Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's the Spirit

Last preparation day with Sister Opeda! We went and got cookie dough blizzards to celebrate one year!
No matter who we are, what we have, what our background or culture may be, we all have the gift of time here on this earth. Each of us has 24 hours in one day--what a miracle.  God has given us time to learn, grow, develop, one of the gifts made possible by the Atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  This gift, as with all of His gifts, is made available to each of us.  This morning I was so powerfully impacted by the way three women, three of our sisters, three of His daughters have been using this time so preciously given to them.
In quoting Elaine S. Dalton, Cici shared, "One young woman touched by the Spirit can change the world."  

Today has been off to such a beautiful start.  I've decided that there just never is any room for any negativity--there is too much to be grateful for; we are children of God.

Cici, Reeve and Lolly are three world class golfers who compete professionally in golf around the world.  Cici is from Norway, Reeve is from Zimbabwe and Lolly is from South Africa. This morning, out of all the places in the world they could be, they came and spoke to us in our humble basement offices of the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. These women came with a desire to uplift, to inspire, to motivate, and they left with the tears of 200 sister missionaries dampening their shoulders from the hugs they stayed to give and receive from each of us. Cici, Reeve and Lolly together have founded "Eyes for Zimbabwe" which provides cataract operations for thousands of people in Zimbabwe every year to receive their sight. As it started with this primary purpose, it grew to be an organization that just sought to provide for people in general, with whatever needs they may have.

Our eyes filled with tears as we watched videos of these people in Zimbabwe having bandages removed from their eyes, and frowns removed from their faces...only to see smiles leap across their faces; they could see. I cried as I saw picture after picture of Reeve's nephew taking off his own shoes, his own shirt to give them to the young boys he played with in the dirt roads of Africa. I felt such a tangible and powerful love as I then thought of our investigator, Anderson, so far away in Nigeria, walking to church each Sunday with his Bible, The Book of Mormon, his pamphlets about the restoration, the Plan of Salvation as well as his strength of youth pamphlet in hand--all provided by the Bishop and members where he lives. Such a strong spirit came over me as I thought of the influence we can all have for so much good.  I thought of the people who have touched my life and given me guidance in every way.

With Cici from Norway--I am SO grateful for everything they shared!

She then went on to say, "We may not change the entire world, but when touched by the spirit, we will change the world of that one person."

How true that really is. This last week, one very young woman and her siblings changed the world of me, my companion, her family and everyone who walked by.

Monday night, Sister Opeda and I had just a short amount of time left before we would need to grab our things to head home for the night.  After sitting and talking with a woman by the shell fountain here on temple square, Sister Opeda felt impressed that we needed to walk towards the North Visitor's center, and we did so without hesitation.  As we started to walk, from far off we could see a spread out, beautiful family--the White family from Colorado. There, in the shadow of the temple was little Lucy, spinning around by the flagpole, little Ian running to and fro from his siblings to his mom, Atticus taking everything in, and then there was one...there was Avaree, just 8 years old, crying by her Mom.

From a distance it could seem that Avaree was crying because someone had perhaps been mean to her, or picked on her, but as we got closer we saw that really a miracle of the Lord was taking place.
We knelt down next to this sweet young girl you just cried looking from us, to her mom, to the temple and back.

"Aww, sweet girl," we said, "why are you crying?"

She looked at us, tears filling her eyes and dropping to the sacred grounds and said something that will never leave me.

"I feel the Holy Ghost," she choked back her tears and then bawled out, "and it feels amazing!"

I have never experienced something like that in all my life.  Here was sweet young Avaree, just recently baptized and had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.  We both cried and just stared into her eyes with awe.
"What does it feel like, Avaree?" we asked.

With a big smile and her arms wrapped around her she said, "It just feels like a big hug."

Looking around there wasn't a single eye that wasn't wet with tears.  I was brought back to the memories I have of my own baptism.  I remember so vividly going down into the water, coming up and just being the happiest I have ever been.  I remember hands being laid on my head and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and feeling that big, warm hug that she so powerfully testified of. Her brother Atticus went on to share that he was feeling the very same thing.

