Monday, June 1, 2015

My Dear Family,
   Are you so excited?! I am! :) I won't lie, I'm super excited to see you
in a couple of days. Super nervous too...that's okay, it'll be great. I
loved the pictures you sent. Thank you so much for getting everything ready
for me. My home is my home. I now have a few homes don't I? The Great
California Ventura Mission is definitely one of them now. I love this place
with all my heart. I'm excited to share this beautiful place and my
experiences here with you. And yes, I love my mountain home back in
Pleasant Grove. I'm excited to be there again. :) Jim is adorable by the
   Here's a summary of my final week here. Most of the exciting things
happened in the last half, so I'll start with Thursday. In District Meeting
I was asked to give a talk this week to share my testimony and insights
from my mission. I appreciated the opportunity to share with them some of
the lessons that have become very important to me on my mission. Wow I've
learned a lot. :) I'm so grateful. I think I've mentioned this before, but
maybe not, for the last 6 weeks I've been our district's and zone's
pianist. I was the only one that could play, even though I didn't feel like
I could play very many hymns very well...well, the Lord blesses us. It's
been so fun. For some reason this transfer I was given the ability to play
most of the hymns pretty well! Crazy right? I guess the Lord strengthens
our abilities to bless the lives of others. We needed a pianist. :)
Unfortunately, the Elders asked me to play "God Be With You Till We Meet
Again" for the closing hymn, of this my last District Meeting. That's a
dangerous song to sing in the last week of your mission, haha. But we
survived. ;) Sister Wilson keeps giving me the evil eye when I sing it to
her. :P I think we'll miss each other a lot. We've become really good
friends. I've been very blessed this transfer. It's been a wonderful one.
   Anyway, Thursday afternoon we drove over to Oxnard to the mission office
for my final departing interview with President Felix. I was nervous about
it, but I'll be completely honest, I loved it! President Felix is very
inspired and he said some things that really brought me a lot of peace and
excitement about adjusting to the next part of my life. He gave me some
really cool advice about some things that I can do to continue to be my
missionary me that I've become back home and in the rest of my life. It'll
be great, I know it. I will miss being here with everyone, but there are
great exciting things to come, and of course I have my loving family
waiting for me. I think it's about time you get Hardman
back. :P It'll take a bit of adjusting to be called my name out loud again.
   Fast forward to Saturday, we had a super powerful lesson with our recent
convert E. that meant a lot to me. It was so cool. The lesson was for
him, but I know that I was meant to have that lesson in my last week too.
We were teaching him about Missionary Work and why every member of the
church should share the gospel. We read Elder Bednar's talk "Come and See"
with him, and then had a great discussion with him about the joy that comes
from the gospel and the joy that comes as we share the gospel. He shared
with us the memory of the joy and the spirit that he felt when he first
started learning about the gospel, and he told us of how much he wanted to
share that with others because of his happiness. I was given the
opportunity to share my personal testimony of how much joy has come to me
throughout my mission as I've shared these truths that I know and love with
others. As I shared my experience with E. it just all clicked in my
mind. Sharing the gospel makes me so happy! :) It's like when I go to Zupas
and have a delicious meal, it makes me super happy, so what do I do? I
encourage all of my poor companions that have not tasted it to go and try
it someday. That makes me happy too. Haha. Random example, but hey I miss
Zupas. Point is, when we experience something that brings us joy, we want
to share it with others that we love. Being a missionary is such a natural
thing. I hope I can always be a good missionary.
   Sorry, I guess I'm actually writing a lot today, but I have a lot to
