Monday, February 23, 2015

This is it (23/2 email)

Wow. I don't really know what to say. It hasn't really sunk in that this is the last time I will sit here in a library in England emailing as a missionary haha! I wish that I had something deep and profound to share with you all, but my mind is all jumbled!

I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the Preston temple one last time before I leave. Oh how I love the temple! The peace that I felt when I walked in through those doors was so needed. The last few weeks have been difficult for me, I don't know why I expected it to be easy, and I can see how Heavenly Father had a few more things He wanted to teach me that I wasn't going to learn through having it easy. I came to the temple with a lot on my mind and seeking guidance and direction from the Lord. I'm the kind of person that finds it difficult to make decisions and if I had it my way, I would want God to just tell me specifically everything I should do... that might sound a bit silly but honestly I would love for it to be that way haha! But that's not the way He works. God gave us our agency and with it our opportunities are endless! There are so many choices we can make! Good ones, bad ones, and some more important than others. I find myself at a point in my life where I have a lot of choices to make, and it's a bit overwhelming! I came away from the temple finally realising that I need to stop asking Heavenly Father to tell me what to do and to embrace the gift of agency He has given me. The truth is there is not one specific set out path of destiny for me but rather I can choose from many paths that will lead to happiness. I still haven't figured everything out, but I'm a lot calmer and confident about my future now. I know that as I choose to do something, and go forward with it, continually praying to Heavenly Father, that He will guide me. They key is to move forward in faith. We can't just sit at the starting line and expect Heavenly Father to move us forward. We need to take the first step... and then the next one and the next, and pretty soon we will be running and the guidance will come because we exercised our faith. It can be scary but I now know that this is the way Heavenly Father works and I am excited to start the next chapter of the rest of my life :D

This Wednesday I'll be giving my departing testimony. I've been trying to think of some pearls of wisdom to share, but the more I try and plan it out the more I feel like I should just go with the spirit and say what comes into my mind and heart when I'm in that moment. The truth is, there just aren't adequate words to describe my mission. Anything that I come up with doesn't do it justice. It is the hardest thing and the best thing I've ever done. I feel like Heavenly Father has been right there by my side the whole time, even when I was at my lowest point, He was right there... waiting for me to turn to Him so he could lift me up and teach me an important lesson. And I'm not going to lie, there have been a lot trials, a lot of tears and a lot of difficult things to overcome, but I am more than grateful for each and everyone of them. It is because of those trials that I have truly come to know my Heavenly Father and my brother Jesus Christ. I want to echo the words of Jeffery R Holland: 
"I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?"

My mission wasn't easy, but it was so, so worth it. I have been blessed beyond that which I deserve. My heart has been filled with more love than I thought it was possible to hold and my eyes have truly been opened to see things more clearly. I feel like a mission is like a mini "life" when you get to the end, it won't be about the amount of things you did, it will be about who you have become. And if my mission has helped me to become even a little bit more like our Saviour, then it was definitely worth it.

I just want to thank you all for your love and support, and I'll be seeing you soon!
All my love, Sister Riley.

My departing group at the temple

Monday, February 16, 2015

Charity (16/2 email)

"While we don't choose all that lands on our plates, we may choose some of the trimmings. Laughter is a condiment that makes just about anything go down better." - Elaine Jack

I read this quote this week and I loved it. We can't choose everything that will happen to us in life, but we can choose to be happy... come what may and love it. This week has been hard. I'm not going to go into details of everything, but I just wanted to share with you what I have learnt from it all. 

As we went round visiting people this week, the message that we shared was about charity from Moroni 7:45

And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

This scripture has sunk deep into my heart, and I am coming to understand more what it really means to have charity. Charity is a gift from God. It's not something we can achieve or earn, it's something that we are blessed with as we pray for it and serve with all our hearts. In the bible dictionary it says that Charity is the purest, noblest form of love, and I feel that it is a love that the English language doesn't have adequate words to describe. When I read this scripture, certain people I have met throughout my life come to my mind. People who are truly living examples of charity. When we have charity, it becomes a part of who we are. Serving becomes second nature to us and we love to serve because of the love we have for God and those around us. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary and to serve every day. As my mission nears to an end, I can't help but feel a deep sadness because of how amazing it has been, and the thought of leaving it behind is hard to accept. But I realise now that although it won't be exactly the same when I come home, I can still experience the same joy that comes from sharing the gospel and serving. And that gives me a lot of comfort. That makes it not so bad. 

