Monday, February 23, 2015

Hello Everyone!
   How are things on the home front? It was so wonderful to hear about the amazing events of this week. I think our family is so great and I am so happy to be a part of it. I love you everyone! Keep doing your best, and remember that I'm still alive and I love you. ;)
   Well...this week was kind of interesting. Unfortunately I had an upset stomach for a couple of days and that kept us in a bit, but I'm feeling much better now and Sister Rasmussen and I were able to have fun and spend some good time together. The 4 Elders in our District brought us ice cream and Gatorade. Much appreciated. We watched the full Joseph Smith movie and Mountain of the Lord a couple of times, talked a lot, slept a lot, ate little, and enjoyed each other's company.
   Haha, in answer to your question Mom, nope I'm not working her too hard. She works me pretty hard. :) She's a get-it-done kind of person. We're doing great and yes, we laugh at least once a day. We have quite a few inside jokes. For example, I cannot walk as fast as her. She's a speed-walker and she misses her heals. Also, have I mentioned that she talks in her sleep? It's hilarious. My bed is super loud, so every time I roll over onto my other side it wakes up her sleep-talking. Another funny story from a week or two ago. We were in the middle of giving a message to a family with a little bug literally flew in her mouth and she started choking. Yup...strange things happen to missionaries. So yeah, we're pretty great together.
   And to answer your question last week Dad of what Ventura is like and what the people are like here. Ventura is exciting. It's so varied compared to many places I've been. Since it's a bigger city than my past areas there are definitely more areas that we avoid, especially at night. There are people from all different places and countries. There are colleges, students, surfers, homeless people, rich people, poor people, and a lot of others. We see and talk to a lot of nice people each day. We see a lot of pretty views, especially the sunsets. Work in Ventura is kind of crazy at times and I honestly think that there's always some crazy out-of-the-ordinary situation that we have to deal with here. It keeps us on our toes. Exciting place.
   On Monday we went to a hike that looks out over all of Ventura. You can hike it or you can just drive up to the look out. It's definitely a place that I want to take you all someday. It's SO pretty. It was a foggy day and we couldn't even see the islands, but it was still so beautiful to see the coast and the city. Question, is this the same view as the one that I posted with my mission call or is it just similar? Other fun fact of this week: a member took us to dinner at an Italian restaurant and the host came and sang to our table in Italian. Awesome! In other exciting news. This last week I hit my 15 month mark!!! Can you believe it? :)
   The work this week has been a bit hard, but we're doing our best and keeping cheerful. Unfortunately we had to stop seeing a couple of our investigators due to some past things that have come up, and one of the main people that we've been teaching, J. is in the hospital down in LA with a ton of medical problems. We miss her and are praying for her. She still wants to be baptized, her health is just so fragile right now. We referred her to the missionaries down there and passed the situation. They came and gave her a blessing and are visiting her each week to continue nourishing her testimony and giving her support and comfort.
   Zone Conference! It was wonderful! It turns out that it was the last full zone conference that I will have on my mission since they won't be having another full one till June. I got to drive us up there to Goleta which I loved. We got caught in the Santa Barbara stop and go traffic at 5:30 and that was an experience. A fun one. It's a beautiful drive. It was so great to be there with so many missionary friends that I've made throughout my mission. I got the chance to spend time with Sister Moure, Sister Hiapo, Hermana Winn, Elder Cavassos, Elder Lee, and a few others. It was great. Lunch was fun. Question, does Sister Felix post all of those pictures she takes on the mission blog? I've never seen it naturally. Anyway, the conference went really well. It was mainly about our testimonies of Jesus Christ. Our new Christlike attribute that we are focusing on in our mission from Preach My Gospel is Faith In Jesus Christ. The way they introduced it was wonderful and near the end of the meeting President Felix played several clips from the apostles and the prophets testifying of how they know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He lives. It was amazing. It was so powerful to listen to all of those testimonies and then to be able to add our own witness to theirs. I know that many of us may never see Him face to face in this life on Earth, but he shows himself to each of us in our own special way. He wants us to know Him and understand the role he plays in our lives. I know that as we seek to grow closer to Him He will embrace us whole-heartedly. All of us can come to know more and more for ourselves that He is our Savior and that He is there for us every step of the way. He truly does love us. Missionaries like to give invitations. Can I invite you all to do something? I want to invite each of you to take a copy of the apostles testimony: "The Living Christ" and read it this week. I promise that it will fill you with peace and a stronger confirmation that He lives and loves us. I know that every word of that document is true. I have felt it so strongly this week as I have studied and recited those words. He lives and loves us.
   I hope that all of you have a wonderful day and an enjoyable week. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I'm keeping you in mine. :) I love you all so much!
   Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~15 Month Mission Birthday!!! :)