share! :) We had another cool lesson on Saturday with the T"s. Their
son came home from his mission on Saturday and they invited us to come
over. We were able to have a discussion about several powerful scriptures
and about the lessons we've learned on our missions, especially how our
testimonies have been strengthened. He hadn't been released yet, he was
still a set-apart missionary, and it was really cool to work with him to
talk about spiritual things with his family, some of whom are not active in
the church and some are not members. It was special to be able to help him
with that. I love missionaries.
   Alright, Mom, you asked about my last Sunday. It was wonderful. We saw a
lot of people that we've been working with. It made me feel so good to see
them. They're sad to see me go, but they expressed a lot of gratitude and
told me certain things that I had said that helped them. Brother Gomez said
a very sweet prayer for me that boosted my spirits a lot. I feel very loved
by these people. The bishopbric asked me to come up during Sacrament
Meeting to share my testimony. And then during gospel principles Sister
Wood had me come up and teach the Plan of Salvation with her to the class.
So I felt very involved and helpful yesterday. The Spirit was strong,
especially as I took the Sacrament and as I prayed. I feel very close to my
Heavenly Father and to my Savior Jesus Christ.'s time for my mission here in California to end. Yes, it's
still a range of emotions. There are a lot of bitter sweet things, but I
feel a lot of peace too. I know that I have done my best. I know that the
Lord know that. I'm so grateful for all that I have learned and gained on
my mission. I'm grateful for the opportunity that I was given to touch the
lives of many people here in California, for various reasons. I am grateful
for the friendships and relationships that I'm gained. And I am SO grateful
for who I have become. I feel more like me than I've ever felt before.
Isn't that cool? As I've worked to be a more Christlike person and to
follow His teachings more exactly I have made little changes every day, and
each time I feel like I'm getting a little bit closer to home, and a little
bit closer to the potential that I have as a daughter of God. On my mission
my belief or testimony that this church is true has grown so much. I can
honestly say that I am spiritually "independent," in the way that I know
these things are true for myself. I know because I have studied, I have
read, I have pondered about all of these things. And most importantly, I
have prayed. When I have prayed and sincerely asked Heavenly Father to show
me the truth, it's been given to me through the power of the Holy Ghost or
the Spirit. The thoughts that come to my mind, the peace that enters my
heart is what tells me that these things are true. Peace is a pretty sure
answer for me. :) I know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that
the Book of Mormon is a true book that will bring us closer to our loving
Father in Heaven. I know that we have a prophet on the Earth today, and
that this church is Jesus Christ's church. I know that He came to Earth to
show us the way and to pay the price for our mistakes and weaknesses so
that we can change and be forgiven. I know that we are so loved by our
Heavenly Father and that he is aware of us at every moment, we just have to
reach out to him. He's reaching out for us. I love this gospel and I'm so
grateful for the joy that it brings to me and for the opportunity that I've
had over the last 18 months to share that joy with others. As Alma 26:3 and
37 says, "And this is the blessing which the Lord has bestowed upon us,
that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this
great work...Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will
give thanks unto my God forever." I know I will, and it's my joy to share
my testimony with all of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
   As the song "Called to Serve" says, "God our strength will be; press
forward ever, called to serve our king." Thank you for every bit of support
and love family. I love you all so much and I'll see you in a few days.
Love your missionary,
   Sister Melanie Hardman

