall of water is my favorite one. It was just like the classic old movies and we did get wet and just started laughing. The guy was almost frantic. He hazard parked in the middle of the road just to make sure we were okay. I hope he wasn't offended when we didn't go to his apartment. I am still not sure he heard us say, "No Thank you!" hahaha
Well until next week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sweater Weather!

Okay okay okay, I know I have given all you cold weather people grief over the last couple months but good heavens someone cursed California!!!!!!!! It got so cold out here! I even had to break out the scarfs and the real winter coat last night. We even had to turn our heat on 2 days ago after its been off for the last month!!!!!!! However a really cool miracle happened with all the cold weather. California has been in a huge drought  this year. We recently learned why we are having water shortages. Long story short....many many years ago 2 people bought a whole river that flowed down into LA. They built a resevoir. The source of the river is run off from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. A couple years after the resevoir was built it broke and flooded the land clear out to the sea and killed many people who were illegal immigrants living in the "wild." Since then our water has been in short supply and these men lived the rest of thier lives in shame. Okay so with all of that, yesterday several other states besides all of southern California fasted and have been praying for rain/snow (for the mountains) and IT TOTALLY RAINED LAST NIGHT!!!!!!!!! It had been over cast all day and had really dark clounds, then at 6pm it started raining until about 9pm. We didn't get a ton of water in the valley so we are praying it all went to the mountains and dumped snow. Cool, right! total miracle in my book!
This week has been really awesome. Once again we worked really hard to find the less actives of our ward. We got in with quiet a few of them and had wonderful experiences with them. Our investigators are really struggling right now. I have no idea why but they are. For whatever reason they just wont keep commitments. I mean hello, how hard is it to read 2 pages? Anyway they could use some extra prayers. One of them is from the Philipines. His name is "Bill." We sometimes have a super hard time communicating with him and question whether or not he really understands what we are teaching him. We have invited several of our ward members to come to the lessons because 1. we need them and 2. they speak Tagalog. However Bill absolutely refuses to speak Tagalog when we are present, only English. So frustrating! So we are devising a plan to send over our Filipino members to review the lessons without us so that they can judge whether Bill understands or not. We did set a baptismal date for him in March which is pretty exciting. Its gonna take a ton of faith and a big Miracle to get him ready for it! 
We also taught our 13 year old investigator who has Aspergers. We set a baptismal date for him as well last night. It was super funny because when we told him that we wanted to work towards March 2 he stopped us and said, "Hey that's my Birthday!" We were totally shocked because we had no idea and found it really ironic it was the date we have been pulled to for weeks to shoot for. I am really hoping that "grandpa" is ready to baptize him. We are concerned he wont be ready. We found out that our Bishop has already discussed this possible scenario and there are back up people ready to baptize our investigator. I am still trying to come up with a name for him.
We helped a member in our ward quit smoking this week. The program that we as missionaries get to use is amazing! It requires us to commit individuals to follow 15 steps every day in order to turn off the bell that signals a person they want to smoke. So far it is working really well for her and it was an adventure for us all. The Bishop and his wife were there and just really added to the spirit and the enthusiasm for this Sister to continue to living the Word of Wisdom and giving herself and her son a better life. At one point during the lesson the person has to crush, or tear up the cigarettes. It was cool to watch and also super disgusting..... This program has been proven to be extremely useful and effective and we are now using it to help another less active in our ward and possible 2 other people.
This week I also had a wonderful experience in my personal study. I was totaly focused one day in studying how to have faith to find people who are ready to receive us. By the sprirt my study was totally redirected in the middle of it to go read my Setting apart blessing, which gratefully I had people take notes on. I swear things have been added to the blessing since it was written down! =) I read things that were new to me and that I absolutely needed to hear that day. Specifically about not being shy and having no fear. It brought me to tears and to my knees. I also discovered that in my head I got 6 weeks ahead of myself. How? No clue. I think that with everyone always talking to me about how long I have left my brain just shorted out. I was happy to discover that I had 1 whole extra transfer out here! HOORAY! Now I know it seems weird to be excited about this discovery but I am seriously excited. I still have so much I want to accomplish! I am grateful for the tender mercies the Lord has given me this week. 
