Monday, January 28, 2013

Alaska Missionaries - Picture!!!

We just had two delightful sisters over for dinner.  See attached picture.  Thanks for sharing her with us!
-Bart Quimby

He asked me to forward it cuz I couldn't remember any of your email addresses. HAHAH. UM, maybe Anne can photoshop it and make it look less over-exposed. HAHA."
-Sister Ashbrook

(Sorry, I didn't Photoshop it. I think they look lovely, right? -Anne)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Notes - Bush Training, Jan. 2013 as Transcribed by the Wonderful Mom

"Hi, Sister Ashbrook, and family - here are some notes of the mission training that Sisters Ashbrook and Hatfield taught and I listened to on the phone and taped, then transcribed with some parts missing; they did a wonderful job!" - Marie Ashbrook, the mom, my mom.

We will get started, thank you Sister Ashbrook for playing the piano, opening hymn Precious Savior, Elder Manua will give the opening prayer.  (Song, prayer)  Pres. Beesley, remarks, Sister Beesley, training plan, island training.  Sister Ashbrook and Sister Hatfield, Bethel, Nome, Barrow.

Sis Ashbrook - We are going to have an opening song we're going to do for you guys, -(song)- you guys are dancing, that's so cool, we missed it, Sis Beesley said we could start out fun and then work into serious, we're better at being fun than serious.
Sis Hatfield - Like Sis Beesley said, this is island training for bush missionaries, how we can work the best when we're on a tiny island or a remote place.
A - We want to start by giving our thoughts of Petersburg, the pictures are over here.  I was with Sis Peterson, did she leave? She's going to get it in two hours. I was with Sis Peterson and I remember getting off and getting to the airport, if you've served in Wrangell it's the same airport.  This man came up dressed, John Bringhurst and was there to meet us and I thought he was going to drive us and he was just there to meet us, and I thought what is this place, people are way nice, the airport is one room and so you have one room and everyone knows each other, Sis Peterson said that's our investigator, got our suitcases into his car and we followed him to his cabin that we were going to stay at and it's right on the water.  Do you have any pictures, this is the back view from the cabin, the area next to the cabin.  Oh, this is really rustic and untouched.  Here, there are electrical poles and wires on hills and mountains, and there it's so untouched and so wild.  Pres. Bringhurst said, sorry about the view, and I said, no, it's great and then I realized he was being sarcastic.  So my first impressions of this tiny little town, everyone is super nice and it's going to be amazing, I was a little overwhelmed but it was amazing.  Ever since then it's been fun to get to know everybody in Petersburg, your turn, Sis Hatfield.

H - I got off the airplane and it was the first sunny day in Petersburg in a long time, it's so sunny and beautiful and we're driving and all you can see is water and islands and mountains and big trees.  Trees there are huge.    A - huge and floppy pine trees and just beautiful.
H - And the houses are kind of a contrast to the trees, they're all on pilings and kind of very rundown, and I was like what am I getting myself into, and she said, oh, this is Main Street, and it's about as long as this chapel, and it was just very strange, very small.  What am I supposed to do here, what is my purpose in coming here, there are like five people outside and there's no one to talk to, but we made it work and it was great.  Pictures - most of these, the top is outside the post office, more views of Petersburg, very small.

H - What we are basing our training on is three segments, the first one is about planning, creative planning, the second is service, the third is being obedient.  We decided to pick a song because we're Sis Ashbrook and Sis Hatfield,, and that's what we do.   
A - um, excuse me, the Spirit totally inspired Sis Hatfield and she said, who don't we base this on I Have Work Enough To Do?
H - The first verse goes along with planning, the second verse service, the third verse goes along with obeying God.  I think as we all planned it we were all pretty sure, hey, this song, really I don't know, the Spirit.  We're going to sing each verse before each segment; as you internalize the words and the message, pay attention to how the Spirit teaches you.  We're going to talk about how we use music.  So we want you to feel the Spirit like you do whenever you hear music, and today as well.  We are going to sing, the words are up there if you want to read the words.  (song)