~Me and the G. familia. :)

~Me with E. He's awesome!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dear Family,
   This was a great week! The days are flying by and I really am loving every single second. I love being here. I love it. I feel so blessed by all the opportunities that I have every day. I'm an instrument in the Lord's hands and we're seeing miracles daily, both in others and in ourselves. I hit my 18 month mark this last week! Can you believe it! I did it! Yeah, it was a wonderful week. I loved all of the lessons that I was able to learn about following the Spirit this week.
   We had a really amazing activity this week in place of a zone conference this transfer. It meant a lot to me and strengthened my testimony and desire to follow the Spirit in all aspects of the work and of my life. I've loved our theme we've had in our mission this transfer on being led by the Spirit. I love the line in Preach My Gospel that states that our task is to be worthy of the Spirit and ready and willing to act on it's promptings courageously. (To paraphrase) I want to always do my best to live worthily so that I can have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. And I'm working on my ability to courageously trust and act on the promptings we receive. But I can definitely say that one of the greatest things I've gained on my mission is a testimony of how to seek for the answers and direction that I need. Prayer, scripture study, and following the Spirit. The basics are so powerful. I'm leaving with a greater confidence in the Lord's ability to direct and guide me. I'm so grateful for that. It really is so important for all of us to always have the Spirit with us. The Spirit will comfort and strengthen us in times of trial and pain, he will warn us and protect us from danger, he will bring us joy and peace when we do what is right, he will help us to recognize answers to our questions and concerns. President Eyring said in this last conference, "When you pray, you always plead with God that He will bless you with His Spirit. You will need the Holy Ghost not once but as much as God will grant it to you for your constant companion." I know that this is so true and so important. I know that on my mission I have become a lot more aware of and sensitive to how the Spirit speaks to me. That is a blessing that I will always be grateful for. It will affect me for the rest of my life. I want to always be worthy of the Spirit so that I can feel those promptings, that comfort, guidance, and peace all the time. "We must pray for it and work to have it." It is so worth it. :) As you've probably seen in the pictures I sent, on the hike we went on with President and Sister Felix this week we did several different activities to teach us things about the Spirit. One of them was that we had to do a large amount of the hike blindfolded! Only having instructions or promptings from your companion to direct you! Let me just say, that takes a lot of trust to hike a mountain blind. Good thing I trust Sister Wilson. ;) It was a wonderful activity though, we learned a lot, and had fun spending time with all of the missionaries. We were up in Newbury Park, and it was fun to be in my first area, church building, and on a familiar hike. It was a wonderful activity. Guess what Dad, President Felix has an Avalon. Is that the one you got?
    We had exchanges this week and Sister Nicholas, me, and Sister Wilson all stayed here and worked in Camarillo for the day. I know! I got to be with both of them. All three of us have been companions with each other in the past, and since we all served together in Ventura too, we're super good friends. We were so excited to work together. It was a wonderful day. We worked hard, had fun, talked about a lot of memories and inside jokes, and strengthened and encouraged each other. I loved being with these two sisters. My MTC companion and then one of my closest companions. The three of us enjoyed our time together serving, teaching, and working together to help the people we came across. We saw several miracles. One of which was in a lesson we had with our recent convert E. He hasn't come to church in months, and he's reading and praying and has a strong testimony, but he got out of the habit and was now embarrassed and scared to go back. Something sunk in during our lesson this week though. I think the relationships of trust that he had for each of the three of us made a big difference. Sister Nicholas taught him before he was baptized. He knew Sister Wilson when she was here a year ago too. And I feel like E. and I bonded pretty fast early on in the transfer because of something we were able to help him out with. So it's clear that he looked up to and trusted each of us a lot. He opened up a lot and and we listened, addressed his concerns, encouraged, and testified to him, and by the end he seemed humbly excited and courageous. And to end the story, he came to church yesterday!!! For the first time since November! He texted us afterwards to tell us that he felt good again, he felt the Spirit and that he will do his best to be there every week from now on. I love that brother and I'm so happy for him that he was able to step back into this lifestyle. I know it will bless him so much and he's excited to work towards going to the temple in a year. So yeah, exchanges were wonderful. Being with two of my closest mission friends for my last exchange was special, and it was wonderful to teach with them. We saw another miracle in the act of doing service, yard work for a nonmember neighbor of a family in our ward. After service, she opened up a ton to us and asked for help and prayers. She's willing to have us come back to share more with her and with her struggling daughter. It was special to be used by the Lord to be there for someone who was in need of comfort and help.
    As I get closer to the end of my mission, things are getting a bit harder in the way that part of me really doesn't want to leave anymore. I love teaching. I love testifying. I love serving. I love loving others. I just love being a missionary, and it's hard to be in my last week. Of course I'm excited and happy to go home and to apply things there and to be with all of you, my loved ones. But I'm nervous about adjusting to that as well. It's alright though, I do feel peace, strength, and courage coming from Heavenly Father. It will all work out just right. And I know I'll be super happy and excited. :) I'm looking forward to my departing interview with President Felix on Thursday this week in Oxnard. I'll let you know how all of this week goes. It will be a wonderful week. I can feel it. I love being here and this week will be full of wonderful moments. I love being a missionary! And yes, I'm super excited to see all of you too. Prepare the way. I'll email you again on Monday and then you just have a few short days. Crazy stuff! I love you all. Have a fantastic week! Onward, ever onward! :)
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~18 Months! I did it! :)

~Me and Sister Wilson on the hike. It was my turn to direct.

~Our wonderful tri-pan: me, Sister Wilson, and Sister Olsen

~My turn to walk by faith. ;) Plenty of instruction from Sister Wilson and Elder Fagan.

~Emma, I took this picture and I felt like I looked just like you in it, so here you go.