We had some pretty funny moments this week but at the moment I dont remember any except for one. We stopped by to see one of our investigators who has liver cancer. They had just gotten back from a Costco run. They are also Filipino and are always very giving. They sent us home with Waffles and a big, big jug of juice. As we were walking into our apartment complex Sister Bray went to swing the paper sacks holding the goods and suddenly there was a huge thud. Looking back Sister Bray's face was in total shock and totally red. I looked at the ground and there were the waffles and juice in a very riped paper bag. I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe.........funny. It might have been a if you were there moment but even writing it here on the email has me in the giggles. 
Another one I just remembered is that on our way to an appointment with a less active I had looked up to say hello to someone passing us. I said hello and he said, "Hey Sweetheart..." Gross. But what was funny about it is that Sister Bray has been getting the fliratous ones lately and I had refused to even think it could/would happen to me anytime soon. Well it happened. It had us both giggling. 
Probably the highlight of the week besides setting 2 baptismal dates was seeing how many of the people we having been teaching came to church yesterday. For us alone we had 6 total (2 investigators and 4 less actives). The total number of investigators and less actives to church in our whole ward was somewhere between 15-20. It was amazing and our Bishop was very quick to notice.   
This week was good and full of miracles. I am so excited to be a missionary and to continue helping people come closer to Christ!
Hopefully you all will stay warm and safe this week and we will try not to "freeze!"
I love you all very much!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I hope you had a fantastic week!


This week in Van Nuys we have seen many, many miracles.  Our Bishop has been very good at giving us assignments to go find 5 people each week that are Less-active. This week we had names that we were very familiar with.  On Thursday we got a phone call from a Sister that was on our list. We had not tried to contact her yet and so we were surprised that she was calling us. She explained that she has been extremely sick for the past 6 months and would like to have a study with us to get her ready to come back to church. In our appointment with her we discovered that she had seen Elders Ginez and Searle (Spanish elders we have in our apartment complex) and had flagged them down to get ahold of us. When we explained that we would have been contacting her within a few days she almost cried. She said that she had been feeling forgotten and that everything that had happened was an answer to prayer. It was a miracle! She came to church on Sunday and truly enjoyed it! We had a total of 3 less-actives we have seen this week come to church yesterday!
Another miracle: There is a couple in our ward that we have come to love very much. He is Jewish and she is a member. He has liver cancer and has been in the hospital for a month now. The day before he went to the hospital we went and visited with him. We had been told he wanted to take the lessons. When we asked he said I'll never change my religion. I was born Jewish and I'll die Jewish. We thought well we wont argue with him. However through the last month with several priesthood blessings and many visits from ward members and constant prayer for him he has agreed to take the lessons. Last night in our lesson the spirit was sooooooooo strong! He had tears in his eyes and as we shared the first vision there was a very distinct reverence that over came us all. It was amazing! He agreed to read the Book of Mormon and to pray about it. It hit me very hard last night that one of the promises we are given if the Book of Mormon is true is that we will know Jesus Christ as our Savior. He really needs to gain that witness that its true. In the end he said, "If I get better (aka if I get over this cancer) I'll be baptized. I'll even scrub the floors with my own hands." (in a British accent =) ) It has raised some concern for us but I believe that as he has other miracles in his life and as he reads the book he will have that desire to be baptized regardless if he is "cured." I felt very strongly to have him read 2 chapters as an assignment, Alma 32 and Alma 5. I have never felt that strongly about having anyone read those but I trust that the spirit will work within in him and teach him the things he needs to know.
These are just some of the miracles that we have seen this week. There have been so many more! We found out that another person we visit who is LA is a freakin' genius. He has an IQ of 190. Normal IQ is 120. He is so smart and funny! He lives in a mental group home. We aren't sure what he has but honestly it doesn't matter. On Friday when we met with him we were talking about some random things and suddenly he says (with a Texan accent mixed with a lisp), "That's all I have to say today, Goodbye!" It made us laugh so hard! We love him so much!
There is something that I find funny but isn't really funny. There is a family that we have tried several times to go see. They are less active and in talking with the husband there is no reason for them not to come to church. Anyway, the 2 times we have gotten in to the door the wife has been on the phone crying. Both times someone has died that has a deep connection to the family!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have decided that we are very nervous about trying to keep contacting them, just because we will always be associated with someone dying in their family! funny right? yet not funny at all........