~Sick day...the 4 Elders in our District brought us ice cream and Gatorade. Much appreciated. :)

Monday, February 16, 2015

Hello Everyone!
   I hope you're all doing great today. I want to say thank you so much for the loving Valentine's packages that I received this week! Thank you everyone. I got one on Monday, one on Wednesday, and one on Friday. I felt pretty special, so thank you. I love everything in them. You're all the best. Was your Valentine's Day wonderful? I hope you all had fun and are feeling loved too. Emma, I hope you had a great time at the dance.
   Here, I'll tell you all about my Valentine's Day. It was a wonderful day. In the morning we went to Elder Gardner's father's baptism. President and Sister Felix, Elder and Sister Miles, and a bunch of other missionaries were there. The Spirit was so strong and it was a special thing to witness. I know that it meant a lot to Elder Gardner and his dad that this was able to happen. Elder Gardner had asked me to come up and start off the testimony meeting that we had while they were drying off and getting dressed after the ordinance. I was grateful for that opportunity and we were all touched as we listened to each others testimonies of the blessings and of the truthfulness of the Gospel. We all were thinking back to our own baptisms and to the baptisms of our loved ones and how much more significant those are to us now. President Felix's closing remarks were powerful too. I love President and Sister Felix. So after the service we didn't have time before the next baptism to run all the way back to our apartment for lunch, so we just went down the street to Arby's...yum. Mom, do you remember that day in California over a year ago when we went to Arby's together? Our lunch reminded me of that. Then we went to the baptism of 8 year old P. in our ward. It was also a very sweet service. P.'s doing awesome. We also spent a lot of time that day dropping our "Valentine's" off around the ward. Earlier in the week we had decided to "Heart Attack" a bunch of the members and families here. We cut out a ton of hearts and I looked up a bunch of scriptures about love (like the ones I used on your Valentine's) and we wrote those on the hearts. We put them all in bags and dropped them off at 20 houses. The funnest one was trying to sneakily drop one off at President and Sister Felix's at the mission home. They had company and so we had to be sneaky and quiet. It was fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, and it was a good way to reach out to people and make them feel thought of. That night we went to the ward Valentine's Day "Sock Hop" Dinner and Dance. We left as the dancing started. :)  The dinner was so fun and we got to know a bunch of members and their nonmember friends that came. The decorations were so cute and the young women did a great job of being the 50's waitresses. They were so cute.
   Other things about this week: The work is going well. We are teaching K. and D. and their cute kids. They want to be baptized and are working towards that. They're going through a lot of hard times right now and trying to figure things out, but the messages of the Gospel are helping them. I'll keep you updated. Our service at Memory Care this week was sweet. As we left the building on Friday, I said to Sister Rasmussen, "I think our service today was really for the workers." She agreed. We were in there coloring and doing puzzles with those in the memory care and after a while they're two main nurses came in and asked if they could color with us. They wanted to sit and talk too. I think their day had been stressful. It was sweet to be there with them and to give them a little bit of a break too. One of our investigators decided that he doesn't want to meet with us anymore this week. It was really sad. We can tell that he still is interested, but after his family made it clear they weren't he just went along with that. We'll check in on him again in a week or two. That's part of the work happens. I have hope for him though. We don't know what's down the road. On a happy note, I heard from a Sister who served in Los Robles in Newbury Park a few months after I was there. She told me of a man that they had taught and who was baptized and is doing amazing. It turns out that I was one of the missionaries that found him originally. Sister Cusick and I had knocked on his door and talked with him for a while. He wasn't extremely interested at that time, but we gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon and we wrote his name down for future missionaries to try. A few months later he was ready. :) We really have no idea what will happen and the wonderful things that are in store. That lifted my spirits a lot. I wonder how often we see or talk to people and we never find out how much it impacted their lives.
   On Thursday this week we will be having a Zone Conference in Goleta. I'm so excited for it. It's going to be about The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles. Sister Rasmussen and I have been working really, really hard over the last few weeks to memorize the whole thing. We did it! This morning we were able to recite it both together and individually. It fills me with the Spirit as I really think about those words. I know that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior. I'll let you know all about the Zone Conference.
   I love you all. Have a fantastic week! Enjoy all of the blessings we have been given. Enjoy the little successes and tender moments of every day. Smile as much as you can. Help others smile. You make me smile. :)
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)
P.S.-Tell all of the Fettys that I said hi and that I love them. I'll be thinking about you all this week.