~Sister Wilson kindly trimmed off my dead stuff. :P That's a lot of trust.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dear Loved Ones,
   To start off here's some amazing news: M., who Sister Wilson and I taught in Ventura is getting baptized! His parents have given him permission and support and he's going to be baptized on May 30th! :D When Sister Nicholas and Sister Hiapo called to tell us, the said that M. told them that he's really excited. We're so excited too! Sister Wilson and I were basically jumping up and a dignified way. ;) It's amazing. We're so happy for him. It's amazing to watch lives change. I remember that very first night when we first invited him to learn. I remember when we taught him to pray and he said the first prayer of his life. I remember how sad he looked when we were leaving. That all happened pretty fast actually. Anyways, we're so excited for him. I'm so happy I got to be a part of his journey. :)
   Okay...I just love being a missionary so much and this week was amazing. So, I want to share a few experiences of this week with you. I hope you enjoy and can feel the missionary spirit.The Camarillo 5th ward is doing so well. Oh my goodness, I am so filled with happiness at the progress that people are making here. I love each individual and family we are teaching, and so many of them are being touched and changing. I'm grateful for the amazing opportunity I had this week to witness the Spirit working with my brothers and sisters here. The miracles were very prevalent this week. :) Our investigator H. has said that she's never been happier than she is now. She's glowing and loves learning more about the gospel. She's already doing so much missionary work herself, sharing with friends. She and her children are excited to continue learning and working towards baptism. We had a very powerful lesson with M. (a different M.) this week. He's been looking into the church, learning, and coming to church for a while, but he still doesn't feel like he's received an answer. He talked about how he knows he needs to put in a sincere effort to read the Book of Mormon, he's just had a hard time doing that so far. The Spirit was definitely there as Sister Olsen, Sister Wilson, and I talked about why the Book of Mormon is so important. I shared some of my personal experiences with knowing that it's true and the effect it's had on my life every day. He seemed touched, and there was a light in his eyes as if he were deciding that he would give it a shot again. He thanked us for what we said. Then yesterday at church the speakers were very inspired and the Spirit was so strong. There were specific things said that I knew were for him. I watched M. nod and even shed a tear or two as the words spoke to him and he applied it to himself. We have so much hope for M. We'll see him again tomorrow and we'll be reading from the Book of Mormon with him.  We'll help him get there. One more miracle lesson this week was the G. family. This part member family has been trying for so long to soften their mother's heart. She's been taught the lessons so many times, and recently the messages we've been sharing have built a lot of love and trust between us. She's thanked us thoroughly for each one. We felt that she was ready to address the Restoration again, which is what she's struggled with, being Catholic. We taught it in a unique way that she received well, but things really changed when we shared a Mormon Message called "Origin". The Spirit was powerful and afterwards as different family members shared their insights, their mother was close to tears, trying to hide it, but she seemed humble and teachable. She asked us a sincere question about modern prophets and accepted the answer. You could feel that she was giving it another chance. That's all it takes. :) We just have to open up our hearts and be willing to accept the guidance that the Lord will give us. That's enough for faith to take root and to begin to grow. People can change. Our hearts can change. I love all of these people so much and I will continue to do all that I can to help them gain and strengthen their testimonies, until the very last moment. I feel so blessed to be a part of this, the Lord's work.
   Our companionship (tripanionship?) is still doing well. We've been able to learn so much together and from each other. I love both of these dear sisters very much. It's amazing how natural it is to love when we are trying to be like our Savior. Sister Olsen is trying so hard to do her best, and she is a wonderful teacher. I love working with her.  I'm grateful to be here with these sisters. I've made so many good lasting friends on my mission. And I can honestly say that Sister Wilson has become one of my best friends out here. I'm SO grateful for President Felix for keeping us together for another transfer. It was wonderful to be with her in Ventura and now here in Camarillo. She's helping me so much with doing my very best till the end and with being happy every single day. We joke that she's "training" me to go home. She's supportive and helping me have courage and peace. She's an amazing missionary and companion. You got it Mom, she's from Shelley. :) I'm going to convince her to move to Utah though. :P Don't tell her.
