Monday, June 30, 2014

Hey Family!
   Well...This was my first week training, and I am loving it! I am having so much fun and enjoying the work so much. My companion is Sister Evans from Payson. She is a great missionary. Sister Evans is doing so well and she has been teaching me so much through her desire and willingness to serve. From the very first day she showed how diligent she is and willing to do all that it takes to be the missionary that the Lord needs her to be. She is helping me to strengthen that desire in myself as well, just by her amazing example. Part of the reason why I love training is that it has helped me to truly "forget myself, and go to work." I love focusing on what she needs and on what our investigators need. Being assigned to train made it so fun and so desirable to forget myself and to just focus on someone else. Yes, I should be better at doing that all the time and in any situation, but I am so grateful for this, and I love this assignment so much. I am so grateful for the trust that the Lord has placed in me. I am doing my best, and I will continue to work hard. I am seeking specific guidance from the Lord in all I do, and even though I've never trained before, I don't feel overwhelmed, I feel as if the Lord is with me in every single aspect of this. I just have to rely on Him.
   Sister Moure and I had an amazing last week together and I miss her very much. She's now in Camarillo and I'm sure she's doing wonderfully. Haha...she gave me a few weird habits. She used to eat broccoli and cheese for breakfast every day. I've NEVER liked broccoli...till now. I've been craving it. ;) Not for breakfast though, I still like my oatmeal then.
   So on Tuesday, I was able to talk with and say goodbye to the Castros one last time at the Training Meeting, then we all went into Transfer Meeting. The opening song, as always, was our mission anthem Let Zion In Her Beauty Rise. (I don't know if I ever mentioned that. But I have grown to love that song so much. It IS our mission song. It will never be the same.) Singing it as a mission, all together and in full voice is always so powerful, and especially this week, as we sang for the last time with the Castros. Part way through the song President Castro stopped singing as he just listened to us and took it all in. Sister Castro was crying. We had a wonderful meeting. They spoke to us for the last time, along with the Trumans who also went home this week. They announced the trainers with their new companions which is always fun to watch. They announce it and you both stand and go to meet each other, hug, then sit down together. And then the most powerful part of the meeting was the end, we all stood and sang Called To Serve. It was so powerful! The Castros had tears and many of us did as well. We will all miss them so much. They have done so much for us and for this mission. And we are excited to meet President and Sister Felix this week! :)
   The work in this area is going really well. Two of our progressing investigators right now are K. and A. A. is the woman who walked into church on her own several weeks ago and has been coming every week and taking the lessons. She is reading and praying about the Book of Mormon and we were pleasantly surprised to learn yesterday that she has read the first 14 chapters of 1 Nephi. Before the lesson, Sister Evans and I roll-played and practiced the baptismal invitation. (This week, in the 12 week training program, it is the new missionary's responsibility to take the lead in inviting investigators to be baptized.) Sister Evans did a wonderful job of inviting A. to be baptized, and A. smiled and said she definitely would if she came to know that these things are true. She is reading, praying, and coming to church. She is so sincere, and we know that she will be able to receive her answer if she continues on this course. We are so excited for her. And K. is doing really well. We were able to recommit her to a baptismal date on August 9th, and she is so excited to be baptized. She told us about how happy she's been since we began teaching her, and she said that her prayers are all being answered and she feels so blessed. Also, we've been knocking a lot this week, and I've realized that it doesn't really scare me anymore! When did that happen?! This is exciting. :)
   This week I have been so grateful for how my studies have been going. In the past couple of days I feel like I'm able to get so much more in the hour of personal study. I love the scriptures and the words of living prophets and apostles. My testimony has been growing so much on my mission and I am so grateful for the decision that I made to serve a mission. There is nothing better than being able to help others grow closer to Jesus Christ and to feel yourself growing closer to him as well. I'm excited for this week and all that it will bring.
   Thank you all for your emails and letters! You are all the best and I really appreciate all of the support. Letters from President Castro, Katy, Jake, Bethany, Bishop Baiamonte, Becca, and Sam this week were all much appreciated. Thank you all! You're too good to me. And thank you also for the advice and counsel. I'm excited to read my emails today. :) I hope you have an amazing 4th of July. You'll be in my thoughts. :) And next week I'll let you know what a missionary's 4th of July is like.
   I love you SO much!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)
P.S.-Tell everyone at the gatherings this week that I love them and miss them. Can someone please track down Cassie's email address for me? And everyone, have so much fun together this week! I'll be there in spirit. :)

Sister Moure did this to me: I now love broccoli and cheese! What?!

 And Hermana Winn and I are good friends, as always.

