Monday, April 29, 2013

Count Your Blessings

Hello one and all!

Some things I did this week:
Ate pig skin, got locked out of my apartment (don't worry, miraculously someone was there to let us in), held a PYTHON, invited an Oscar De La Renta wedding dress designer to be baptized (WOO-Whoo!), got bible bashed, taught English class (with 5 NEW people!), FINALLY met "Dave the Painter", taught an Egyptian (he is SO cool), sang in Sacrament Meeting with Elder Hogge and played the piano A LOT.

One that I would like to elaborate on is "Dave the Painter". Dave is a guy who does service for the community day in and day out. He's known as Dave "the painter" because he paints over graffiti around the town. He is such an awesome individual. And he loves our church, he's not a member (yet), but he asks for our help with big projects and what not. We talked for a minute about how every bit of help no matter how small, is helpful. He said, "I know I'm just one guy. I know I'm just Dave. But this one guy, Dave, can leave this place better than he found it." That's practically a direct quote from Preach My Gospel. Haha. I thought a lot about that conversation and about the wonderful example "Dave the Painter" is to me. Even if I never baptize anyone here in Woodside, I'm determined to leave the ward and the community better than when I found it. There is work to be done everywhere. I love the opportunity to help people!

Speaking of helping people... We as a district teach an English Class free for anyone to learn English. It's a pretty awesome way to get to know people. And we usually have a couple new faces each time, and tons of "regulars". Well, we're really trying to make some of our regular attenders into investigators. This is much harder than it sounds so...I could use some prayers.

Speaking of prayers... Teresa has been reading and praying! She's one of our only investigators who is REALLY progressing. We invited her to be baptized and she said that she wants to keep learning and studying, but that she feels good about what she's been learning with us. Teresa is super cool. She's from Ecuador and she's a designer for OSCAR DE LA RENTA. (What the...? Who knew we'd find one of those right around the corner from the church!) She's very intelligent, artistic and curious. (I relate to her pretty well.) :) I have really, really high hopes for Teresa. I'd appreciate your prayers on her behalf too.

I've had a lot of reminders this week that I live a really good life. I have a good family and good friends who have guided me and helped me make good choices. As a result of those choices, I've avoided a whole lot of pain. Others have not been so blessed in their lives... I can't even express to you all how grateful I am for the COUNTLESS blessing I have. One of MANY, many examples:  We were given two big bags of food by a less active family after an appointment one night, as we walked home from the appointment I saw an old man digging through the trash looking for something to eat (sadly, that's not terribly uncommon). I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the Galeanos for providing us with the food, and gratitude to Heavenly Father for providing us with the opportunity to give someone a much needed meal. SO MUCH TO BE GRATEFUL FOR!

Keep the faith family, keep being awesome, and count your many blessings!

LOVE you all,

Hma. Tara

Monday, April 22, 2013

And if You Endure it Well...

"Hey, lets go this way today."

"Okay, why not."

I never thought that this simple exchange of words would mean EVERYTHING, but this past week it has.

The week before was hard. Really hard. Our appointments were dropping like flies. And people had no desire to listen to us. I'll admit I was really discouraged by the time the end of the week came and we had almost nothing to report to our district leader.

I thought to myself, "So this is what it's really like being a missionary."

I had a decision to make... give up, and assume that I'll never get the hang of it. OR just decide that tomorrow is a new day.

I bet you're all wondering which one I chose...Haha.

I was done being discouraged, I was done feeling sorry for myself. This week WAS going to be different.

And guess what, it was!

The Lord blessed us so much. We found several new families to teach! I'll never cease to be amazed by how the chain of miracles link us to our investigators... How seemingly small things make a WORLD of difference. Things like doors being left unlocked, giving us access to floors of apartments we normally can't get to. (Just one of MANY examples.) Lessons with members present just fell into our laps! We found people everywhere we went who wanted to be taught. 

My testimony of the "small things" grows stronger every day. The small successes REALLY are what make up the big scale of success. Often I overlook the miracles that occur in my life daily. And what a huge mistake! Elder M. Russell Ballard says, "Great and marvelous events seem to motivate us, but small things often do not hold our attention. Noting that the Liahona worked by faith, Alma stated, 'Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means…[the people of Lehi] were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased' and they did not progress in their journey. Is our journey sometimes impeded when we forget the importance of small things? Do we realize that small events and choices determine the direction of our lives just as small helms determine the direction of great ships?"

