Monday, April 27, 2015

Good Morning From Camarillo!
   I agree with you Mom, Camarillo is a special place. As odd as this is, it kind of reminds me of Utah a bit. We're a bit closer to some mountains, and it's nestled out by itself, so it feels less busy and more quiet than a lot of the cities in my mission. The members here are very kind too. This'll be a good place to be for the rest of my mission. It's nice. :) We said goodbye to everyone in Ventura earlier this week, including M. He's doing well and I have high hopes for him. If he gets baptized while I'm here I would probably be able to go up to his baptism. Keep him in your prayers. He just needs a little more courage. I'm excited for him.
   Haha...tripans are so interesting. We're having loads of fun though and we're working hard. We have a lot of great people we're working with. 6 of our investigators came to Stake Conference this week! Can I just say that I love my companions? I do. I love Sister Olsen and it's been great to see her and talk with her again, it's been about a year. And being transferred with Sister Wilson was a huge blessing from Heavenly Father, I know it. I have grown to love her so much and we've become good friends. I'm so happy to have her here with me.The three of us are doing great together. What a happy, special way to finish off my mission. We're now the only English Sisters in our whole zone! (All of Camarillo and all of Oxnard.) We feel pretty special. The sisters are fewer in number now. Yeah, the number of missionaries in our mission has been going down a bit after the boom of missionaries.'s the big story of this week. It was definitely one of the scariest moments of my joke. But it was also one of the most amazing ones. I'll never forget the feelings of this weekend. So I'll give you the setting. I'm brand new to the Camarillo stake and so I've only met a few of the members so far this week. Camarillo had their Stake Conference this weekend. Elder Call of the 70 came. The whole conference was amazing and full of the spirit. I learned so much, our investigators learned and loved so much of it, and I got quite a few answers to prayers. Especially one BIG one. Be careful what you pray for. ;) Over the last week or two I have been praying a lot about my mission. I've had many experiences that have helped me to feel that I am doing well and that I have pleased the Lord with my mission, but sometimes you need a little extra confirmation. It can be easy to be hard on yourself and to get discouraged. And so, I've been praying hard for additional confirmation that I have been and am a successful missionary and that I've pleased Him. I've also been studying and reading a lot on the topic. There is a section in Preach My Gospel that is titled "A Successful Missionary." Sounds applicable right? As I was reading this section on Saturday morning, the last sentence really stood out to me. It says, "You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you." I asked myself, and yes, I can think of and point out and recognize many moments when I've felt the Spirit working through me. I was happy to have gotten an answer and felt peaceful that that had been my confirmation. Little did I know that Heavenly Father had a little bit more to give me on the subject. :) The adult Saturday night session was so good and I was enjoying all that was said. We were sitting near the back of the group. (Keep in mind there were about 600 or 700 people there from Camarillo and Oxnard, including President and Sister Felix, the Los Angeles Temple Presidency, a ton of missionaries that I know, and Elder Call of the 70.) Part way through Elder Call's talk, he invites the members to all envision one of their friends listening to the missionaries. He then says something along the lines of at this point I need two of our missionaries to come up and help me. And he says, "Hermana Brown...and Sister Hardman." Can you say scary moment?! (Later Sister Felix told me that Elder Call had asked for two of the missionaries names in this stake without telling them what he was going to do, and Sister Felix felt prompted to say the two of us.) Anyway, he invited us to come up to the stand...I bravely stood up and walked (long walk!) up there. Hermana Brown, an Hermana I've never met before came up on the other side. President and Sister Felix were beaming at us encouragingly. Elder Call then asked us to teach the Restoration lesson in about 5-10 minutes to everyone there. Holy cow, that was intimidating! Since Hermana Brown and I had never met, we crossed to each other and meekly said hi and hugged. Gotta build instant unity right? ;) And then we faced everyone and taught. It's hard for me to explain what happened exactly, but it was powerful. I felt like I was shaking, and my heart rate hurt, but we stood there together and the words flowed from us. I didn't feel unprepared, I didn't feel alone. I could feel someone teaching through me. I was being an instrument. The Spirit was so strong, and as I looked out over the faces of members, investigators, missionaries, and others I saw many people in tears. I testified of how I know that this is all true. My testimony was strengthened as we taught. And yes...the most powerful moment was as I recited the words of the First Vision. One word. Powerful. I felt it and it was confirmed to me very strongly. I know that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Joseph Smith did receive that answer. Heavenly Father loves us so much and always answers our prayers. After we finished Elder Call shook my hand and said over the pulpit, "If it were appropriate I'd hug those sisters!" As I sat down Sister Wilson hugged me and said, "You made Sister Felix cry. She was sobbing." Sister Felix is so sweet. So many people talked to me about their experiences doing that moment. It was humbling. I kept wanting to say, "It wasn't me." The next day I had the opportunity to talk with Elder Call for a few minutes. We talked about the feeling of the Spirit working through you. He talked about the love that we have for others being the Lord's love flowing through us. Similar principle. Maybe all of this isn't quite making sense, but the moral of the story is that I received a very clear answer to my prayer and that I realized what a priviledge it is to be an instrument in the Lord's hands and to have the Spirit teach through us. One of the themes of the conference was that Heavenly Father is in the details. I couldn't agree more. He knew that I needed that opportunity to share my testimony of the gospel, and he knew what it would help me with. It was pretty cool experience. I'm doing my best to please Him, and I'm doing my best to be the best missionary I can be, all the way till the end.