How real the power of the Holy Ghost is in our lives.  It is not just a feeling, it is divine intervention, it is when heaven and earth are brought together.  
Closing up West Gate last night!
It's the Spirit that has let me know where I need to be each day, each moment.  It's the Spirit that has let me know that I needed to serve a mission.  It is the Spirit that has made this precious gift of time a miracle to be preserved and remembered.  It is the Spirit that has touched the hearts of people around the world whether they be in Colorado, Africa, Norway or Salt Lake City, Utah, and how grateful I am to be reminded each time I feel the Spirit, that my Father in Heaven, my Savior Jesus Christ, are guiding me, and helping each of us, return to live with them again.

I love you all!!!

SHOUTOUTS: Dad & Mom, Robert Donakey, Makelle Wood, Jessica Helm, Grandfather & Grandma Jeanie, Brother & Sister Donakey, Mary, Becca, Sara, COURTNEY ( from Ivy's lesson on Temple Square!), the White family

Sister Briggs

Friday, May 23, 2014

Today Marks One Year

May 22, 2014--I don't know what there is to say about today that would make it any different from any other day.  I am enlisted in the errand of angels. Elder Clarke today, of the Seventy, spoke to the "leaders" in the mission today about what we should be doing once we go home.  He said that the greatest success will come from finding the world needs, finding what our aptitudes are, and when those two aspects come together, we will love the work and we will be happy.

Well May 22, 2013--that was a very special day, it was the day I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT. It was the day that I started to understand that what the world needs most isn't engineers, it isn't businessmen, it isn't even public relations (which I was studying at BYU).  What the world needs most is the gospel of Jesus Christ. What the world needs most is for each collective family, each culture, each nation, each group of people to be looked at for the individuals they are.  Do we know the struggles our neighbors are enduring?  Do we know the heartaches our co-workers feel?  Do we know the anxious desire our teachers feel to help those they teach be successful?

More importantly than all of this, what I came to truly ponder 1 year ago today, from my bunk bed in the MTC, is do we know, feel or truly understand the way our Savior sees us?  This past week as I walked day after day by the Christus statue in the North Visitor's Center, I saw something that I had always seen, but never fully understood or comprehended.

In the room where the Christus is, the statue of Jesus Christ is surrounded by beautiful paintings of the stars, the galaxies, the moon and the earth--all of these, creations of Him.  I think of myself as a little girl.  I think of the finger paintings I created, the doodles I destroyed and the pens that I smudged.  I think of the pride and joy I felt in showing them to my parents.  Can you relate? :) Now, can you imagine if you had created the stars? Do you think you may be pretty excited to show those to others?  To point them out?  Think about how many people each night, around the world, look up to the stars each night and wonder what's out there.  Think of how many people have wished on a shooting star.  Think of the people who have found solace and safety in following the north star to find their way home. The stars have become a beacon for all mankind.

Yes, Jesus Christ created the stars, but these stars aren't even His work or His glory.  In this room with the statue of Jesus Christ, He is not looking at the stars, the galaxies, the moon, like we may easily do if we had created them. No, He is looking upon each and every soul that He has created.  We are number one to Him, we are His priority. Think about what that says about who we are. In the words of the hymn, I truly do stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me.

This past week as I recognized this, I was blessed beyond measure to meet a 16 year old girl with the same focus not on the stars, but on Him.

Katherine is one of our sisters who truly has not used the stars to find her way home, but she has followed her Savior.  Katherine and her mom called into about 3 weeks ago for copies of The Book of Mormon.  I had them mailed to them and then asked to be able to stay in touch.  It has been difficult to get in touch with them, but the Lord always has His way with timing.

We met Katherine for the first time this last week.  She is a 16-year-old cheerleader at one of the local high schools who shared that she felt her first glimpse of real, true and lasting joy at her cousin's mission farewell.
"'She just looked so happy," she said. "She had always been a bubbly girl, but when she talked about Jesus Christ, when she talked about being a missionary, there was a whole new added light that just glowed from her, and I wanted to know that for myself."

