Monday, August 26, 2013

6 Months

Can you believe it? I sure can't.
I woke up on the 20th and realized I was 1/3 through the 18 months I'll serve as a missionary. Kinda panicked a little bit. This is it?? After 6 months, this is where I'm at? I quickly decided I needed to do something to change my attitude about this milestone. So I read my journal. Starting with the day I entered the MTC, I read 6 months worth of experiences and spiritual thoughts. Wow! It was so incredible to reflect on the person I was when I left and see how different I am now. I've sure learned a lot. And I've overcome a lot.

I've kind of come up with a list... "10 of the greatest lessons I've learned in the last 6 months as a missionary."
1.) Charity is a gift. It is the greatest of all spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 13.... I truly am nothing without charity.

2.) Working with members is the greatest work I've done as a missionary. When you involve the members, miracles happen.
3.) "Venir" is a Spanish word meaning "to come". It is grammatically incorrect to use this verb as a command unless you are already at the place you are telling some one to come to. I find this to be kind of profound. I have definitely learned that you cannot convert someone beyond your own conversion. In other words, you can not invite someone else to "come unto Christ" unless you have already come unto Christ yourself.

4.) Obedience brings blessings, EXACT obedience brings miracles. Alma 57: 19-27 explains the story of the Stripling Warriors. I LOVE verse 19. It explains it all. When you are obedient to the commandments of God you are protected and you can walk confidently before the Lord.

5.) As a missionary we tend to ask ourselves questions... Like, "Am I inspired?" "Did I do that right?" "Are they ready?" or "Do they like me?"
If I could go back to the beginning of my mission I would live by the following phrase... DON'T ASK DUMB QUESTIONS. I would go back and tell myself the following:

These questions simply aren't valid. And they lead to self-doubt and in essence, discourage you from sharing the gospel. Of course you're inspired! You have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost and He is your constant companion. If you truly believe that you are an instrument in the hands of God and the Holy Ghost will help you know what to say. You WILL BE inspired and guided as you try to share the gospel. That is a promise.

There is no right way to share the gospel... If you have only the needs of the individual you're sharing the gospel with in mind, you'll never go wrong.
Are they ready? Well, ALL people are ready to hear what you have to say... Are they ready to accept the gospel? Maybe not. But they ARE ready to have some sort of interaction with you regardless.

"Do they like me?" is not a valid question because it frankly doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if they like you, it only matters if you love them. If you're thinking about whether they like you or not then you're thinking about you. Forget yourself and go to work. :) So back to my first point, Sister Franklin, avoid the "dumb" questions and ask yourself "What can I do to help?" "What have I done to strengthen their faith?" or "Who could use a prayer, a visit or even a plate of cookies" today. You'll waste a lot less time and feel a whole lot better if you ask yourself questions like that.

Good to remind my greenie-self of some good lessons I've learned. Haha.
6.) Missions are an opportunity to change our lives and work toward becoming the best versions of ourselves we can be. Ether 12:27. If we submit our will to the Lord He will change us into someone far better than we could ever become on our own. Weak things will be made strong unto us.

When I finally just let go and realized this wasn't about me I saw myself becoming a little more patient, a little more capable, a lot more kindhearted and a whole lot more humble. It's been great to realize that I'm really not all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips. Haha. The Lord is the awesome one.

7.) Thanks to Elder Bednar's The Character of Christ and MANY experiences I've had on my mission I know that through the strength of the Lord natural men and women, like myself can become saints. It's only through the Atonement of Christ that we can be exalted. It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, what language you speak, how much money you have, or what stage of life you are in... the atonement will heal you.

