Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hey Everyone,
   Wow this has been an amazing week. So much has happened and I had so many wonderful experiences. I've learned so much this week.
   Zone Conference was amazing. I learned so much and it re-kindled that strong desire to serve with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength. Zone Conference is a wonderful opportunity to re-commit yourself to do the work the best you can. Everything that we learned was so important for me to hear. I loved the emphasis on the Book of Mormon and on how essential it is to this great work and to the gathering of Israel. This week, since the conference, I have been focusing on using the Book of Mormon as much as I can, to help teach and to help others feel the spirit. I loved the practice that we got in all of the practices and trainings and meetings at conference. During one of the trainings, we were practicing teaching the whole Restoration lesson to other companionships using only scriptures from the Book of Mormon. It was so powerful, and it built my confidence. I know more of the Book of Mormon than I knew. President Castro was present in that one and he decided to come over and join our little foursome. I thought I would be really nervous at first, but I loved the opportunity to show him my best. I felt confident and excited about it. Afterwards we talked with him about how the most important part of teaching the Restoration is the invitation at the end to read from and pray about the Book of Mormon. Later when everyone from the several zones gathered into the chapel again, President Castro surprised us by changing the program a bit. Standing up there at the pulpit in front of the whole zone conference, he asked Sister Dixon and I to come up and teach the whole Restoration lesson in under 5 minutes using only scriptures from the Book of Mormon. We were THAT companionship! I would have thought that I would be terrified, but for some reason, I wasn't. And we did it. We did really well I think. The Spirit was strong, and in those moments, I wasn't even scared, even standing up there teaching the Restoration to a huge group of other missionaries and President and Sister Castro. The more I get to teach, the more I'm growing in confidence. And most importantly, the more I rely on the Spirit and on the Lord, the more I can teach with power and authority. I love the changes that I'm seeing in me. I am learning to love sharing the Gospel so much more every week. I'm changing. I'm gaining confidence. I'm learning that there is nothing to be afraid of when you're on the Lord's side. He will take care of the details as long as you are worthy, obedient, and have the faith and courage to act.
   On Friday I went on Exchanges with Hermana Bartschi in Ventura. It was the best day that I've had so far on my mission. I learned what an amazing difference it makes when you are completely invested and focused all day long. The day was wonderful. We saw so many miracles, we taught many lessons, I learned so many lessons myself, and I was able to learn a lot from Hermana Bartschi. She is such a great leader. She radiates love for those she is serving. I never felt judged or embarrassed by any of my lack of skill. She was just so good at helping me to improve in everything. I loved the message that she shared with me about having "Faith without Reservation." That's what I focused on doing all day, and it made such a difference. I wasn't homesick all day, I wasn't as afraid of teaching lessons and talking to people, I just loved the work we were doing. For the rest of the transfer I made a goal to study "Faith without reservation" for 5 minutes everyday. Don't be afraid of things, just do it. The Lord will take care of you. The work goes so much better when you are doing it the Lord's way and when you completely trust him. Just having the faith to act, even if your scared, brings so many miracles. I'm excited to incorporate that more in my mission now. Hermana Bartschi has a saying that she gave me that I love. She said, "Don't wait for tomorrow to be the missionary you want to be today, because Today is a GREAT day to be a missionary." I loved that. I'm tired of giving into my weaknesses, of giving into fear or laziness. I want to be the best missionary I can be. Things are feeling so much better now that Sister Dixon is well again and we had Zone Conference and Exchanges. I'm so excited for this week. I'm going to be the best missionary I can be.
   We met several new investigators this week. A woman named E. was referred to us by the zone leaders and she loved meeting with us and hearing scriptures from the Book of Mormon. Yesterday a man walked into the church that we had never seen before. We went over and sat next to him and talked with him. He stayed for all 3 hours and really loved how he felt. We have an appointment with him this week and he's planning on coming to church again. His name is R. We also taught a lesson to a woman named P. who's been seeing missionaries for 15 years and has never come to church. After our message, she told us that now that we're sister missionaries she might be comfortable coming to church because she won't have to sit alone. We are so excited to have her come and to introduce her to all the members. We also are teaching a 13 year old girl B. who loves and has read the whole Book of Mormon before. And S.? S.! We are SO excited for him. He's getting baptized this Saturday, the 29th, and we can hardly wait. He is such a wonderful person, and I have loved being able to teach him.
   So guess what? I had a few new experiences this week. I fed a tortoise on my 4 month mission birthday (4 months! Wow!). I ate Sushi, Wasabi, and Tofu for dinner with a member one night. I ate Crab-stuffed Salmon at a members house in Ventura. It was right next to the ocean and you could smell and feel the salt in the air. It really surprised me how different it feels in Ventura than here in Newbury Park. It's very different. They are both beautiful though. I love this part of California. Yes! I saw the ocean! Hermana Bartschi drove us around a little round-about that goes right next to the beach because she knew how excited I was to see it. :) Another great thing! I ate at Chick-fil-a in Ventura! Oh! It was wonderful. Mom, I just kept thinking about that day when after I got my mission call we went to Chick-fil-a and we sat there talking about what Ventura might be like. I was there! And oh those tastes...yum...
   Something kind of really sad this week, our mailbox lock has been broken for most of the week...is there a sadder thing that can happen to a missionary? Just kidding. I'll survive. I'm excited because it's going to be fixed sometime this morning.
   You all sound so great, I love you all and am excited for what this week will bring for you. Emma, let me know how that fireside goes. Your Salt Lake trip sounded great! Haha, thanks for telling me about it Mom. It made me laugh and smile. I liked Jaxon's comment. Smart man. That will be great! Bethany and James good luck! Have an amazing time! Have a wonderful birthday Sam. I love you! Good luck Jana! And Welcome Baby Henry! Let me know how everything goes this week. You're all in my thoughts and in my prayers. I love you!
Melanie (Sister Hardman)

P.S.- Sister Dixon wrote you a letter?! What did she say? I love her so much. Mom, I'm SO excited to get that CD! We really do love the Work. We were just listening to it. Also Mom, I'm...almost out of...fish oil? Anyways, thanks for all you do. Everyone have a fantastic week! Don't forget about me. Love you! :)

Feeding a very friendly tortoise on my 4 month mission birthday! :) 

This is Sister Horne. I love her. She's been so kind to us and she loves coming to lessons with us. 

Yes! :) Chick-fil-a in Ventura! (Remember the day I got my mission call, Mom?)

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