"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

In Matthew 5:14-16 we can read that this light really does come from serving and following our Savior Jesus Christ. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

We wondered if Katherine could see that that very same light beamed so brightly from within her.  As we took her up to the Christus, I truly began to understand on a deeper level why her light was so bright. 
When we took her up to the Christus, there seemed to be absolute chaos all around.  We sat next to Katherine on the benches, shared our testimonies of Christ's abiding love, His power to overcome all that we seek to be far from and the joy that comes from knowing Him through living His gospel.  Sister Opeda and I walked over to the side to play the short narration called, "The words of Christ," and I experienced something that so powerfully overcame me, all I could do was stand there and feel the tears slowly stream from each eye.
Katherine felt nothing from the rush of people around her.  She wasn't distracted by the flashing cameras, the irreverent pointing and laughing. No, her eyes remained steadfast on Christ.  Never once during those short minutes did she look from side to side.  Her eyes were on Christ.  As we came and sat by her once more, we were able to invite her to keep her eyes fixed on the Savior, to follow Him and to be baptized by the authority of God.  She accepted, and her light beamed even brighter than I had before seen. Katherine to me on that day was a living example of a scripture found in The Book of Mormon in the book of Alma.

"And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live..."
Brothers and Sisters, out of everything that Jesus Christ created, He has given His entire life, everything He has made to show us that we are His most important creations.  I so testify that when we look to Him, when we focus on Him, we won't just live, breathing moment by moment.  Through searching Him out, we won't simply breath, but we will live, and what beautiful and fulfilling lives they will be!

This week I have decided not to send home any pictures, but rather invite you to search for your favorite photos of the Savior, to look to Him and to live.  I love you all so very much.  Thank you for everything!

Sister Briggs

SHOUTOUTS: Mom & Dad, Robert Donakey, The Donakey Family, Sister Pickerell, Jessica Helm, Caroline Slater, Grandma Jeanie, Makelle Wood

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remembering in Nigeria

(So sorry for the delay, the blogmom has been out of town for a week.  I'll post Kelsey's update from today soon!)
Me and my new companion, Sister Opeda, on the far right! Sister Ordnahl in the middle is so wonderful too!

Hello again every one! It is the start of a new transfer which brings with it a new opportunity to learn, a new opportunity to grow and a new opportunity to become more like our Elder Brother, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. What an exciting time this is! As I look back on the past transfer with Sister Gearheart there is so much to remember.  I remember first meeting her after arriving back from serving in Reno, Nevada. I remember her kindness, I remember her faith, I remember her testimony.  I remember the miracles we saw as we served at Temple Square.  I remember nights of laying in my bed at night in awe of the tender mercies and grand examples of the Lord's involvement in our lives and the lives of each and every individual and family we have been able to teach.  
Fun zone activity last week bowling!

In a talk I recently read, it boldly claimed that "remember" is the most important word in the dictionary.  As we read through the Holy Scriptures, we can see how quick we are to forget, how quick we are to stumble, and how quick we are to lay by the wayside.  Brothers and Sisters, there is great power in remembering. 

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yes, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?" (Alma 5:6)

Think of the joy we feel on Mother's Day, because we sufficiently retain in remembrance that which our Mothers have done for us.  Think of the joy we feel during Christmas because we sufficiently retain in remembrance our Savior as well as those we love.  Celebrating various holidays need not be necessary to remember, but as we actively remember, each day will be celebrated.

Imagine what would happen to the world if we each day took the time to sufficiently retain in remembrance what the creations around us mean.  When we look at the flowers, the trees, the mountains and meadows, can we remember that there is a living God who created these solely for us?  What would happen if we each day took the time to sufficiently retain in remembrance what great joy we felt when we repented and felt forgiveness from our sins. When we look at how far we've come and the progress we have made, can we remember Jesus Christ who made this redemptive progression possible? Do we understand what powerful joy there is in remembrance?
At Valerie's baptism this weekend she remembered so powerfully who she really is as a daughter of God.

This week, Sister Gearheart and I were able to remember Nigeria and through that, remember that God remembers each of His children around the world as well.

This past week we received an inbound call from a man named Anderson who lives in Nigeria.  We were so overjoyed and felt overwhelmed with the blessing of being able to teach him all the way from our small cubicle in the basements of Temple Square. He expressed a desire to change, a desire to follow Christ, a desire for a new life.

The next time we called Anderson we felt prompted to sing for him over the phone.  We prayerfully felt that "Joseph Smith's First Prayer" was the song we needed to sing.  As Sister Gearheart and I sang, a spirit filled our room in Salt Lake, and that same powerful Spirit filled the room in a home in distant Nigeria. After we sang there was a pause.

 Remember Leslye? She was baptized this weekend because she remembered the many impressions she has felt throughout her life
"Sisters," Anderson said, "I can feel it in your hearts, I can feel it in my heart. I will never forget you because you are the people who bring me closer to Christ."