H - So the reason we love that first verse is because it talks about all my daily tasks fulfilling.  As for planning, who knows the missionary purpose?  Two, three in this whole room, that's awesome, it's in your handbook.  The missionary purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, and it talks about that in the first verse.  Purpose firm and willing; so we know our purpose, we are firm in our purpose, we know why we are sent to the areas we are sent to.  All my daily tasks fulfilling, ere the sun goes down.  We have all our tasks to do before the end of the day, and sometimes when you're in the bush or you're on an island you have to get creative with your plans because you don't have as much.
A - So the white handbook says on Page 8 to conduct yourself at all times so that everyone who sees you will recognize you as a representative of Jesus Christ, that is what you have to remember as you plan, and it's important to remember throughout the day as well, and then page 15 says, as you plan you have to be efficient with your time.  Time is one of the most precious resources Heavenly Father has given you, the period when you're able to serve the Lord with all your time and all your effort, in Petersburg, in Nome, in Bethel, in Barrow, Cordova, such an opportunity is a privilege, it's a privilege to be there.  I love Petersburg and I have a huge testimony that wherever you're sent, it's a privilege to be there.

H - We want to talk about some of the creative things that we did in Petersburg.  Sometimes we'd write thank you notes from our dinners from the night before.   A - That was Sis Gardner's and Sis Peterson's idea, I think.
H - Some of these we borrowed from others.  One time we decided to take one to a dinner and we decided we were going to doorbell the thank you card.  A - But it was snowy and icy so we couldn't run.
H - So Sis Ashbrook couldn't run, they opened the door and caught us, and she just laughed.
A - I don't know how to do this whole thing with a straight face; we went to the hospital A LOT, we had a less-active there and so we did Bingo and we sang there on Fridays, and we visited a lot of people, and we got to know the hospital staff, they would call us, they would say, can you come over and help us with this whole thing right now that we're doing?  We're like, we're in Wrangell, and we said, why is the hospital calling us, they loved us.

H - We were known as the singing sisters, and we got to meet some really cool people.  There was a Baptist woman there in long term care; Baptists sometimes don't think so fondly of us and our beliefs, but she became one of our favorite people, and we visited her and sang her songs.  She just loved it, and was very accepting and very loving, so it worked out well.  We also did a lot of service at the museum, and while we did that we worked one on one with the museum coordinator, and we would talk about a gospel topic, we would sneakily throw it in, and we got her interested in good topics and were doing all of that service at the museum.
A - The curator, she's hilarious, if you ever serve in Petersburg.
H - That led her to invite us to sing at the museum open house for the whole community at Christmas.  The whole community comes and there's food, and we just really got our faces out and got to know the people.  We involved one of our ward members who's very well known in town.  A - He's in the police department.
H - Yeah, he's a cop.
A - We sang songs about Christ and just sang, and it's scary, half the people weren't smiling at us, some smiled at us, and it's scary if you sing and no one's smiling at you, but a lot of people came up to us after and said, thank you for singing to us.  One of the things you can do in the bush is something Elder Martinez came up with, we all tracted for Halloween, we all called in on polycom and said opening prayer, then we all went and tracted and had a game to go along with it and it was creative planning.  It was a good zone unifying thing, because you never see your zone, so it was good.  We had to see how many times we could get people to say pumpkin or raven or crow or something.  I made a cool transition to Bethel, I don't know what it was.  H - I'm not sure, hold on, Bethel and Nome.

A - We also organized a community concert secretly, so it wouldn't look like we did it, and the Oxford Carollers is this group of singers.  They get together and sing Oxford carols which are not just traditional Christmas songs.  We joined that, with permission, and were able to go to rehearsals every Monday.  The 7th Day Adventist pastor and the Lighthouse Assembly of God preacher were in the group, and the Catholic/Lutheran board was in the group, and they were great.  They would greet us, we never felt uncomfortable and we were able to sing and perform with them in the community concert.
H - We had an experience, we got up to sing, and one of the songs we sang with a nonmember; she wasn't an investigator, she was just one of the people in town we knew, and we asked her to sing and she did.  When we got up to sing, she's saying this in front of the whole community, and she said, I just want to thank the sisters for getting involved in this and for being so involved in the community, and helping us in every way, and she just did this whole spiel.    A - It was just really cool, I have no idea why she did that.
H - And it was, it was very nice of her, so it was good, people recognized that we were out doing things in the community, even if it was just singing. 
Bethel elders ---  (speaking from Bethel)