   Well...sorry, now I feel like I'm ranting. But I wanted to share that special experience with you. Hope it makes sense. I hope you all have a wonderful week. I love you all a lot! This'll be a good week. I love you!
Love, Melanie

(Sister Hardman)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hey Everyone! you can tell by the title of today's email, this was an amazing week! A ton of really awesome things happened this week. So here we go:
   To start off, Transfer news! I'm being transferred for my last 6 weeks. I'm going to Camarillo. I'm super excited. I'm hearing amazing things about that area and ward, and hey, I get 6 areas on my mission. (I don't know the address yet since we're moving into and taking over an Elder's apartment down there. So you can call the mission office for the new address.) But guess what, here's the super fun and unique situation with transfers. Sister Wilson and I are being transferred together! We'll still be companions. That never happens! :) And we'll now be in a three-some, tri-pan, whatever you want to call it. Sister Olsen, who I knew back in Moorpark is joining us. Should be a lot of fun this transfer. I'm excited.
   Next, we went to the Los Angeles Temple this week with Sister Colvin. It was wonderful. I had a very special time there and I learned some things and got some answers and peace for myself. It was a really cool day in the Temple. I'm grateful that I was given that opportunity. I love the Spirit in the Temple and I love the clarity that I feel there. Things just make sense you know? Perspective is a lot easier there and you just feel so full of peace, happiness, and love. I'm excited to go with you all again in the future.
   Here's another awesome part of this week: Remember how I mentioned that there was some big mission-wide meeting last night that they kept super secret? Well, after we were all seated and we stood as President and Sister Felix and our wonderful area 70s entered the chapel, who walks in with them? Brother David Archuleta! :) Yeah, I know! We were all super excited. He had contacted President Felix and wanted to know if he could hold a special devotional where he could speak to the missionaries. Brother Archuleta is awesome. He loves missionary work and he beams as he talks about his mission. He got home just over a year ago. He shared a lot of stories with us, things about his life, American Idol, stories from his mission, the story behind his recording of the song "Glorious," several of his favorite scriptures, and his testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ and of the enabling power of the Atonement. In addition to all of that, he sang many hymns for us. They were beautiful. Our zone was on the first row and it was so cool to be there. At the end of the devotional he sang "Glorious" for us. I love that song so much. I heard a version of it more than a year ago and fell in love with the message. It's always been a special song to me on my mission. Then when Meet the Mormons came out and they used David Archuleta's version, I loved it even more. Did you know that the church had him record that song while he was still on his mission, set-apart as a full-time missionary. He choked up as he told us about that. No wonder that song is so powerful for so many of us. The spirit is in it. That song will always remind me of my mission and of me being a missionary. And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to hear it sung by him in person, accompanied by his testimony and encouragement to us as missionaries. You can see how much his mission meant to him. We were pretty blessed to have that experience last night.