Tears filled our eyes, and awe and wonder filled my heart and mind as to why God would allow us to be on the front line to witness so many of His miracles throughout the world. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my mission, and yet then it became something even more.
Remember Coach Mark?  It was so nice to be included on his special day.  
"Sisters, yes, hello?" There came another voice, a different voice. "Hello, my name is Innocent and I am friends with Anderson. I too heard your singing and I too will always remember you because now I remember Jesus Christ and what He has done for me."
Our amazing district from the last transfer! I can never forget all they taught me!
Brothers and Sisters, the Holy Ghost has more power than we often give Him credit for.  He is the third member of the Godhead, He is sent to bring all things to our remembrance.  We will sufficiently retain all things of heaven in our remembrance as we listen and yield to the Holy Ghost. What a vast world we live in, and yet through the Holy Ghost, we were able to each remember our Redeemer who brought us together that day.  In remembering Him during those moments of song, Anderson, Innocent, Sister Gearheart and I were able to remember that these two men truly are our brothers.  Let remembering start in your hearts, let the Spirit guide you to remember your Savior, God's plan for us through His infinite Atonement, and remember that He is over all the world.  We are remembering this in Nigeria :)

I love you all and pray that this week is full of tender mercies that you will not forget to remember. Keep them in your minds, and let them become engraved on your hearts! 

Sister Briggs
We were so excited to have such delicious milk shakes! 

Fun time at Iceberg with our district sisters!

SHOUTOUTS: Mom & Dad Briggs, Brother & Sister Donakey, Robert Donakey, Mary, Becca, Sara, Barry, Grandmother, Grandfather & Grandma Jeanie.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Jerrell the Lamanite

 Sister Gearheart and I after our miracle day with Jerrell..we too couldn't help but smile,
and it all started with faith!

Happy Mother's Day this upcoming Sunday to all the mother's to be and the mothers in the world! I want to express my gratitude for my own mother, Cindy Briggs, and for the mother figures I have had in my life.  As a missionary in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square mission, the only mission in the entire world that only calls Sisters, I have experienced daily the influence of righteous women.  They are around the world as a light to the nations that all may find their Savior. I think of the righteous woman Mary must have been to become the mother of the Savior of the world.  I thank her for her example and that she taught with love.  Most importantly, I know she taught by the spirit, teaching that which was put into her mind and heart to say.  It is through this spirit which she carried and relied on that our Savior was able to thin the veil placed on his memory and remember the divine role which He has in the lives of all mankind. I can imagine our Savior at his Mary's feet as He admirably served her and loved her.

As the Savior may have sat at the feet of Mary, she experienced wonder and awe seeing before her the Son of God. Now, at the feet of our Savior we experience the hope of eternity. At the feet of the Savior is where we may be taught by the same spirit that He Himself was taught by as a child, and that He further taught to all mankind during His mortal ministry.

Just yesterday, Jerrell saw that when he sat at the feet of His Savior just over 1 week ago, he was really taking a step towards feeling this hope of eternity.  Just yesterday, Jerrell experienced that Christ's role is so much more than just a standing and waiting Savior with open arms as may appear at the Christus statue at Temple Square, but that His role is an active, engaged, beckoning one that is all inclusive, and that even more personally, it includes him and his family.

Sister Gearheart and I were so blessed to be able to meet Jerrell up at the Christus yesterday and to teach them here at Temple Square.  Jerrell had an amazing experience with his first time at church this past Sunday.  This amazing, 28-year-old man, followed the promptings of the Spirit to leave the dangerous situation where he was and to take his family with him to Utah.  After many struggles here and feeling as though he has taken many unguided steps in the dark, he expressed that at church is where he finally felt he had come home.
There in front of the Christus statue we gave him his own copy of The Book of Mormon.  The smile that came across was completely indescribable.  It was a living testimony of one of my favorite quotes from one of our living Apostles of our Savior Jesus Christ
"In a world ever more dangerous...the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ has the nourishing power to heal starving spirits of the world." (President Boyd K. Packer).