A - Thank you, that was awesome.  So our second segment is about service, and doing service with the Spirit, and remembering to share the gospel while you do service, and making sure you don't get into any traps while you're doing service.  We're going to talk more about service and Bethel has a cool thing about service.  We need to help those who need help, and that is the second verse and we're going to sing that now.  (song)  OK, so in Petersburg we did a lot of service.
H - In Preach My Gospel, page 168, the second paragraph, through service you and those you serve come together in a powerful, inspiring way.  Your good works will help people recognize you as a servant of God.  In Petersburg we had quite a few experiences.  The first example is Chris, she was a potential, and we knocked on her door one day, to stop by and say hi, she said now's not a good time, I'm about to pull a fence out, and we said can we help, and we were wearing skirts and stuff and we're like, hold on, and we ran home and changed and came back in 10 minutes, and said we're ready.  We got outside, and it went all around her back yard, and it was frozen solid, and we said you need a blow dryer or something, or boiling water, and she brought out a propane torch thing.  And we held it while she pulled the fence out of the ground, it took a long time but it worked.  We helped her make soap, because she makes soap and doesn't buy it.  The second one was an investigator, we stopped by and that morning her pipes had frozen and she and her brother were changing the pipes.  The elders met them at the store and they bought the insulation and we spent the rest of the day.

A - There was a less-active named Shannon, and she lived up the road like 10 miles, and lived by herself with a dog, out the highway along the island, out of city boundaries, and people lived a little different out there, and they didn't have finished houses.  She was building this warehouse on this property on scaffolding, and we said do you need help?  She said maybe I'll call you, maybe you can help me make some apple sauce.  She never called us.  The second time we saw her was at this race for breast cancer, and we asked her again, and she said, Oh, yeah, maybe I'll call you.  The next time we stopped by and it wasn't even on our planner.  She let us in and made us homemade hot chocolate, and she told us she had been really lonely that day.  She said she was going to go hunting soon to get some deer, we said, we'll help you.  She finally called us and we helped her grind the deer; these pictures of us cutting up deer.
H - She was skinning a deer, which we don't have pictures of, we spent quite a few hours cutting up the deer and doing things we never thought we would do on our mission.
A - We talked about the gospel.  We talked to her about motherhood, she had a problem with the role of the priesthood.  In case any one has a question about that, you can talk about the divine role of women, Eve was the mother of all living before she ever had a child.  She said, I really appreciated you guys coming over here and helping me.  I really needed the help, even with all your sneaky little gospel lessons. The Spirit can soften hearts and you can love them and let the love of Christ come through while you do service.  We can't fall into traps while we do service, so Bethel -----------
(speaking from Bethel)

A - These examples of service show how we must always conduct ourselves to show we're representatives of Jesus Christ.   Is there a puppet show, if not, we'll forgive you. 
H - The third segment is about being obedient, sometimes it's really hard when you're in the bush and you're the only missionaries there.  It's really easy to become relaxed and become comfortable and lazy, because your district leader is in Whitehorse, is really far away.  This verse has words I really like, God commands I must obey, ere the sun goes down. 


H - In the white handbook on pages 3 and 4, which is actually something from our call letter, but I love that it's in the white handbook, we can read it every day.  Called as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel, maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance, devote all your time and attention to serve the Lord, leaving everything else behind, be an effective advocate and messenger of the truth, when you accepted your call.  Earn the trust of members and nonmembers.
A - D&C 88, ...cease to be idle, cease to sleep longer than is needful, arise early that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity..."
H - This is what helps us remember to be obedient.  I will admit, it's harder than you would think.