   Let's see, other things that happened this week...well we dug a 6 foot wide 3 feet deep hole and dug up and replanted a pomegranate tree. Some pretty great blisters from that one. We also taught a lot of different people this week. M. is doing great. He was at church yesterday and is still praying about a baptismal date. Our area's being combined with the other Ventura 2nd sister's, so Sister Nicholas and now Sister Hiapo will work with him. I'm excited for them. In other know how missionaries are called to proclaim the gospel? Yeah...haha it's pretty comical and a bit frustrating when you don't have your voice. I got a pretty bad cold a few days ago and although I'm feeling much better now, I've barely been able to talk for the last 3 days. Oh well. I made Sister Wilson laugh as I attempted to sing her "Happy Birthday" this morning. Lots of cracking, up and downs, and random silences. I'm sure my voice will come back at some point. Oh, I also, as you can see from the picture tried one of those corn things M. I've thought about it when we've passed them throughout my mission. There are a lot of them in this part of California. I finally got one, through my broken Spanish. Tasty...but messy! And spicy. :) I had to take a picture like yours Mike, of you on your mission eating one.
   I got the Conference book this week. Thank you so much! I love reading through those. I hope all things go well this week back on the home front. Your missionary loves you very much. I'm super excited for these next 6 weeks. My whole heart is in it and I'm going to do my very best to make them the very best! Here I go. Have a fantastic day everyone. Love you!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~The Los Angeles Temple with Sister Colvin

~Mike! Check this out! Through our broken Spanish we were able to buy these the other day while walking around a neighborhood. Thought of that picture of you Mike. :)

Picture taken by Sister Burridge of us yesterday. Three of us are leaving the ward. :) I love these sisters so much and it's been great serving with them.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Hey Everyone!
   I hope you're all having a fantastic day. :) Things are cheery and bright here.
   It's been a wonderful week. I think time is going by faster and faster every single week. It's flying. I'm loving every second and I'm so grateful for the opportunities that we have to teach, serve, love, and learn. Here's an update:
   M. is doing well. We talked about the Book of Mormon and scriptures and prayer a lot. He's reading and praying about all of it. Just saying, he's really good about keeping his commitments every lesson. And then later in the week we watched Finding Faith In Christ (while eating probably way too many of Sister Nielsen's yummy cookies) and taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is praying about a specific baptismal date right now. We'll follow-up at our lesson tonight. We're hopeful. It seems that he really wants this, but is worried about what his family will think. We met his family this week and they seemed super happy and open about it, so we're hoping M. will feel better. I'll let you know. Thank you for your prayers in behalf of me and in behalf of those who we're teaching. I know it makes a difference.
   About my companion, I love Sister Wilson. We have so much fun. She's hilarious. Our inside jokes are endless. And we help each other in so many ways. She definitely helps me. I just feel like I can really be the best missionary I can be, the missionary I want to be, and it seems so easy to do that with her. I love it. She teaches me so much by her example of serving others, being bold and courageous, and loving those around us. I'm grateful for her and our time together.
   Service miracle from this week: We were teaching our usual bible study at the Lexington on Wednesday and we usually finish with singing them a few songs. We were about done when one of the newer ladies said, "Can you sing one more? I Am A Child of God." My mouth almost dropped. No one knows that song but members of the church right? So we sang it and she sang with us and looked so happy. After the study group we talked with her. Turns out she's one of the ladies in our ward that we've been trying to find. She was excited to meet with us and get our number. Miracle. We had been searching for her just the week before.
   There are a few way exciting things coming up this week!
~I'll find out about my last transfer on Saturday morning. What do you think? Will I get to spend the rest of my mission in Ventura with Sister Wilson or will things be changed up? You never know. I'll be great with whatever happens though. I'm excited.
~They announced that we're having a big meeting on this upcoming Sunday night with ALL of the missionaries in the mission here at the Ventura stake center. I've only ever had a meeting with ALL of the missionaries a year ago when Elder Russell M. Nelson came to the mission. They haven't told us what the meeting will be, other than that it will be a very spiritual and good experience. We're excited. We'll see what happens.
~This week we're going to the Temple! I'm SO excited. I wasn't expecting to get to go to the LA Temple again on my mission. But Sister Wilson's birthday is on the 20th, so we get to go to the temple this week. We're going on Wednesday the 15th during a morning session. I'm so excited. I love the Temple. I'll be thinking about all of you.