We had a mission activity day where we got to watch the church produced film "Meet the Mormons" I just loved it so much! I cried and cried especially when they showed the story of the "Missionary Mom"; it hit a little to close to home for me. The film just really made me reflect on my life and the decisions I will make and who I want to be. More than anything else I want to bless the lives of others. I know that true happiness comes when we stop thinking about ourselves and serve others, and that is what I want to do for the rest of my life. My mission has really opened my eyes and helped me to see things in an eternal perspective... to see what things matter the most, and I am so grateful for the important lessons I've learned.

I just want to bear my testimony that I KNOW that God is real. It's not just a belief, I know it... with everything that makes me who I am today. He is our loving Heavenly Father. He created us in his image and we have divine potential . We chose to come to this Earth before we were born. We knew that life on earth would be hard, but that we would learn, grow and develop in ways that were not possible if we had stayed in our Heavenly home. God knew that there would be problems and obstacles in life that we as humans could not overcome by ourselves, so he provided a way for us. He sent his son Jesus Christ to the Earth. Jesus Christ is not a fictional character. He lived on this earth once, and he will come again. He set the perfect example for us. He suffered and died for us... not only to pay the price for our sins but so we could have someone to turn to when we are suffering. He is the only one who can understand us perfectly because He knows exactly what we are going through. Every pain, every illness, every fear, every heartache. He's been there. What peace and comfort this brings. To know that we are not alone. Even when we are in the depths of despair, he can rescue us. There is great purpose for our suffering in life. We could not become who we are designed to be if we didn't have hard times. I know that God has restored his church and gospel in all its fullness to the earth, through a prophet. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and it was written for you and me. I love this book. It has helped me to know and understand about God, Jesus Christ and the plan of happiness that they have for us. I know that death is not the end. We will be reunited with those we love. If we choose to follow the example of Christ, we can live together in eternal peace and happiness. I know these things are true because the Holy Ghost has testified to my heart that they are true. The Holy Ghost is how we can know the truth of all things. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sister Jade Riley

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The spirit speaks every language (9/2 email)

Hi everyone!

The work has been a bit slow this week... none of our investigators were able to meet with us, but we did get to visit with a lot of members and less-actives. We baked cookies and dropped them off for a few people, and it's such a good feeling to see how happy it makes people.

I went to the chiropractor, and I didn't know that my body could crack that much! Haha! It was crazy! But it did help a lot... I was getting to the point where I was in constant pain, but It's not too bad now.

Yesterday after church, Angela and Dave Friend had us round for lunch and they made us chicken parmis! Ahhh! Haven't had a parmi since being in England, so it was pretty good! We left their house very well fed, and went to visit Gyozo, the Hungarian man that we read the Book of Mormon with... He comes out with 2 big plates full of food for us and I was gonna die! I don't know how I got through it... he even refilled my plate half way through! So after eating, we read from the Book of Mormon. Gyozo's English is very bad, and it's very hard to communicate with him... so our appointments with him are literally just him reading the Book of Mormon in English out loud, and us helping him with his pronunciation. We tried saying a prayer with him once but it was very awkward and uncomfortable because he had no idea what was going on... anyways here is the best part! Before we left he types something into google translator and it says "round blessing" we look at him and say "no understand". He types something else and it says "can you say a prayer?" Oh it was so sweet! We said "yes of course!!" and said a prayer! He had the biggest smile on his face! I know that reading the Book of Mormon brings the spirit, and the spirit speaks all languages! Gyozo's English is improving and his heart is being softened because of the power of the Book of Mormon :)

Yesterday, in sacrament meeting, I had a wonderful, spiritual moment as we sung the sacrament hymn " I stand all amazed". Instead of just singing the hymn, I really thought about the words I was singing and the spirit filled my heart. As I listened to the prayers and partook of the bread and water, my thoughts were full of deep gratitude for the Saviour. It's hard to comprehend the Love He has for us, that He would go what He went through because He loves us all so much. It truly is wonderful what He did! and the chance that we have each week to start over... what a blessing! I want everytime I take the sacrament to be like that. 