A - One of the things that helped me was Zion's Camp, that little map thing, Sis Peterson and I were super hard on ourselves.  We would call Elder Terry every day and say, we were a minute late, we've lost the day! Petersburg had a lot of things going on and I knew it was because we were being obedient, the blessings were amazing.  I have such a testimony that those blessings will come because you're obedient.  When you're not obedient, things won't work out the next day and you wonder why.  It's kind of that simple, and it's kind of hard.  I knew if I was exactly obedient, blessings would come, the area needed them.
H - The thing that helped me the most was, when I got to Petersburg I heard that there had been missionaries disobedient in the past; the members didn't trust the missionaries, did not have full confidence in them. Sister Beesley likes to use the term, you're in a fish bowl.  Everyone sees you and they know our rules, when we do something disobedient they will know, and they will tell people and start talking.  This is an experience that was really embarrassing for me---  
A - Not yet, Sister Hatfield.  We lived with members, and would say to them when we came out late in the morning, well, we were just weekly planning, and things like coming home, we would have dessert to hand to our branch president, because he liked it and we were trying not to gain weight, and we would talk to them a minute and they would say, talk to us!, and we always left and went up to plan.  If you care about the branch you are serving, don't stay too long, manifest the care that you have for them.  You talk about things that are gospel related.  Now we can talk about the embarrassing story.

H - It's very easy when you are serving somewhere to stay late at dinner, we were having dinner with members, and I love country music and the wife loved country music too, we talked about her favorite artist and about other artists.    A - I'm just sitting there.
H - She's sitting there awkward, because she doesn't like country music, and we got very off-topic and Sister Ashbrook was going to, she's more obedient than I am, she won't let me finish guys, this happens all the time, she made a comment about Moroni, and we all just kind of laughed, talked about the scriptures and went into our spiritual thought.
A - She's more obedient than I am.  When you're not with other missionaries you don't have those social distractions, when we're with a whole bunch of missionaries, we see them more, it's more social, it's just what happens; you don't have that and you just get to work. 
H - We did a lot of self-evaluation, maybe it's just because we're very critical of ourselves, every day.  
A - If you fall asleep on the couch, maybe you shouldn't, you should sit up when you're talking and not use casual language.
H - Remind yourself and remind your companion, even what we say or how we talk to people is taken very seriously, I think that their view of us goes down a little.
A - Sometimes if they see us as free labor, or they see us more as a friend, which is awesome, but we're always teachers.
H - Personally I did a lot of praying and turning to my companion for help, just in the little things that I can casually work on each day to be better, strive every day to be better missionaries, especially when you are in a fishbowl.  We'll turn the time over to Barrow, the ultimate bush missionaries, Elder Brower and then Elder Kafua will talk. 

(speaking in Barrow)
A - Thank you so much. Pres. Beesley said, we are where we're supposed to be, each companionship does a small fraction, then the next companionship will take the rest, and then the next companionship will take the next part, Christ is with us every step of the way.  I wanted to conclude with Alma 34, ...this (mission) is the time for men to prepare to meet God, the day for men to perform their labors, therefore I beseech of you that you do not procrastinate while in this mission, then cometh the night of darkness...I will repent, I'll return to my God, the same spirit does possess your bodies at the time that you got out of this mission, ...procrastinated, behold you have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, the devil has all power over you, the final state of the wicked.  In the hearts of the righteous does He dwell, the righteous shall sit down in His kingdom to go no more out, but their garments shall be made white in the blood of the Lamb.
As we love the area where we are and are obedient, they will love you, and you will love them, and it will be really hard to leave.  We have to change so that we can be the people God wants us to be, and we can't let anything hold us back.  I'm really grateful for the experiences, the good things the missionaries before us did and the wonderful members, I want to let nothing hold me back here as well. I know that we can have that bond, D&C 50, when we teach the Spirit, bond not easily broken, and I have a testimony of that, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

H - Dang it, I knew she'd make me cry. When I left my first area in Fairbanks, it was harder to leave Fairbanks than anything I've done in my life, I sat in Pres. Beesley's office and just cried for about 10-15 minutes, and he let me, because he's awesome.  He said, why are you crying, and I said, President, I will never love any person more than I love the people of Fairbanks.  He said, you will love the people of Petersburg, you will love the people in every area that you serve in about the same, they are wonderful, kind, warmhearted people who just want to love and serve the Lord.  It's very hard, in ways that you wouldn't expect, to serve in the bush, but it's completely worth it.  As we turn to the Lord He will help us through all things, and lead us to the people who need us most.  I just want to leave that with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thanks, Sisters, and Elders up in Barrow, Bethel, and Nome, we're grateful for your preparation and the training you all did.  We'll sing on page 224, Sister Hatfield will lead, Sister Ashbrook will play the piano for us, and afterwards Elder Tai will give the closing prayer.