8.) Similar to number 6, from my mission president I have learned that the sooner you let go of your pride the sooner you enjoy your mission. As soon as I decided that LEARNING was more important to me than my fear of messing up... I learned ALL kinds of great things! (Imagine that... what a concept! Haha) "The greatest thing about making a mistake is that you can try again and do it right next time" --Pres. Calderwood

9.) NO EFFORT IS WASTED. Yes, "Success" is great I suppose... but what is SUCCESS, really? The most important thing is not necessarily that you were "successful"... the important thing is that you TRIED. Elder Hogge said something to me in my first transfer that has stuck with me the rest of my mission. And that is, "If you're not failing, you're not trying." Sometimes you just have to have failures. But hey, that means you put in some effort. And effort is where success comes in.

10.) Every soul is great in the sight of God. New York has taught me that it's pretty dang easy to write someone off as "a jerk who is just angry at the world". But in reality, their salvation is no less valuable than mine. Everyone deserves to be treated with the respect, kindness and love, because we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us equally. He sent us to the world to take care of one another... not judge each other. And you know what, some people don't realize that. So those of us who do understand this, should take that as an opportunity to practice what we preach.

I continue to learn things everyday. Yesterday for example:
I was talking with a sweet couple in our ward. They joined the church in El Salvador and have since had 2 children marry in the temple and have a son on a mission!  I found out their second oldest daughter served a mission as well. I didn't actually know they had two daughters... She came back from her mission in 2010 and was diagnosed with cancer only months after returning. She died about a year later. Sister Vasquez explained to me that she couldn't be angry with could she be angry with someone who had given her so much? She said, "She is His daughter too. And He needed a really great missionary to come to the other side of the veil. He chose the best there was."

I really needed that experience yesterday.

And so.... 11.) God truly has a plan. Though it may not make a lot of sense to us right now, we'll understand one day. When tragedies happen and when hard times come we can take comfort in the gospel. And in the fact that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has given us so much to be grateful for.

6 months down. 12 to go.
Love you all so much!
Hermana Tara Franklin

Monday, August 19, 2013

Future Missionaries

Aloha! (My companion is part Hawaiian so that's my little tribute to her...Haha.)

All is good in the Midhood.

Midwood rocks.

We're having so much fun out here and things just keep gettin' better and better everyday!

A story of two "brothers"....

Kevin was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church! A wonderful young boy, 10 years old, the Elders have been working with for the past couple months. Such a sweet kid.

Something that I love about Kevin is that he has impacted his family for eternity. Because of his example and his desire to come to church and be taught by the missionaries, his mom has come back to church after years of inactivity. She's now working toward getting a temple recommend to go to the temple for the first time. I'm so excited for this family.

Jeremiah is a recent convert and he's also 10 years old. One of the smartest kids I've ever met. Sister Jorgensen and I go and visit him and his grandma, Rosie (Also a recent convert) every week.  Jeremiah struggles. Rosie and her husband Eddie have to work A LOT. So Jeremiah spends a lot of time alone, out roaming around and his grandma really worries that he's going to end up in trouble one day.

We planned a lesson for Rosie and Jeremiah based off of the visiting teaching message in the Ensign...but when I saw how much Jeremiah was struggling...I felt very impressed we needed to focus our lesson on him. I opened the Ensign I was holding straight to the story that President Monson shared in his Conference address in April. I shared the story about the matches and accidentally starting a fire and he listened the whole time. We then talked to Jeremiah about how the rules and boundaries that have been set by his grandma are there to keep him safe. He began to cry and gave Rosie a big hug. He said, "Thank you for worrying about me. I know you worry because you want me to do my best. I want to be better."

We all had tears actually. One of the happiest moments I've experienced on my mission!

I also found out about Jeremiah's love for I brought him a sketchbook the next day. Every artist needs a sketchbook. :)

Jeremiah came to the baptism for Kevin on Saturday (the next day) with a "Future Missionary" tag on his shirt. So awesome.

The greatest thing about these two boys is that they are missionaries! And they have invited their families to come unto Christ. "Let no man despise thy youth"! It doesn't matter how old you are. You CAN make a difference. Jeremiah and Kevin have impacted my mission and changed my life. I can see them one day serving as full time missionaries and changing the lives of so many people. We're all connected that way. Heavenly Father is in the details of it all!