Love you all so much!
xoxo Sister Riley
1 Cor 2:9

I'm so lucky

Sister Sika loves cats
English breakfast

Monday, February 2, 2015

Let it snow! (2/2 email)

Exciting news! I saw proper, white and fluffy, stays on the ground snow this week! Woke up on Friday morning and there was a blanket of it over everything! I was so happy!

In other news, this week we visited Janet, Terry & Claire and Gyozo (a Hungarian man who we read the Book of Mormon with) and they are all doing well. 

We celebrated Australia day with snags on the 'barbie' (George foreman grill) and Tim Tam slams. In the evening we visited Dave and Angela Friend. Some of you may know them because they were living in Lyndoch for a few months last year! They were in the Playford ward! Small world huh! Anyways they were the closest people to Aussies and we talked all things Aussie with them for a little bit. It was nice :)

Other happenings... A member taught us how to knit! 
The Zone Leaders gave an unforgettable object lesson where they threw a perfectly good cake on the ground (HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GROUND!)
Last night, we went to the missionary fireside and it was the BEST. I got to see Ted, Katarina and Rebecca, and it just made me so happy!

I just want you all to know that GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS! It might take a long time, but he really does answer them. My family have been praying for something for a very long time, and our prayers have been answered. I am beyond happy. I was reading in the Book of Mormon this morning and read a scripture that really shows that after years of praying for something, God will bless you with it when the time is right.

In Ether 1:43 "...And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me."

Just because we might not be getting the things that we are praying for, doesn't mean that God isn't listening! keep praying! sometimes certain things have to happen before he can grant us the things we are asking for.

Have a great week!
xoxo Sister Riley.

At the missionary fireside

Monday, January 26, 2015

G'day (26/1 email)

G'day! Happy Australia Day!

Sister Sika and I sung the National Anthem this morning and I must say that I was feeling very happy to be an Aussie haha! You don't realise how much you love something until you are away from it!
We've made plans to get together as a district today to have a BBQ and go to the beach haha! We also have some tim tams and vegemite that we will share :P

The work has been slow this week, but some good things are happening! We have been meeting with Janet who joined the church in her teens but had her name removed from church records in her 20s. She still has a testimony and the spirit is so strong when we meet with her. I can honestly say that the lessons with her are the most powerful I've had on my mission, and by the end we're all crying! I just feel so strongly that this is her time and she will join the church again.

We visited Terry and Claire again, the Christians that we met tracting last week, and they were so happy to see us again! They love talking about Jesus, but when we tried to add to their beliefs with what we know to be true through modern revelation and the Book of Mormon, they politely rejected it. It's sad because if they would just open their hearts I know they would embrace it because this IS the Gospel of Jesus Christ! It's not the gospel of Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon is not a book made up by him. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and anyone who reads it can find that out for themselves. So we are a bit stuck on what to do with them, but I know that Heavenly Father will help us.

On Wednesday we went to a funeral of someone from the St Helens ward that I didn't get to meet, but by the things that were said, he seemed like a great man. Funerals are always sad, but there was a wonderful feeling in the church, a feeling of peace and a reassurance that we will be re-united with the ones we have lost. As I was sitting at the funeral, I started thinking about my funeral... not the nicest of thoughts I know but it just made me think... what will people say about me when I die? This man's friends and family had only the most wonderful things to say about him and I hope that I can live my life in a way that it will be the same for me. We never know when our time on earth will end, but if we live each day as if it were our last, I believe that we will truly be happy and get the most out of life. I know with all my heart that God lives. He has a plan for us. Part of that plan was that we would come to earth, to gain knowledge and experiences, so we can learn and grow and become better. I know that when we die our spirit goes back to the God who created us, and we can be with our loved ones forever. The reason why we don't like endings and goodbyes is because we are eternal beings! 