~Thank you for the wonderful Valentine's Day packages! <3

~The Valentine's Day "Sock Hop" Dinner and Dance

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dear Family,
   Coming to you from another beautiful day in Ventura, California. You said the weather has been nice and Spring-like in Utah? Here too. The big blossoms on all of the trees keep confusing me and I keep getting excited for General Conference because it looks like April. It is beautiful here, and we even got a nice rainy day on Saturday.
   This week went really well. Our schedule is packed every day with great things. One things that we did this week that really touched my heart was our service at the Memory Care ward at the assisted living home that we serve so much at. There are about 7 or so individuals who we go and spend time with every Thursday and Friday afternoon for an hour. We go on walks together, we play games, sing song, eat treats, and laugh at all of their head nurses jokes. He is hilarious. Anyway, I love being there and I love seeing the smiles on their faces. All of them have been through a lot and it brings so much joy to watch them laugh and smile and get involved.
   Thank you so much for the wonderful letters from Dad, Mike, and Em this week. I loved them all and they made my day. I've really enjoyed reading your mission stories, Dad. Haha, sometimes the way you wrote reminds me of the way I feel about certain things. You are my Dad for sure. I'm halfway done making you all these cheesy little missionary Valentine's. I'll send those to you today, so look for that later this week. I hope you all have a very Happy Valentine's Day! I love you!
   Happy Birthday Owen! I think you're awesome and I'll be thinking about you this week. :) Susan, I hope you had a very Happy Birthday too! Did you get my card?
   I know you like to know what I'm doing on holidays, so here's what I'll be doing on Saturday. We have 2 baptisms that we will be attending. At noon we have a special things going on. President made it possible for the father of one of the missionaries in my district to come over here to California so that he can be baptized by his son who is serving here. We're all pretty excited for them. It will be special and they've given each of us a part in the program. At 2 we will be attending the baptism of a young girl in our ward who just turned 8. Her parents had asked us to teach her the lessons before her baptism, so we've been seeing her. That night we are having dinner at the Young Women's fundraiser 50's themed Valentine's Day dinner and "sock hop" dance. We will not be staying for the dance. ;)
   Alright, in honor of Valentine's Day this week, here are a few of my thoughts on "Love." Preach My Gospel states that "Charity [or love] is a gift from God." It's a precious gift that all of us desire to strengthen. I'm grateful for how clear the scriptures are in telling us one of the greatest things that we can do to obtain this gift. We pray and ask Heavenly Father to bless us with it. In the Book of Mormon in Moroni 7:47-48 it says, "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." I know with all my heart that this is true. I've seen it happen in my life, especially while I've been on my mission. I have realized that one of the greatest successes is learning to love everyone. My mission has taught me how to love people, from different backgrounds, situations, and circumstances. We are all brothers and sisters. We need each other. We can have such an influence on everyone around us. As we pray for more charity and love for others, Heavenly Father blesses us with that gift. He wants us to have it. All of us need love. All of us can help others to feel loved. President Monson said, "Every day of our lives we are given opportunities to show love and kindness to those around us." and "Love is expressed in many recognizable way: a smile, a wave, a kind comment, a compliment. Other expressions may be more subtle, such as showing interest in another's activities, teaching a principle with kindness and patience, visiting one who is ill or homebound. These words and actions and many others can communicate love." It is my hope that all of us can focus on loving others, especially this week. :) I hope you all know that I love you very much. You're in my thoughts and prayers every single day, and I am very excited to see you all again in a few months.
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~A kind member sent us home with frozen yogurt! Yum.