   Alright, I have a video for you all to watch. It's a Mormon Message called "Look Not Behind Thee." Sister Wilson showed it to me and we've been using it as a dinner message this week and talking about General Conference. The video is actually pretty funny and I think you'll all enjoy it. It's for New Years, but think about how it applies to General Conference. I hope you like it. I know Conference is a wonderful opportunity for us to start again and to renew our commitment to do better and to move forward with cheerfulness and excitement. Don't look back. Don't let things hold you back. "Keep Moving Foward." :)
   I love you all very much! Thanks for the wonderful letter Daddy, and Mom for today's great email, and thanks everyone for the love. Have a fantastic day and a wonderful week. And for those going on vacation or trips. Travel safely and have so much fun!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman) there we were reconfirming how we were going to approach our next lesson when I glance out the window of the car and exclaim, "What is THAT?!" Um...a dead possum? Look above my hand in the picture. Ew. But so random.

~Happy day when we both got a bunch of fan mail! We were SO happy!!! Thanks Dad and others!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Family,
   Happy Easter everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Conference and Easter weekend like I did. What a wonderful General Conference. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn, listen, feel, and grow that comes with each General Conference. We are so blessed to live in this day and age aren't we? I love our dear prophet, President Monson, his counselors, the 12 Apostles, and all of the other leaders of our church. This church is true and we are blessed to be a part of it. :) Yeah, basically I just love General Conference so much. Every time I watch it, I gain answers to my questions and guidance for my life. Comfort, peace, joy, etc all come with Conference. I hope you all received the same. :) Any chance I can get a Conference book soon? I'm so excited to read them again.;
   I loved the email today! I loved hearing from all of you. You're all the best thing since Zupas' Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich or Costa Vida's Sweet Pork Nachos. (And trust me, I miss those two things a lot. Haha.) I'm excited to see you all soon. I'm sure these last two months will be awesome.
   Thank you for the wonderful Easter package! I loved it. It made me feel like I had you all with me for Easter. :) Guess what we did during the Priesthood session? Sister Wilson and I didn't have a dinner appointment and neither did Sister Kemp or Sister Nicholas. So...they picked up pizza, came to our apartment and we had a girl's night for dinner. We ate pizza and dyed Easter Eggs. It was so fun. Oh! And guess what we got to do on Sunday for lunch. Saturday we got a text from Sister Felix and they wanted to have the missionaries who are serving here in the several Ventura wards come over to the mission home in between sessions on Easter for waffles! How awesome is that?! It was so fun and so special to spend a bit of their Easter with them. They're so sweet. It was 4 sisters, 2 hermanas, and probably a dozen elders. We enjoyed eating waffles on the back porch looking out over their avacodo and lemon trees. It was fun to visit with all of them.
   Concerning the work, things are going awesomely here in Ventura. Remember M. that I told you about last week? He's still doing great. We taught him the Plan of Salvation this week. He was excited to say the opening prayer! He's been practicing at the Nielsen's home when he's with them for meals and stuff (which is almost every day). I am amazed at the difference in his countenance this week. Just since he's started praying each day he looks and seems more confident and happy and at peace. It's awesome! I took a moment to think and look at my own life and how prayer affects me every day. This week, surrounding my questions and pleadings for answers and guidance with General Conference, I felt like my prayers became even more personal. I feel closer to Heavenly Father and I know that he's listening and guiding me. This brings me so much strength and peace and hope and excitement. This is a wonderful feeling, and I want to do my best to have all of my prayers be more meaningful and close to him. He's our father, he loves us, and he is there for us. I know this is true. I have no doubt about it. Anyway, back to M., he also went to the Priesthood session and it sounds like he really enjoyed it and is enjoying being fellowshipped by everyone. I also had exchanges this week with Sister Nicholas. We had a lot of fun remembering back to our MTC days and talking about things we've learned and down and gained on our missions. She's awesome.
   Back to General Conference, I was really trying this morning to figure out which talk was my favorite so I could share that with you. But honestly, I had so many favorites, I could only narrow it down a bit. Three of them that really stood out to me and meant a lot to me were: Elder Bednar's talk about dispelling fear, Elder Renlund's talk about being Latter-day "Saints" with the whole "Twas I, but tis not I" quote, and Elder Ringwood's talk basically about Heavenly Father's approval. All three of them stood out to me a lot and answered some of my questions along with giving me added guidance that I didn't quite realize I was in need of until I received it. But the whole conference was wonderful and as I said I'm super excited to read all of them again. What were some of your favorites?
   Well, I hope all of you have a beautiful Spring week. Welcome to April! I love you all!
Love, Melanie (Sister Hardman)

~On Exchange with Sister Nicholas and I got your wonderful Easter package!
~Girl's Night on Priesthood night with the other sisters. We had pizza and dyed Easter Eggs! So fun!