In my study this morning I was reading in True to the Faith about Temples and I just wanted to share this with you:

"All we do in the church - our meetings and activities, our missionary efforts, the lessons we teach and the hymns we sing - should point us to the Saviour and the work we do in Holy Temples."
"Sometimes you may feel that you cannot think clearly because your mind is so burdened with problems and the many things clamouring for your attention. In the temple, the dust of these distractions can settle, the fog and haze can lift, and you can understand things that you have not understood before. You can find new ways to deal with the challenges you face."

I know that the Temple is the House of the Lord, and it should be our highest priority to go there as much as we can. I love that quote, because it is so true. The temple is the place where we will feel closest to God and we are promised that we will leave endowed with power from on high. God loves us so much. He has so many wonderful blessings prepared for us. I invite you to take a look at your life and your priorities. I know that as you put the Lord first, everything else will work out.

All my love, Sister Riley.

Sister Sika and me on Australia Day

Monday, January 19, 2015

St Helens (19/1 email)

One Sister from Adelaide, one from Sydney, living on Melbourne Street :)
It sounds like the beginning of a joke haha!

I am just so happy to be here! I've been a bit all over the place to be honest this past week, but I'm finally settling in and getting to know the members and the area. I just want to give it all I've got left! 

I have learnt so much on my mission and I just want to apply it all in my last transfer! I know that the key to success in building up a ward is to unite with the members and for the members to find us people to teach... I've known this my whole mission but never really been able to see it happen... I'm determined to make it happen here in st Helens! I want to be bold with these members! I want them to see that they can't just sit around waiting for other people to do missionary work! We could be out there all day finding during this transfer, but I've done that my whole mission and there's a better way! I'm not going to leave them alone til they give us referrals haha! 

We went tracting this week and we'd almost got through a whole street with no-one answering the door... we were a bit discouraged and doubting if it was an effective use of time... but I remembered that God always blesses extra effort and that the miracle always comes when you're about to give up, so we knocked the next door and someone let us in! That's a miracle in itself! I can probably count the number of times that's happened on one hand! It was a young couple who have a strong belief in Jesus Christ. They were so nice, and so happy to have someone to talk to that shared their belief. Although they were a bit apprehensive about the Book of Mormon, they want us to come back, and Sister Sika and I were on cloud 9 when we left their home! Speaking of clouds, as soon as we left it started snowing! It was magical! Haha.

I just want to encourage you all to find someone for the missionaries in your area to teach. If you involve Heavenly Father and ask for His help, he will guide you! Of course He will! This is His work and He will provide every way for you to do it! There just aren't any excuses for us not to join in on the work. There is always something we can do. I promise you that greater joy will come into your life as you share the Gospel with those around you. I can't put into words the happiness I have felt because of doing missionary work. That joy is not exclusive for full time missionaries... you can all have it by doing the work. 

Love you all so much, 
xoxo Sister Riley

Day out with the Pews
Katarina :D
Saying goodbye to the YSA
With the Chinese boys! Cloud, Ted and Joe
Sister Gjikaj sad to see me go

Monday, January 12, 2015

Transfers! (12/1 email)

Well! we recieved transfer news this morning, and I was very surprised! I thought for sure I would stay in the YSA for my last transfer with Sister Gjikaj... however... I will be leaving and serving with Sister Sika (from Sydney) and we will be serving in St Helens, which is just outside Liverpool! Crazy! I will be sad to leave Sister Gjikaj and the YSA but I'm actually really excited for this transfer! I'm going to make it the best one!