Hope your week is full of miracles! Write down 10 things you're grateful for everyday this week. It sure helps me!

Love you all!

Hermana Tara Franklin

Also, my district leader, Elder Erickson has gotten me addicted to crossword puzzles... Never thought I'd see the day. Haha.

This is a picture of Jeremiah and Kevin!

This is a picture of Kevin and my whole district. The camera kind of distorted us... I promise I haven't gained that much weight. I've actually lost like 10 pounds since I left the MTC. But there you go. Haha.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Never Fear Brooklyn is Here


Guess what everyone...(drum roll, please....)
I'm in Midwood! Brooklyn! Still in the city. I was definitely secretly hoping that would be the case. :)

Things are...DIFFERENT out here. In all aspects. This area is a lot quieter, dirtier and well...a lot more Jewish. I've never seen so many Hasidic Jewish people in my life!

The look of all the architecture is super cool and very "Classic old-time New York City". I love it.

The Hispanics are quite scarce out here. Haha. It's been interesting...moving from an area very heavily populated by Hispanics to an area where you really have to search for 'em. We're the only Spanish Speaking district in the whole zone.

I now live in a big apartment complex. Our apartment is right next to the English Sisters...Just so happens that I get to hang out with THE Sister Blossil and my home girl Sister Freeze everyday!! I adore them both.

My new companion is AWESOME. I LOVE HER. Her name is Sister Jorgensen. She's a Hawaiian Bombshell from Alpine, UT with rockin' style. Get this...I actually kind of new her before we came out. She went to High School with my best friend Shelby Frampton! Small Mormon world. We communicated a few times via facebook before I left for the field...She's one transfer behind me. (Looks like I might end up being the Senior Comp for the rest of my missionary days. Haha.)  I can tell she's had it a little rough her first two transfers and I know this companionship was a GREAT change for both of us. Simply awesome. I can't say enough good things about her.

My new ward...Well...It's really struggling. It's nothing like my ward in Queens. We don't really even have a Bishop right now, there's NO ONE investigating and more than half our ward is completely inactive and/or completely forgotten. It's pretty sad. But I KNOW this area has a lot of potential. President talked a lot about the misconception of "tough areas". He told us that EVERY area is what YOU make it. And I truly believe that. I know I can't come in and expect to transform the ward in just one transfer... but I think Sister Jorgensen and I together this transfer are going to be able to make a HUGE difference. I'm so grateful for all I learned about "strengthening the stakes" in my last ward.

There are a lot of really solid, super strong members in this ward as well. They've all welcomed me in with OPEN ARMS. I've never been complimented on my Spanish or on my hair color so much in my entire life...Haha.

Anyway...We've got some big plans for this transfer. And I couldn't be more excited about it.

Just FYI... I live really close to Prospect Park. If you want to get an idea of what kind of area I live in Google Prospect Park. It's GORGEOUS. Queen's parks are a total dump compared to Brooklyn's. Haha.

Love you all! Stay tuned for more pictures and fun stuff next week!

Hermana Tara Franklin

 Back in Astoria with Hermana Laney


Monday, August 5, 2013

Bring It On!

So, first off, this email is bound to be very scattered, and I apologize if you find that you can't understand most of it. I have very little time and SO much to tell you.


First, Graciela and Antonio committed to be baptized! First time I've committed anyone to a baptismal date my whole mission. Their date is set for Sept. 8th. I'm SO happy for them. They are so prepared and so ready. I know there will be plenty of road blocks in the coming weeks but I know Heavenly Father will give them the strength to get through if they continue exercising faith in Him.  Something interesting to know is that he hasn't had any memory since the accident... he forgets things almost instantly. BUT he remembers the church building. And he remembers us missionaries. How amazing is that? I am so grateful to have been a part of their conversion process.