 This is Sister Evans, my new companion. :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dear Family,
   So much has happened this week, and it has been an amazing one!
   First of all: Transfer News ~ I will be staying here in Moorpark. Last night I received a phone call from the Assistants (One of which was actually in my graduating class at PG. It's been fun to talk with him.) and President Castro has extending the assignment to me to train a new missionary. I am now a trainer! I am so excited and nervous, of course, but I've been filled with so much peace too. I know that this is right and that this is going to help me grow and learn so much too. The trust that President Castro and the Lord are placing in me lifts me heart. :) Since that phone call I have been filled with love for the new sister missionary who is coming. I will find out who she is at transfer meeting tomorrow. Do any of you have any advice or tips for me?
  Alright so a few other highlights from this week:
~Zone Conference (Farewell) for the Castros on Wednesday.
~Being a part of the huge missionary focused Thousand Oaks stake youth conference.
~Giving a talk in Sacrament Meeting. :)
~And of course the work is going really well too.
   I'm so sorry that I don't have time to explain more about each of the great events of this week. There is so much that I want to say, I am so happy and so excited this week, but I can't explain it all now. So I'll send you a part of my last email to President Castro this week. Unfortunately, this day has been crazy and time has been short, so I haven't been able to read any of your emails yet, but I'm so excited to. Thank you! I will reply back really soon. I love you all!

"This week was amazing, and I can honestly say that this week has been a week of growth for me. Some of my most sincere prayers and desires have been answered this week and I am growing to love and trust the Lord so much.
The Zone Conference that we had on Wednesday was amazing. Every word that was said was exactly what I needed. Especially your words about fresh starts and clean slates. I made a resolve to do better and realized that if I make a solemn commitment to the Lord to do my best, he will give me the strength to do it. I made the resolve then and there to change and to re-commit myself to the Lord.
After Zone Conference I went into the bedroom by myself and knelt down to pray. In what was one of the most sincere prayers of my mission, I asked for forgiveness for not doing my best and I solemnly committed to hand myself over to the Lord, to trust him, and to work my very hardest. An intense feeling of peace and relief came over me. A feeling that I hadn't had so fully for a long time. All of the sudden, I didn't feel so alone...that's the best way I can describe it. I felt that he was with me and was helping me with every choice, every action, and every thought or feeling. I have felt so different since then. Of course there are still plenty of struggles, insecurities, fears, and other trials, but all of the sudden I don't feel so overwhelmed. I don't feel like it's possible to be overwhelmed as long as the Lord is here with me. And I know that he will be, as I continue to strive my hardest to serve and love others and to be obedient to his will. This feeling brings me so much joy! It amazes me that such a simple, but firm and sincere decision and commitment can change so much. Thank you for your words at the meeting, they have changed my mission and my life for the better.
I loved being able to be a part of the Thousand Oaks Youth Conference this week. It was such an amazingly powerful experience to work with the youth, practicing sharing the truths of the gospel with others. The Spirit was so strong all day and my testimony grew. I loved encouraging the youth and telling them how good they're doing. They really are amazing at sharing the gospel, they just need a little confidence boost. They are going to change the world.
This week, Sister Moure and I were asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting, and although I'm normally very afraid to speak in church, it wasn't as scary this time. I have grown to love this ward so much and I love sharing my testimony and my experiences that have strengthened it with them. I spoke about obedience to the will of the Lord and how many blessings it brings to us, especially happiness. I shared the story of how I knew that I was supposed to serve a mission, and how obedience to that prompting has brought me so much joy.
President Castro, I am so grateful for the assignment to train. I have been praying for this actually. And although I am a bit nervous about it, I have so much peace too. It feels so right. And since last night when I received the phone call, I have been filled with an intense amount of love for the new sister missionary who is coming to the mission. This experience is such a responsibility and such a blessing. I am grateful for the assignment, and I know that it has come from the Lord. In my prayers last night and this morning I have been filled with peace as I've asked if this is the Lord's will. Thank you President Castro, for your worthiness and ability to follow the Spirit. I know that this is right and I am so excited to be able to love, nurture, teach, and train this new missionary. As I said, I already love her so much.
Thank you so much for everything that you have done for me and for how much you have helped me to learn and grow. I know that I can do this and that as long as I rely on the Lord, he will help me to become the missionary that he needs. As my mission scripture says, "In His strength I can do all things." I know this is true and I am so grateful for the experiences on my mission that have been helping me to strengthen my testimony of these things. You have been a wonderful mission president and I am so grateful for everything that you and your family has done. Thank you. I will see you all again. Have a wonderful week!"