All in all we have had a really good week. Sister Bray and I have talked a lot about what it means for her to be almost done with 12 week. She is extremely worried that she wont be prepared or ready to accept an assignment to train right away. She understands that it may not come but I also must say that I need to take responsibility if she doesn't feel ready. We have talked about some things that I can do as her trainer to make sure she is prepared. These things include having better evaluations of role plays, lessons and studies, and having her take the lead more often than she already does. We are getting there one day at a time.
I am looking forward to the next week. There are going to be so many more miracles!
I hope you all have a good week!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hello Spring?

Well I must say that the weather outside is frightful....a frightful 80 degrees! Its January and we are all sweating out here. Goodbye winter clothes hello spring! A member had told me that by this time of the year it was really cold, or should be....... Its been an interesting week trying to remember to dress cool. I am so sorry that none of you can experience thesweat bliss oh I mean sweet bliss of California. =) hahahaha
It was an amazing week in teaching people and in finding people. We had a wonderful lesson with a new investigator named "Blue." She is a former investigator. When we asked her if the missionaries who had taught her for almost a year had brought up baptism she said no. We were perplexed to say the least. Then we told her our purpose was to baptize and it was her turn to be stunned. She said, "Well that makes sense!" Our lesson was quite lengthy, something we weren't expecting. She just ended up having a lot of questions. Her main concern was that she is afraid she wont make a good Mormon. We assured her that there is no such thing as a perfect Mormon. When we also told her about the Book of Mormon and had gave her some of our experiences in reading it and in remembering to read it she was again shocked because of course the missionaries are perfect, right? WRONG! it was such a real life lesson it was amazing!
We gained another investigator almost by surprise. We asked him if he had 10 minutes and proceeded to teach him. Well we may or may not have taken a lot longer but the spirit was so strong. He almost started crying as I was relating Joseph Smiths experience. His gaze was on me and I knew that if I broke eye contact that the power of the moment would be lost. When we taught about the Book of Mormon he blurted out "I'll read it!" We hadn't even finished teaching it yet. It was amazing! I don't have a name for him yet but I'll let you know.
I had an experience this week with the Bishops wife. As we went to some of our scheduled appointments they kept falling through and the people answering the door where different than who we intended to see. For whatever reason I was always ready to go to the next place. As soon as the bishops wife sensed it she would jump in and ask if they had some time now for us to teach them instead. I later thanked her for her efforts and made it obvious that I needed to change and improve on this particular part of being a missionary. She wanted to me understand that she didn't do it to make me feel bad, which to be honest it had but I needed it! She later told us that her mission president had ingrained in them to be bold and fearless, two things that I have been wanting to change. I really appreciated her efforts and I have allowed them to work within me to motivate me to be better. It was a good experience.
We had a regional stake conference yesterday and it was so good! Elder Eyring and Elder Andersen spoke as well as Sister Burton. It was great as they talked about the hastening of the work. Elder Eyring talked about reaching out to our kin to share the gospel with them, to find those who have wandered and to bring them back. It is our responsibility!!!! It made me think of the things that I can do when I get home. Not just with family but with others too.  Oh it was just so good. I also got to see many of the YSA's and got to talk with them. It was so fun to see the excitement on their face when they saw me. I must have done something good while I as there. =) I miss them sooooo much! I am honestly excited to go to a singles ward. It was just such a good day.
We taught our little investigator (the 13 year old) yesterday too! The spirit is so strong with him and as we talked about the Atonement his eyes lighted up even more. Satan is working so hard on their little family. His grandpa got run over by a car this week. He is okay but is foot is fractured and they only bike when they have to go somewhere. We keep praying for them so that they will be safe and protected from the adversary.
We also found a less active member of our ward who lives in a mental group home. At first we were nervous because we don't know what his condition is but he actually is very alert and sensitive. We met with him twice. We read in the Book of Mormon and it was amazing the insights that he had about forgiveness. He really wants to go to church but hasn't been able to get there. We found a ride for him yesterday and he expressed such a relief and a calming feeling for being there. We are so excited for him! While we were there we also found another 2 potentials. This place may be a gold mine!
Well I think that is it for today. I am sorry this is so short! I love you all so much!
Hurrah for Israel!
Love,
Sister Cottrell