Second...My beautiful Sister Mann is going to Brazil. Finally received her visa! I'm so excited for her...but I'll miss her like crazy. Her next area is TAN LEJOS I'm afraid.

She has been one of the greatest inspirations to me.  She's just beautiful in every way. I would honestly call her one of my BEST friends. I know the people of Brazil really need her spirit and her powerful I guess I'll share her with them. Haha. Bon Voyage my beauty! Hasta Verte!

Another BIG feature of the week...I don't know if I've mentioned in previous emails that all the missionaries in my area, along with all the various wards we serve in put together a music fireside about the life of Christ called "For God So Loved The World". We've been planning and preparing for it for the entire transfer. Everything was pretty much set to go... until the chapel flooded last week.

We had no idea what we were going to do... we couldn't cancel it, and we couldn't change locations... because we had handed out way too many invitations and had advertised for it all over Queens.

We concluded that we would have to move it to the gym in other building (The Woodside Stake Center consists of two buildings). EVERYTHING, all classes, meeting, etc. had to be moved to the other building temporarily.  Our fireside was no exception.  I was so devastated. I feared the quality of the fireside would just drop a ton due to the terrible acoustics and less than appealing appearance of the gym. "All our plans down the toilet" was kind of my feeling about the whole situation. We readjusted everything to work in the gym and then hoped it wouldn't be awful.

I couldn't have been more wrong about it not being all we hoped it would be! It was INCREDIBLE. Last night was the best night of my mission up to this point. It turns out that the fireside NEEDED to be in the gym because the chapel wouldn't have fit all the people who showed up. There was a huge turn out from all 3 wards and LOTS of nonmembers... there were a few people who just walked in off the street "because they felt like they should". It went so smoothly and the music was BEAUTIFUL. The spirit was so strong and all the missionaries have some new people interested in being taught because of what they felt last night. How incredible! Music really is the universal language.

The Mission President came to me afterward and said, "Good work here Sister Franklin. This is what it's all about."

EVERY bit of stress and work was worth it.

What a great way to spend my last night in Woodside!

Yep. That's right. I'm out. I'm being transferred to a new area tomorrow morning. No idea where. It came as a HUGE shock to the ward and all the other missionaries in the area. It was anticipated I'd be here till Thanksgiving... 6 transfers like all the other sister missionaries who start in Woodside. (Literally, ALL the other sister missionaries who start in Woodside have stayed 6 transfers.) I guess I never was one to "stick with the crowd"... always liked starting my own trends. Haha.

But honestly I feel at peace. It was tough to say goodbye to everyone and I'll miss the people here more than anything. But I know I left the area stronger than I found it. And I'm most definitely, absolutely leaving stronger than I was when I came. And isn't that what this is all about, being FOREVER CHANGED? Yeah. All is well. :)

Woodside will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart. And I know I'll be back someday. :)

I'll sure miss singing with Elder Hogge. I'm going to try to get a recording of the song we sang for the fireside last night at some point and have it sent home. Y'all would love it. Elder Van Mondfrans is out too... If I'm super lucky we'll end up in the same district somewhere else... Doubtful. Haha, but one can hope.

I wanted to let you know that I've never been happier. Truly. What a great time to be serving the Lord! I am so blessed to be here in this mission. This is such a unique place! There isn't a single mission in the world like it.

I can't thank you enough for the sacrifices that I know were made for me to be here. I can only say that I'm making every day count and making sure those sacrifices are worth it! I promise that if you could see the person I am now you would feel that all those years I was so tough to live with were worth all the pain. Haha! Heavenly Father sure helps you be humble when you're a missionary. ;)

 Gracias por todo. I love you and pray for you!! 
(Keep Graciela and Antonio in your prayers!)

LOVE you all, Hermana Franklin

Here's a picture of me with President and his wife and daughter after the fireside.