(Melissa playing, song, elder said, Bye, everybody!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Happy MLK Day

Hey family!

Hey so I'm pretty sure Sister Beesley recorded the training on her thingy, maybe I can get a copy and you can watch it, mommy :)

And I got some froofy colored tights in a package today!! hhahaah. I will have to figure out how to wear them so they aren't terribly distracting. Sis Claspell said I should wear them under another pair of tights when it gets colder. I think that's a great idea. Yay. Thank you so much. i love colors. Every day I wear my Breast Cancer awareness pink bracelet, my bright orange watch, and my turquoise earrings, and I love my foxy red camera.

So we have big plans to start planning a stake musical fireside on the Love of God, because we need new investigators and hopefully we can get the members excited about missionary work. We have an appointment with the bishop tonight to talk about it.

So we organized this area into smaller, color-coded sections and have been meeting with all the auxiliaries to go over the ward list. It has helped a lot for us to both get to know this area and to learn about those people that don't always make it to church. Working with the auxiliaries has been very valuable, especially the relief society, the presidency is awesome and has already contacted several of the less active sisters on the list and found out which ones do not want visits and have gotten slightly tired of telling that to all the people that come knocking on their door. Working with the leadership of the ward means we are a lot more organized---doesn't make sense for the missionaries to go and visit someone when they don't want to be visited, and then the relief society visit them a week later cuz  they didn't know the missionaries already tried, and so on.

We just met with the elders quorum president last night and went through all the men on the list. Several he knew nothing about, so he told us we just gave him a lot of homework, bahaha.

Sister Claspell and I both keep getting the feeling that we're getting this area all organized and all the info all caught up so that new missionaries will come to this area and have it all done for them. Bahahah. But who knows, we don't find out if we're getting transferred until the middle of February. Sister Claspell would be very sad to leave this area. I'd be sad too, but I am having a hard time getting attached to anything ever since I got back from Petersburg. Sigh.

So I went on exchanges with Sister hatfield on Tuesday. Her companion went back to Eagle River with Sister Claspell. Sister hatfield and I spent almost the whole day (well, from 2pm to about 6pm and from about 7pm to 9pm, and then we had a phone conference with Nome, Bethel, and Barrow elders at 9:30 that night) at the mission home planning for our weekly Thursday training, cuz she and I were kinda presenting "Island Training" along with Bethel, Nome, and Barrow (three areas way far away, so you were right Mom, the reason they were so quiet during the thing was that two of them were using PVC which is this video chat thing and one was using Polycom). We got to the mission home and gathered around Sister Beesley's white board outline of how she wanted the trianing to go that she'd already got figured out. Oh and by the way in the car on the way to the mission home all Sister Hatfield and I could do was laugh and joke and unsurface all a zillion of our inside jokes and be completely crazy. We are like CLONES. We had missed each other so much and were SO HAPPY to be back in each other's presence. We were slightly scary.

Sister Beesley, who loves music, said, "I just wish there was some hymn or something that could tie our training together!" She wanted it to have 3 segments --- The first one was "Creative Planning," or what creative ideas do we use to fill our daily schedule when you're on an island? The second once was "Service with the Spirit," or how do we make sure that even when we're doing service we are sharing the gospel and making sure we're not just being used. The third was "Being Faithful"---being obedient, basically, to the mission rules and God's commandments, cuz it's easy when you're in the bush to get lazy and disobedient cuz you think no one is watching you. Sister Hatfield thought of a hymn (it was the Spirit): "What about 'I Have Work Enough to Do'?" She and I love that hymn, we discovered that it was actually a beautiful song one day in Petersburg and I whipped up some piano accomp to go with it, and we have loved doing it since. But check out the lyrics:

1. I have work enough to do,
Ere the sun goes down,
For myself and kindred too,
Ere the sun goes down:
Ev'ry idle whisper stilling
With a purpose firm and willing,
All my daily tasks fulfilling,
Ere the sun goes down.

2. I must speak the loving word,
Ere the sun goes down.
I must let my voice be heard,
Ere the sun goes down:
Ev'ry cry of pity heeding,
For the injured interceding,
To the light the lost ones leading,
Ere the sun goes down.