So this week has flown by and I'm finding it hard to remember everything that happened! It's been super cold, but the good news is all the students are back in town so we have people to talk to again :P

We had the most amazing experience. We went out finding on Oxford road as usual and literally the 2nd person we stopped was so prepared!! His name is Pedro and he is from Portugal. He actually used to go to our church in Portugal for activities but hasn't been taught the lessons. So we gave him a tour of the building and as usual we finish in the baptismal room. We sat down and taught him the restoration. Normally the people we teach are in a rush and we only get to share a quick message, but Pedro had plenty of  time so we taught him the whole lesson. His eyes just lit up and he was hanging on every word. He told us that he had been feeling lost and was searching for answers to his questions. We gave him a Book of Mormon in English and Portugese and he was very grateful. We are seeing him again tomorrow and I am so sad that I won't be here to continue teaching him!

We are spending the day with the Pews so I'm excited. I just love being a missionary. It's hard but it's the best thing ever! I've never had so many challenges, but I've never been happier.

Love you all so much.

Me and my beautiful companion Sister Gjikaj

Friday, January 9, 2015

Every day is a new year (6/1/2015 email)

It's interesting what happens when a new year rolls in...even though the 1st of January is just another day, our thoughts are turned to self-improvement... setting goals and resolutions to make this new year better than the one before. While I'm all for that and am fan of setting goals at the start of the year myself, a YSA made a good point in his testimony yesterday. He said something along the lines of... "Every day is a new year because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ." The truth is we will probably (if we haven't already) fail at the goals we have set for this new year. But that doesn't mean we should give up and wait til next year to try again. Because of Jesus Christ, we can repent, we can pick ourselves up and start again tomorrow! How amazing is that!

I have felt the enabling power of the Atonement many times on my mission and I can testify to you how very real it is. Jesus Christ is our brother. He loves us more than anyone. He knows exactly what it feels like to fail, to be rejected, to be depressed, hopeless and utterly alone. Because he descended below all things He can lift us up. He can heal our broken hearts and fill us with love, peace, hope and happiness. Because I have felt this power for myself, it is my greatest desire to help others feel it. Too many of us are suffering more than we need to. Too many of us are burdened with a heavy load, carrying it all by ourselves. Jesus Christ suffered so we don't have to. He is waiting for us to ask Him to help us carry the load. Repentance is such a wonderful gift from God. We don't have to wait for a new year to have a "fresh start". We can repent today and start over and it is only when we repent that we have access to the power of the atonement.

My cold has pretty much gone, and we finally have appointments set for this week now that everyone is coming back to Manchester so things are looking up! Oxford road was so dead this past week! but we were still out there talking to everyone and we still found some great people to teach :) 

On Saturday we went tracting just to mix things up a bit! Oh tracting! I have to admit its not my favourite but it was fun to do it again! So the first door we knock is a muslim lady who says she is not interested, we ask her if she knows anyone else who might be interested and she tells us that the man who lives next door is christian and might be interested, so we knock his door... and then he knocks back...(thats a first!) so we knock again and he shouts at us asking who we are, we tell him we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints and he opens the door. He doesn't look happy. I think we were there for about 15 minutes and we hardly got a word in. He just lectured us about how we are deceived and how Joseph Smith was not a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is not scripture and many other things that weren't very nice. One of the few things I got to say was when he told us the Book of Mormon wasn't true, I asked him if he'd read it... He told us that he didn't need to read it to know its not true. That he had read about it and heard from people who have left our church that it isn't true... this is something that really bothers me... why is it when people look into our church they don't go to the true source? If it was anything else, like research for an assignment, you would go straight to the source to find things out... you wouldn't just take what someone tells you and believe that. There's a quote that I think is so fitting: "Studying the church through the eyes of its defectors, is like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus."

The only way to know if the Book of Mormon is true is to read it for yourself and then pray and ask God if it's true. It really doesn't matter what anyone else says! If you get an answer from God, then that's the truth! I know that God answers prayers. Sometimes it takes a while to recognise the answers but if you really want to know something, He will let you know, I can promise you that!

Well, that's all for now! Hope you all have a great week and share what you know to be true with those around you! :)

xoxo Sister Riley

Sister Gjikaj and me
Holding Josh Groban
Me playing guitar