As we walked down to the basement of the North Visitor's Center, I watched Jerrell hold onto The Book of Mormon like it was the key to his protection. Jerrell really has been in some dangerous situations with his two young children.  He has been ridiculed, chased after and left frightened for his children and for himself.  He often dreads sending his kids away to school for fear of what may come. We repeatedly promised him as representatives of Jesus Christ that him and his family would be kept safe as they lived the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our member with us, Claudia, one of his good friends, shared with us that she is always testifying of that to Jerrell as well, that she has never felt something so powerfully about anyone; we all could feel that he would always be kept safe, but he hadn't received that witness yet for himself. Fear still lingered.

He held The Book of Mormon in his hands ever so carefully, and his love for it grew as his understanding of it developed.  Down in the basement among the powerful visuals of ancient prophets such as Noah, Moses and Abraham, as well as prominent visuals of Jesus Christ we saw his eyes open wide with fervent attention to every word and everything around him.

"Jerrell, when our Savior was crucified and the Apostles were killed, the fulness of His gospel was mixed throughout time," we said. "His truth was scattered through out the world, and people walked in darkness looking for that priesthood power which was once here, but which was taken away." As we explained the Great Apostasy, a feeling of sadness overcame him.  More than anyone I have met, he has felt the anxiety of searching for something without knowing where to look.  He has felt the hole of wanting for what was not fully there. As we then explained the Restoration, a light literally went off inside his eyes; his whole countenance changed.

We LOVE living with Sister Lunndahl (Denmark) and Sister Wu (mainland China)
When Sister Gearheart recited the first vision, a profound spirit entered our lesson.  There was silence, a deep breath, and then the first words from Jerrell, "Wow. I found it."

We talked about The Book of Mormon and how it would strengthen the spirit he now felt and continually testify to him that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith was called as His latter-day prophet to restore that which was lost for so long. He looked at The Book of Mormon with such an anxiousness to open and start.  The prompting came to me, "tell him to just open The Book of Mormon, there's something on that page he needs to hear."  Our amazing member who was there for the lesson started to share her testimony of The Book of Mormon.

The spirit pounded on my heart once more as she said, "I can't tell you how many times I've just opened this book, and exactly what I needed to hear was right on that page."

The prompting came again, "Sister Briggs, trust me, and trust his faith.  Tell him to open his book and look."
Taking a deep breath and with faith in the Lord, "Jerrell," I started, "We know that if you open your copy of The Book of Mormon right now, there is something the Lord wants to say to you.  He hears your prayers and wants to know it for yourself."

Without hesitation Jerrell opened his copy of The Book of Mormon and started to read.  He told us the page and immediately as we opened up to it, a verse beamed from the page.
"Jerrell, look at verse 2 in chapter 16 of Helaman," we said. Slowly, we read the words of God's inspired message to him.  Brothers and Sisters, think about Jerrell's situation as you read this verse. The verse talks about the boldness of Samuel the Lamanite as he preached from on top of a great wall in the midst of a city and was threatened by many.

"But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall; but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows." (Helaman 16:2)

Tears filled Jerrells eyes.  The Spirit that penetrated each of our hearts made us each look heavenward for a moment to thank God for the way He so diligently directs our lives. The fear that once lingered in the Jerrell's heart was now taken away through His Savior and through the powerful message from His loving Heavenly Father.

"I've never seen you smile so much,Jerrell," Claudia said.

"I've never felt so much," Jerrell responded.

I will forever remember this scripture every time I look at Jerrell, every time I look at someone who fears, and every time I first meet someone at their Savior's feet here at Temple Square.  Our future is bright when we let the Holy Ghost lead us to the messages God would have us hear.

Jerrell left Temple Square that day with a power that could only come from knowing he was so much more than just a man, he was Jerrell the Lamanite, and God would not allow him to be harmed as he continued on this path.

Jerrell, our Lamanite, will be baptized May 24th by the Priesthood Authority of God and he will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Now every day, he may smile with the love he feels and the hope he has found.
I invite you all to follow the whisperings of the spirit this week.  Pay attention to them, and you will feel just how much God pays attention to you.

Sister Briggs

SHOUTOUTS: April & Hunter (are you keeping your commitments? haha we love you!), Mom & Dad, Brother & Sister Donakey, Barry, Mary, Becca, Robert Donakey (happy birthday this week! I love you!), Brother & Sister Gilbert (it was so nice to see you! Seth-I hope the wedding was fun! Kelly & Taylor-miss you, Reagan--have fun in China!), Sister Lin