3. As I journey on my way,
Ere the sun goes down,
God's commands I must obey,
Ere the sun goes down.
There are sins that need confessing;
There are wrongs that need redressing
If I would obtain the blessing,
Ere the sun goes down.

They are perfect, and fit perfectly along with what Sister Beesley had already planned. We named the first segment "All My Daily Tasks Fulfilling" cuz it's in the song, and talked about how we fulfill our daily tasks and what sort of weird things we thought up to do in Petersburg. We named the second segment "Evry Cry of Pity Heeding" and talked about helping those who need help. The third segment, "God's Commands I Must Obey," and I love the last line--"If I would obtain the blessing"---because like D&C 130:20-21 says we get blessings through obedience.

It was funny cuz when earlier in the day I remember telling Sister Hatfield, "We have to reminisce about Petersburg tonight before we go to bed." She was like, "Done." And then it was cool, cuz we spent the day planning for the fireside and THAT ended up being what we needed.

So, that was cool. Good closure.

One of our investigators is a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of a recent convert who has a learning disability and a son with autism. The girl is in a behavioral corrections place. We were able to go see her on Saturday with her mom. She's a sweet girl. Very tough. Sister Claspell told me that day was the happiest she had ever seen her! So cool.

I love you lots and I hope everyone is happy and healthy. The Church is true and as Sister Claspell says, CTR is good for you.

Sister Ashbrook

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I'm emailing with permission :) we're at the mission home planning this training thing on Thursday and you should watch. So, it's at 10:30 AM Alaska time, so I think that's 11:30 AM California time. Instead of having a big chunk of training once a transfer or whatever, we have hour-and-a-half trainings almost every Thursday morning which are webcasted so all over the mission you can watch. This Thursday, Sister Hatfield and I, my crazy former companion, are throwing "island training"---how to do missionary work in the bush. On an island.


Monday, January 14, 2013

no snow

Hi. Other than the fact that we're having a pathetic winter compared to last winter, I'm doing great! It's about 45 degrees today and in Eagle River there is barely any snow. A lot of places along the highway into Anchorage today to do emails I saw signs of flooding. Everything is melted. Different than last winter. Last January, for most of the month it was like -15 degrees and there were record snow falls. Every day we'd hafta clear off the car.

Church was CANCELLED yesterday due to the road conditions. When everything melts, there is water on top of ice. So many cars in the ditch. A pick-up truck driving in front of us as we were coming home from Chugiak Saturday was sliding from side to side. We went like 5mph. I've never had church cancelled on me before. We told Pres Beesley. Our whole stake was cancelled so that morning Pres Beesley texted all of us and said if your church has been cancelled, stay in til noon until further notice. I spent my time reading Deuteronomy. Then Sister Claspell and I started talking about BYU-Idaho and her hilarious (and horrifying?) roommate experiences there. Hahaha. (Cuz weirdly enough I am, like, having to start thinking about, like, SCHOOL nowadays, and how I'll probly hafta start applying ON my mission, and everyone is hinting I should go to BYU-Idaho. Like everyone. I told Pres Beesley this during my interview with him in Juneau last December and he said, "It's a good school. There are a few reasons why you might want to go there. One, Sister Beesley and I will be living in Rexburg and you could come visit us." I said, "DONE.")

I bought new pens last Monday and have been enjoying them immensely, cuz Mom, I have used the gel pens you got me and have used up almost all the INK! I am crazy about colored pens. You should see my planners. It's like a rainbow exploded.

Our district volunteers at the Nature Center located at the end of Eagle River Rd. I don't really know what the nature center does. It reminds me of working on the musk ox farm. There's a building with rooms full of wild life exhibit things, like rubber moldings of bear stool and wolf stool and stuff, and animal hides that you can pet, and maps, and info, and a sitting area, and hot chocolate, and we get hot chocolate after we're all done. We do lots of outside work. Anything I guess that needs to be done. We hauled wood on Wednesday, there is this guy, Gus, and he had a chain saw and was cutting up a whole bunch of fallen trees. We were out probably a five or ten min walk from the actual nature center. We carried the logs up to the path and stacked them. By carried I mean the elders threw them by intervals. I am terrified of flying objects so I was up near the path, grabbing the logs and stacking them. Then we went deeper along the paths and Gus sent Sis Claspell and I to find some logs that, um, had been laying there for 3 years, what the heck, hahaa, he was like, "3 years ago I cut up some logs, there's a pink ribbon tied around one of the trees and if you turn right you should see them." Well, we saw them but the majority were frozen to the ground and we did a lot of kicking and dislodged about half of them. Fun times. I hope I lost like a pound or something.