I testify that "coincidences are (not) God's way of staying anonymous". He is in the details of our lives. He knows what we need, and the spirit will prompt us, making His will known to us. We just have to listen. Next time you feel inclined to do something, if it's a good thing... DO IT! Blessings will come from it.

Something else that I've learned this week is that people are good. Sure, there is a whole lot of bad going on in the world right now...the Boston Marathon bombing, for example. There are individuals out there who desire to hurt and to harm others. BUT I know that the majority of people are good. I've been truly privileged to come in contact with people who even though they live in the humblest of circumstances have a love for life that I admire SO much. The people here are amazing.

Well... My time is about up but I love y'all so much. Keep the faith and keep praying for me!

Thanks for your letters and emails! Keep 'em coming!

Lots and LOTS of Love,

Hermana Tara Franklin

Monday, April 15, 2013

Guardar La Fe

Well, my friends... It's been a CRAZY week.
I actually will be sending a very short update today... because I don't have much time to email.  A surprise lesson ended up taking most of my email time.

So to water it all down for you... This week was "all over the place" if you know what I mean...
For something comical: We were "Street Sweeping" on Saturday when a rather... eccentric, drunk woman came up and looked into my companion's face and said, "You have a POWERFUL face. Your face contains power.... I mean, WOW! What power. Man, I'm a mess." And walked away... Yeah. The New York Crazies. We love them. The greatest thing about it is was that we saw her an hour or so later on the other side of town when we were on our way to visit a less active.  This time she had with her a teddy bear the size of my dad. (?????) Who drags a giant teddy bear around Queens?? As we passed by we said hello... of course her response was, "Who the heck are you?" is quality entertainment.

For some good news...We were able to do some really, really great work with the less active members of our ward... there are A LOT of less actives. We had 6 people come to church with us who haven't been to church in many many months. That was such a blessing and I was so glad they all came. We're going to try to continue our efforts and really concentrate on helping the less-actives REactivate. I hope you'll do this with me and invite your friends who don't make it to church very often to come with you!

I'm finding that I'm really struggling with the language. Part of this is my inability to be patient with myself, and the other part is...well I don't really know. Maybe I'll never figure out why it's so hard for me. Either way, Spanish is definitely not my strength when I'm teaching the gospel. BUT, as I've struggled to find Spanish words to say to people I've figured something out... And that is that I HAVE strengths. I have SO many other ways of communicating and expressing my deepest feelings. I've been able to bear my testimony and spread the gospel through song and through my gifts as an artist. I've used drawings to teach people all the time and I sing for people every time we're let into a home. I play the piano for every sacrament meeting, relief society meeting, primary singing time, choir practice/performance and every baptism that happens here in the Woodside Ward. I know Heavenly Father didn't give me these talents so that I could keep them for myself. It took me 20 years to figure that out. But hey, later is better than never. I hope you will all think about the talents you've been given and try to use them more to benefit others. You WILL bring others closer to Christ.

Thank you for your prayers and continuous support.
You're all amazing... Anytime you see either of my amazing parents give them a HUGE hug for me. They're doing a pretty great job and deserve a hug. Haha. HUGS to all of you from me!!

Hermana Tara Franklin

Monday, April 8, 2013

If I can make it here...I'll make it anywhere

Hola Familia y Amigos!

It's NYC alright... Lot's of crazy people, lots of small business, restaurants of EVERY KIND, taxis, metro stations, dead cats, live cats, dead pigeons, live pigeons, LIGHTS, Let me fill y'all in.

Last Monday, I left the MTC and flew to NY. Had a few missionary opportunities in the airport/on the plane... Pretty fun. Actually, I sat between two brothers on the first flight... Who just happened to be the cousins of our good friends the Van Wagoners! SMALL WORLD.

