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. :)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dear Wonderful Family,
   Yeah, that quote keeps popping into my mind this week. I love Camarillo. :)
   Holy guacamole! It's already Monday. I'm not sure how it feels over there, but here the time is flying by faster than light-speed! Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you. ;) Also, Happy Cinco de Mayo. We're going to an early party for that tonight for dinner with a couple of members in our ward. Should be way fun. Seriously though, the days are flying by and we're working super hard, enjoying every second, seeing many miracles, and feeling very close to the Spirit. We're tired...just saying. In the best way possible. Missionary work is exhausting, but I love it. Haha the other night after we planned for the next day I got up to go brush my teeth and I came back and my companions had never quite made it up off the floor. Passed out. I had to kindly wake them up so that they could actually make it to their prayers and their beds. Fun times. :) I love them both.
   I'm super excited and grateful for the opportunity to call and talk with you next week! I haven't heard back from you yet, so I'll plan on calling (Dad's cell as usual if that's best)on Sunday at 5:00pm your time (4:00pm my time.) I've got 40 minutes. I love you all and I can't wait to hear your voices, and to wish you a very Happy Mother's Day Momma! <3 I love you. You're right though, it's pretty nice that I'll get to see you only a couple of weeks later. :) That helps.
   A couple of updates on the work in this ward this week: We taught a Family Home Evening lesson to our investigator H. and her two children. They loved it and are excited to continue to work to become members of the church. They want to have FHE every week in their family now. They're doing awesome. She still has to wait for a while to get baptized because of some complications, but she bore her testimony to us and her children that she feels that this church and the Book of Mormon are true. Our investigator M. is doing okay. (Oh, by the way, just like your letter last week Mom, we are teaching and working with a ton of M.'s here too! We have two investigators named M. here and an awesome strong young recent convert named M. Confusing right? Love you brother Mike!) Anyway, He came to church yesterday and enjoyed the lesson on Tithing. He wants to be more involved with the church. Our lesson on the Gospel went well and he is continuing to try his best. We did service for a nonmember elderly neighbor of a member and she loved having us there and praying with us after we worked. She glowed. And invited us to come back and help her with her yard next week! She's lonely and her husband is very sick. We were able to help her a lot. We're working super hard and we're doing our best to follow the spirit as we find and teach. We had many times this week in which we were able to follow promptings and catch people at just the right time. One miracle with that this week was when we only had a few minutes to spare before our dinner appointment, but we felt prompted to try a member referral that hasn't answered the door yet before going to dinner. We did and H. has become a new investigator. She opened the door and was so excited to see us and invite us in. She's met with missionaries many times in the past, here and in Japan. Right time, right place. It was the Spirit. 
   Other fun, random things from this week: I made a cake. :) You know that delicious chocolate kind with the caramel, sweetened-condensed milk, and cool whip? Yeah, I did my best to remember how to do that. It tasted pretty good and we enjoyed it thoroughly. I also got to be the pianist again at our district meeting. It's been a while since I've been the only one that could play any piano. It was fun and it felt good. I'm pretty excited to play instruments more again soon. M. played a song for us that he wrote on his guitar and made me jealous. I'm excited to hold an instrument again. Sorry, that wasn't supposed to sound un-focused. The thought of me being almost done with my mission has been getting a lot harder lately. I'm super excited, but it's also kind of sad and when we leave an amazing lesson or see some cool miracle, afterwards I have this bittersweet feeling because my time as a full-time missionary is almost over. :( Man I'm sick of people asking us all how much time we have left. It hurts a bit. But Heavenly Father's been sending me little reminders of things I miss back home lately and things I'm super excited for, so that's helping a lot. Music, holding and playing with kids, food I love, my cat, and of course my wonderful family! I miss you all so much and I can't wait to see you! I love being a missionary. And I know that when the time comes in a month, I'll be ready to be my missionary in normal life. I'm excited for that. Do you realize the power that we have as normal member missionaries? You can do basically all the same things, just without boundaries and a you have a lot more resources! I'm excited to try it. :)
   I love the conference talks. I can't read all of them at once like I want to! But each day when I've had questions I've prayed about it and found the answers in this last conference. It's awesome. I love it and I'm so excited to continue studying them. Here's a highlight from this morning: In Sister Wixom's talk she quoted Archbishop Perier, who said, "God guides are not so much in the dark as you think. The path to be followed may not always be clear at once. Pray for light; do not decide too quickly, listen to what others have to say, consider their reasons. You will always find something to help you...Guided by faith, by prayer, and by reason with a right intention, you have enough." Interesting how much I thought this lines up with Moroni 10 in the Book of Mormon where we are invited to read, ponder, and pray with real intent. Here he advised to listen, consider, and pray with real intent. Pretty cool huh? God loves us and will answer our prayer and give us guidance. We are not alone. We are not in the dark. He loves us and will guide us back. Keep enjoying general conference!
   Thanks for everything, I hope everything goes well this week with all your plans. Your missionary loves you and can hardly wait to talk with you next Sunday. :) Happy Mother's Day Mom! I love you all so much!
   Melanie (Sister Hardman)