So, I love the Beach Lake Ward. This ward is amazing---they do a lot of work with less actives without us even there. They are good at wanting to communicate. I am quite impressed.

I still have not met any of the investigators save the Dog Trainer Woman that I met my first day here when Sister Rivera was still here. The Dog Trainer Woman works a lot and is busy with school, but Sis Claspell says she's sincere and really will let us know when she has some free time. There's a senior couple (missionaries as well, just married, and a bit older than us) over the Arctic Valley ward, which is the military ward, cuz there are 2 military bases close by. They are military relations missionaries and not allowed to proselyte so they bring in other missionaries, like us, to teach their investigators and get us on base. The Beach Lake sisters before I got here were teaching a young newly wed wife, I will call her Mrs. Military or something. She wants to meet me but is also way busy with online classes so we haven't been able to set up a lesson. There is another investigator, she's 14 and is the daughter of a recent convert, but she has a few behavioral problems and is in a place in Anchorage. Hard to contact her, but apparently we can call her, and my name just got put on the list so we'll be able to do that. There is a family that sounds quite interesting, they have, in the past, sent someone running outside when the missionaries pull up. "No one's home," they call, and run back inside. So, I will call them the No One's Home Family. We dropped by (apparently we have more success actually getting in that way?) with a member and we clearly saw them in the window as we walked up the driveway and we knocked but no one opened up. Sigh. So those are our investigators.

We went tracting on Sunday...

There is a lot of less active work here. We've met several in the past few days that Sister Claspell had never met. Really genuine, interesting people, and Sister Claspell said they were more open with us than they had been in the past, so the Spirit is softening hearts here. It might be easy to just do a whole bunch of less active work and forget about trying to find investigators so I'm gonna try and focus on finding people to teach more this week. I know tracting is not the best way, so I am hoping the ward will trust us enough to get us some awesome referrals but we will still tract and do all we can, we are thinking of planning an awesome musical fireside to invite people to. There are a lot of apartment buildings here and people are always in apartment building parking lots. Hahha.

There are frequent, hour-and-a-half Thursday trainings (instead of doing a big block of training every couple months of so the Beesleys break it up and have short trainings that are webcasted every Thursday, going along with how general authorities have visited the mission recently and encouraged us to teach short, SPirit-filled, more frequent lessons than a big long hour or two-hour long lesson once a week---people learn better with repetition, like practicing the piano). This Thursday, guess what? Sister Hatfield and I were asked by Sister Beesley to present "island training." HAHHA. We're gonna show up in Hawaiian clothes. Just kidding. She means for everyone out in the bush, like Petersburg. Even Nome and Bethel. Not physical islands, but definitely social islands. They're out in the middle of nowhere on frozen tundra in native villages, far from any other missionaries or shopping malls. We're gonna cover 3 things: 1, how to plan creatively, how to use our talents or whatever to find creative things to do on an island. 2, how to do a lot of service without forgetting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ along the way. And 3, how to remain faithful and obedient when we're supposedly unmonitored by other missionaries. Cuz really you're under a microscope--the branch of the church out there wants OBEDIENT missionaries and they are quick to call the mission president if they see anything amiss. It'll be fun to do this with Sister Hatfield, but I hope she has some good ideas cuz i have no idea what to do (hahaha). We're going on exchanges tomorrow! So I'll be in Anchorage tomorrow with her and her comp will be up here with Sis Claspell. I am so excited. I totally miss my singin sister (that's what people called us in Petersburg).

You have no idea how much I loved that place, and it just breaks my heart that I will not see them again very, very soon. Like, I'm not going back next week. Or the week after that. Or even in a few months.