~Monster Bird of Paradise!!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dear Family,
   It is an absolutely beautiful day here in Ventura. The skies are blue, the temperature mild, and our view of the Channel Islands is clear today. I'm here at the Ventura Stake Center doing emails. This is the place that we always gather for transfer meetings and some zone conferences. It really is in a beautiful spot. I don't mind the sunny, clear weather here. It's supposed to be a ocean-side paradise. If you can't tell, I am already in love with Ventura. It is very unique and a lot different from any other area I've served in of course. It has it's rough spots and it awesome spots. I won't lie, some of the neighborhoods here are a bit sketchy, but that's pretty normal for anywhere I guess. There's a lot of palm trees, birds of paradise, and citrus trees all over the place. An investigator had us pick oranges for ourselves after our lesson this week. They have been delicious. Sorry that we haven't taken many pictures this week. It was a crazy packed week. Here, I'll tell you all about it:
   Monday~P-day, packing, eating, cleaning, saying good bye to Solvang.
   Tuesday~Transfer Meeting in Ventura that was amazing. 19 missionaries finished their missions and went home this week. I've known and worked with many of them. As they gave their departing testimony during the meeting the Spirit was strong. I am so touched by all that they said. There are so many things that we have all learned and gained on our missions. I feel so lucky to be here. I love serving a mission. Elder and Sister Ruse from Lindon are leaving in the next couple of weeks as well and their testimonies were wonderful too. I'm grateful for all that they've done to take care of us missionaries. Cars and mail are very important things for us. :) It was fun to see and talk with a lot of missionaries and members that I know after the meeting. I even saw my ward mission leader from Pismo Beach and Elder Summers who is still up there. Elder Summers is one of the Elders that replaced us a few months ago. They both told me that Jim really loves and appreciates me and Sister Hiapo and that he is doing so well. He's a "natural" as they put it. He's going with the ward to do baptisms down at the LA Temple next week. Doesn't that just make you smile? He's amazing. So after the meeting, it was really weird to not have to drive a far distance to our new area...the transfer meeting was IN our area. I took out my TIWI card, logged into the car and we went to our apartment to drop things off and then to go shopping. The rest of the day went really, really well and we were able to visit a bunch of people that night and find a few new investigators.
   Wednesday and Thursday~Amazing missionary days. We have been scheduled and super busy and it's been awesome! There are a lot of different people that we are teaching and visiting and there are a bunch of community service things that we do each week. We volunteer at this really big assisted living place and do a lot of things helping out there. I'm getting to know my streets here and only getting lost occasionally.
   Friday~We started out helping a sister in our ward arrange flower displays for a baby shower. Um...okay her house is connected to a dock and the ocean! I think she said that they're called fingers. there are these little canal things that are cut out leading to the ocean and she lives on one. Her back porch is pretty cool. She took us to Subway where I ate a turkey and provolone sandwich with lettuce and cucumbers. Yum. Then we went and cleaned up a house and set up for the baby shower. Yeah, sometimes we help out with random things. :) It was a lot of fun. We then rushed to our apartment and met up with Elder Miles from the mission office and our zone leaders Elder Lee and Elder Cavassos. They came to help us move. Our apartment that we've been in is in a kind of dangerous part of town, so they were moving us. We had done our best to pack up and clean everything the day before. All of us loaded the trailer and then drove across town to our new place. Holy cow! I feel a bit spoiled now. Our new apartment is the nicest one I've seen on my mission. The carpet smells new, everything is clean, and it's in a pretty cool place. My windows look our over a field (I'm not sure what's growing there yet) and our pathway is lined with really tall Eucalyptus trees. Elder and Sister Miles had us throw out all of the old kitchen supplies and things and bought us all brand new dishes, silverware, etc. Sister Miles chose the colors and our apartment is quite cute. Okay, sorry, I just had to brag for a moment. We feel very blessed and are really grateful for it. Our new address is... but if you want to double check that I have that correct, calling the mission office isn't a bad idea.
   Saturday and Sunday~We had the Ventura Stake Conference this weekend. Elder D. Zackary Smith was the visiting area 70 and the conference was really good. I learned a lot and I loved what was said and shared. The hymns that we sang were so powerful with our big group and I think that was my favorite part. We sang a few of my favorites to sing as a big group of saints. How Firm A Foundation, High On The Mountain Top, and Redeemer of Israel. Those ones always make me think of General Conference. Another fun note is that I've been able to see President and Sister Felix a couple of times this week. I'm serving in their ward. The mission home is in our area. They aren't here for church a lot because they're still going around trying to go to each ward in the mission, but they were here for stake conference and it's been so great to see and talk with them more. I love being so close. We share the ward with Sister Kemp and Sister Nicholas, my MTC companion! I love talking with her so much and it's been so great to be around her again.
   Alright, so I know I haven't told you about the people we're working with yet, but that'll have to wait till next week. Just know that things are going really, really well. I love the work and the people and everything that we're doing. And concerning my companion: Sister Rasmussen is from Elmo, Utah and she is absolutely awesome! I love being her companion. We are having so much fun together and we're both so similar in so many ways. We've been laughing a lot and having a lot of fun while we've been working hard and staying busy. I'm so excited for this transfer and for all that it's already brought and all that it will bring. I love you all SO much. Have a fantastic week. Stay awesome!
Love, Mel (Sister Hardman)

~Me and Sister Rasmussen. Sorry, not our best picture. This is the only one we have of us so far. :) We were already ready for bed and we were running around packing up and cleaning our apartment.

~And just to throw in another random picture, here's me and Sister Moure at District Sports last Monday. People from Texas and Mexico that I've met have this thing about Hot Cheetos.