After we got off the plane in New York the Mission President, Pres. Calderwood and his wife were there to meet us with the A.P.'s. What nice people. Seriously, I'm fairly certain I have the best mission president in the world. (I'm also certain EVERY missionary says that... whatever. I really mean it. Haha) They took us up the highest point in the mission... the roof of "The Brooklyner". Wow, what a BREATHTAKING view of Manhattan. I took some good pictures (I'll try to get them posted) but I can tell you, the picture doesn't come close to doing it justice. We ate REAL New York pizza and learned some new things about our mission. I'm also fairly certain I'm in the BEST mission in the world (again, I know everyone says that. Haha).  Something really cool happened in that meeting... the President dedicated our mission. He offered a very powerful dedicatory prayer blessing this land and all who live on it. I feel SO lucky to be a missionary here.  We slept at the mission home and then went to orientation/transfer meeting in the morning.
Orientation.... Well... Umm... nothing interesting. They just have us watch a video about driving mission vehicles made in the 1990's. And they said something about ibuprophen and keeping our apartments in tip-top condition. Haha... Obviously I was thinking about my new companion.

So, my new companion/trainer? AWESOME.
Her name is Sister Van Langen... She's originally from Georgia. Ironically she knows my mom. She was an intern 5th grade teacher at Franklin Elementary in Provo. (Taught AT Franklin, now teaching A Franklin... Meant to be.) Excluding her Crocs.... We're practically soul sisters. Haha... Don't worry she rocks the Crocs better than most. We enjoy a lot of the same things and we definitely appreciate each other's sense of humor. She's hilarious...keeps me laughing. Good thing. After Sister Dean... I don't know what I would have done if I got a companion who took themselves too seriously. She's been out for about 8 months. She's been in our area since she got to NY. So she's an expert...No need to worry about me, I'm in good hands.)

Oh, speaking of my area.... I'm in Queens! My area is called Woodside. Super great area... Beautiful View of Manhattan and A LOT of people. LOTS. And it's so diverse. This place is absolutely the definition of a melting pot.You know you live in New York City when your neighbors are Irish, Muslim, Turkish Mausqe, Evangelical Rock Church Clergy, and well... Pretty much any race/religion you can think of. It's AWESOME.  Speaking of diversity the Woodside Spanish Ward I serve in has someone from every single South/Central American country in it. How cool is that? I LOVE this ward. The members are so amazing, so giving, and so humbe. I LOVE Hispanic culture, it's like I've been adopted into 50 families.  They've all welcomed me with open arms and a whole dang lot of FOOD. They seem to think I have 14 stomachs or something... they've got way too much faith in my ability to eat a whole rotisserie chicken.... 
My district is pretty great... It consists of Elder Heaps (from Cedar City UT) and Elder Hoage (from Sacramento, CA), Elder Van Montfranz (from Salt Lake City, UT) and the ONE AND ONLY.... Elder Nielson, from my MTC district! I was so overjoyed to find out we would be together for the next 12 weeks. Pretty sure Heavenly Father did that on purpose. He knew I would need a familiar face. Oh, another random thing I like about my area is that I don't have to drive. I spend a lot of the time on the metro train/bus. LOVE that.... Perfect opportunity to talk to people.)

As far as the Spanish goes... I thought I knew Spanish, at least a little bit. Turns out I don't. Everyone talks about 246 million miles a minute. So... Yeah. That'll take some getting used to. Buena Suerte a mi. Haha.

Missionary work is tough stuff. I'm not going to lie. It's full of a lot of disappointment when your investigators don't follow through or they decide they don't want to take the lessons anymore. It's just plain sad. And I can honestly say, I love all the people I meet.... Even though I hardly know them. It's kind of a cool thing to experience. And it's straight up sad when they don't accept your message. They just don't understand what they're missing. I understand more and more with every passing day that missionary work requires a lot of patience and a lot of FAITH.

Conferencia General fue muy bueno, no?! I loved Elder Anderson's talk... "Faith overcame doubt, and THOUSANDS were baptized." I know that applies to me. Faith must overcome doubt.
Well.... P-Days are proving to be one of the busiest days... So I've got to get off the computer now, but I love you all! I hope all is well with you, and that you enjoyed General Conference. How blessed are we to have a living prophet and apostles who guide us!?
Keep the faith!

Con Amor,
Hermana Tara Franklin