   You are all so amazing and I'm so excited to read about your week today. Have a wonderful day and know that I love you all so much! Please keep me in your prayers this week as I do my best to learn how to train. :) Here we go!
   Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~Paradise Falls

~Fun with the roommates. :) The Thousand Oaks stake gave us shirts for the Youth Conference! We were so excited and we have so much fun together.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hello My Dear Family!
   Thanks for the wonderful email and update, Mom. Sounds like it was a crazy and fun-filled week. Great job on the "Mother of 12" things. You did awesome. I'm jealous of the meals. ;) And I know that you were an amazing chaperone. You're so much fun and you're such a great example. And a grill for Dad!? No way! I'm so excited and happy for you, Dad. You're amazing and you deserve it. I sang for you yesterday. Happy Father's Day! I'm so excited for some grilled yumminess in a year. Plan on it. I'll be there...and I'll be a lot less picky about what I eat, promise. I'm still not there quite yet with fish, but I've come a long way on a ton of other foods that I used to be picky about. Speaking of food, we found the Chick-fil-a! Oh wow, it is so close to the church that we do emails at each Monday. :) That's dangerous. I can't believe I didn't know it was here till now! What if I get transferred soon? Oh! Speaking of that, since this was only a 5 week transfer, this is my last week. Transfer meeting will be next Tuesday, so they'll call us with the transfer news and assignments in a week on Monday morning. I'll let you all know what's happening. Usually I feel like I can have a pretty good guess, but the truth is that I have no idea what's going to happen this time. Sister Moure and I have both been here for 2 transfers, so we could stay again, or one of us will probably get transferred. Who knows? We'll see.
   So I felt all grown up this week. :) There was a recall on our car that we drive for some part and so we had to drive down to Westlake to get it checked. It was a lot of fun to be there with the other missionaries. Our car did not pass and so they provided a rental for us. They gave us the papers and sent us to Enterprise to rent a car. I felt grown up. It was fun. Since I'm the designated driver I had to sign the paperwork and stuff for it.  Silly thing to get excited about I know, but hey! :)
   So the work in this area is blooming! There is so much going on and it's so exciting. :) Just to mention a few of the people we're working with: Our investigator K., who has been preparing for baptism is doing really well. We tried to meet with her every day, (which is pretty fun. We love driving up to their house which is up in the hills behind Moorpark up near huge nurseries and citrus groves. We drive up a bumpy dirt road to get there) and we were able to teach her The Gospel of Jesus Christ, review over the Word of Wisdom, watch President Monson's talk on Love, and read Alma 32 and 1 Nephi 1.  Her baptismal date is in about 3 weeks and she is motivated and excited to work towards that. Our new investigator this week, K., is amazing. I love her! A member who was selling pest-control met her and was able to bond with her and share a little bit about the gospel with her. She has lost loved ones in the past and was intrigued with the idea of families being eternal. The member was very persistent in helping us to be able to meet with her. We had a lesson with K. and the member this week that went amazing. She opened us to us so much and is sincerely looking into what we had to share. We taught the restoration with the member and K. loved what we shared. She has a lot of good questions and is so excited to learn more, come to church, and to read from the Book of Mormon. We talked with her on the phone this weekend and she told us that she was excited to read the Book of Mormon yesterday as she recovered from sickness. We're meeting with her again soon. She is so excited about eternal families. A., the woman who walked into church on her own a few weeks ago came to church yesterday and especially enjoyed the gospel essentials class on the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We taught her the Plan of Salvation after church and she is reading from the Book of Mormon and praying to know if all of this is true. We haven't been able to see the L. and M. for a lesson, but there have been a lot of small opportunities for us to serve them and it's helping them to open up to us a lot more. Also, S. is doing well. She had her baby girl this week! :) We also had a really amazing lesson with a part member family this week that touched my heart a lot. One of the daughters has been pretty hard to touch or help, but we felt strongly impressed that we should watch the Testaments with them and we saw a huge change in her. She cried and was touched by the Spirit. It was such a big testimony builder of how powerful the Spirit is in softening hearts. And how much change can come over a person when the Spirit is there.
  This week will be an exciting and fun one. Today we're going on a District Hike to Paradise Falls again. (And Sister Moure and I are going to get Chick-fil-a.) And then on Wednesday we have a special Zone Conference which is probably going to be a Farewell for the Castros. And then on Friday, the Thousand Oaks stake is having a huge missionary focused youth conference and we are playing a big part in it. The Castros are coming and we're going to be doing EDPEPs with the youth and help them out a ton. I'm so excited for it. And then transfer news and phone calls are always exciting! So it will be a fun week.
  I have grown to love being on a mission so much. Thank you so much for all of your love and support and for helping me so much. You're ALL my favorite. :)
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)
P.S.- The Conference talks are amazing. :) Everyone should read a few this week. I'd love to hear what your favorites are. I feel like I've been memorizing it with how much I've been reading them and using them in lessons. Thank you so much for the book, it's been so helpful and fun to use. I carry it with me always and use it so often. I treasure it. :) Have a fantastic week

Pictures from me:

~The rental car that I am driving. :)

~Sister Moure, Hermana Winn, and Hermana Newman had fun with my hair.

~We found the Chick-fil-a! :D And I found some $1 Frozen socks at Target.