   Random things from this week: I ate a bit of Lamb. Ew... and I saw a live Mariachi Band. Um...sorry I have no idea how to spell that.  Exciting things for this week. Friday we have a big activity with President and Sister Felix. We're going on a hike I think! That will be way fun. Also, tomorrow we have exchanges. My last one. Sister Wilson and I are staying in Camarillo together with either Sister Nicholas or Sister Hiapo. We've all been companions, so it should be super fun and unique. :)  Well...Wow time is flying by so fast. I have to admit it's really hard to be getting close to the end of my mission. I love being a missionary. I love the people here so much, including my companions. I love the spirit that I feel as I teach and testify. So it's sad and hard to face the fact that I'm leaving so soon. But I'm excited too. It will be good. I'm SO excited to see all of you again. I'll need plenty of help adjusting though. I'm a bit nervous. So, be prepared. :) Anyways, thanks for being amazing. I love you all and I'm super excited to see you soon. Have a fantastic week!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~Since I neglected to take pictures this week, here's one of us right now at the Camarillo library and one of beautiful Camarillo after a rain storm this week. :) Love this place and love my companions.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Good Morning Family! :)
   How are all of you on this fine Spring day? Is it clear or cloudy up there. Today it is very pleasant here in Camarillo. Clear blue skies but not too hot with some nice ocean breezes.Things are going really well here in Camarillo 5th ward. As I've said before, we are working super hard and loving every second. There are so many miracles and surprises and exciting opportunities every day. I love being a missionary and Heavenly Father is blessing me with a lot of great missionary times here.
   Here's a sweet little miracle of following the Spirit for the week. We felt inspired to offer service to a new investigator that hasn't been able to meet in a while this week. We came and helped him sort through a lot of junk in his garage for an hour. It was hard work and after the fact he pulled out a Restoration pamphlet, told us he's read it at least 3 times, and wanted to try praying. He did and it was powerful. He told us he's really interested, wants to learn more, likes what he's read and felt, and wants to come to church and read the Book of Mormon. The Spirit led us to being there at the right time and place and prepared his heart.
   I love both Sister Wilson and Sister Olsen. Honestly, they're the best companions I could ask to have here in my last transfer. I feel very blessed to be with them. Especially since Sister Wilson and I have become such good friends. During each other's phone calls yesterday it was special to be able to sit there on the couch with my panda and talk with each of them individually. I love them both. I had some very good conversations with both of them this week in which we were able to share certain lessons we've learned and testimonies that we've gained. I think that the Lord really blessed me and answered my prayers this transfer. I wanted to come to understand the power of charity more. He gave it to me. I've been given a strong and powerful love for my companions that almost surprised me. I've been able to see how easy it is to give of yourself and to strengthen, love, and serve when you are filled with charity and love for an individual. Serving a mission has given me a lot of good lessons about loving and working with others. Having companions has taught me so much. I'm excited to work to apply these things throughout my life.
   I loved talking with all of you yesterday! You all make me smile. Thanks for your support. Thanks for being great examples to me. Thanks for encouraging me. You sure know how to be a perfect missionary family. :) It's okay, although you can tell I love being a missionary and it's a bit bitter-sweet to be finishing my mission, I can tell honestly that I'm also pretty excited to be back with you soon. I love my family! I'm so grateful for all of you. <3
   Let's moments to share from this week...well we were teaching a young 7 year old boy who's preparing for baptism soon and during his closing prayer he said, "...Thank you for the wonderful sister missionaries...for these beautiful missionaries!..." Haha, it was so funny. Little charmer. He wanted to treat us to ice cream afterwards while we talked with his grandmother in our Spanglish. We also had a really fun dinner and lesson with the G. family this week. She made delicious enchiladas and albondigas (spelling?) soup. It was a fun dinner.
   I love the Book of Mormon. It doesn't ever get old and I'm so grateful for the lessons that I learn every time I put my effort into reading it and pondering on what I've read. This morning I read the simple but powerful scripture from one of my Book of Mormon heroes. 1 Nephi 4:6 says, "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." I was thinking about preparation. Sometimes we can be completely prepared with a plan and action items, but there are also many times when we have to go forward with courage and trust that things are going to work out. How do we prepare for those situations? We make sure that we are worthy to have the Spirit with us. In this specific scriptural example Nephi couldn't know all of the plan at first. But he was worthy of the Spirit and he was listening closely to impressions and promptings. It all worked out. When we do the things in our life to enable us to feel and follow the Spirit, we will be prepared for whatever is in store. So reading the scriptures, praying, and other things that will invite the Spirit into our lives prepares us for all that we will face. Those basics are so simple. They are so important every day. :)
   I love you all! Have a beautiful week full of fun, happy, and exciting moments. See you soon!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~Talking with all of you. :)

~Celebrating random occasions in the car. Love these sisters. :)