I know, though, that the Lord can bless me with the same amount of love if not more for the people here. It's not my love, anyway, it's the pure love of Christ that comes through us as missionaries. We are not the light---we are the conduits of the light (that's from Elder Bednar).


Sister Ashbrook and the orange watch

Monday, January 7, 2013

Those Familiar Mountains Again

Eagler River's like half an hour away from my first area, and during my sojourn in Petersburg I didn't actually but kinda sorta forgot my first area, and was all like PETERSBURG PETERSBURG PETERSBURG. So being back, and seeing the mountains and the (much shorter) trees, and hearing Sister Rivera talk about our peeps back in Colony Ward in Palmer, everything has slowly started comin back. EXCEPT, there is like, barely any snow here, it rained recently and melted a lot of it away! But oh my heck there is so much ice. Parking lots look like skating rinks. Luckily Donna gave me and Sister Hatfield "ice trekkers" back in PSG to put on our boots. They come in handy.

We took Sister Rivera and Sister Poudrier to the airport on Thursday and they flew off to Petersburg.

Well, I am back where there are, like, stop lights and stuff. It's crazy. I totally have had to stop comparing Beach Lake (the ward I am in now) and Petersburg. President Beesley wants us to meet the ward council by Sunday so darlin Sister Claspell (from Cypress, CA) was callin people and setting up appointments, and I totally was like, in my head, "OH MY HECK THEY DON'T SOUND AS HAPPY TO TALK TO US AS PEOPLE DID IN PETERSBURG." I had an absolutely amazing branch mission leader there as well. I had to STOP COMPARING HIM to this one.

We live in an apartment, on the bottom floor, in a place called "Heritage Court" where there are like, lots of other apartment buildings that all look mismatched and stuff. Two recent converts and some less actives live in the same place.

The area was not organized geographically into smaller sections when I got here, and Sister Claspell barely knew her way around cuz I guess she learns by driving. So, we switch off driving every other day (something I started to do back when I was Sister Petersen's companion, her idea, cuz she'd done it with earlier companions, you can do that under the direction of the senior comp) and we've been taking time to organize the area. We've divided up our area on the map, we're working through the ward list to figure out where everyone lives, we're going through the area book. Sister Claspell had never even looked at the former investigator teaching records and she got so excited, she kept looking at them last night even after we'd finished planning, reading them out loud and exclaiming after each one, "I love this person! We have to find him."

Coming from a small lil town like Petersburg, I dunno what I was expecting, but I felt like there was about the same amount of work there as there is here, and I was like WE CAN PICK THIS AREA UP! I think I got too cocky in my head wishing things were different here and, in ward council yesterday, awesome Bishop Spackman said exactly what I needed to hear and I realized how prideful I was. He just listens to the Spirit. He told the whole ward council that the way to get the ward to do more missionary work is never to criticize or rebuke them, but to praise them for what they are doing. I was like, OH MY WORD, I need to stop comparing Petersburg to Beach Lake. This ward is amazing!!! There are just, so many people here, and I was slightly overwhelmed, and I miss the closeness of a branch. WELL TOO BAD, right?!

Sister Claspell is so sweet. Different than Sister hatfield. I am having an adjustment, I didn't quite know like, which sense of humor to use, as if I had several, I dunno. She's awesome, though, and is a very earnest missionary. She told me she wants to be pushed and work a lot harder here than she had been. I hope I can somehow help her, or at least create an environment here where it'll be easier to work harder. I have no idea. I feel a lot less confident becoming her companion and trying to get the know the area here than I did in Petersburg. So that's cool. Haha.

There are people here that I already completely love. I know I will enjoy being here. Don't really know any of the investigators yet.

It's different being around pesky elders again. That was an adjustment too. The Juneau zone is just really something. So like, I had to stop comparing the elders too. I had to realize in my head that the elders here mean just as well and want to be just as good of missionaries here as they do in the Juneau zone. And suddenly I was at peace with them. So that's cool too. I am such a ridiculous imperfect human.

Our first day after we dropped off the sisters to the airport, we were back in beach Lake, driving up to Chugiak (a lil town north or north east or SOMETHING of Eagle River, you can pronounce it Choo-gi-yak) and we were looking for a referral. We had this woman's address but the street we were on, random lil businesses out in the middle of nowhere, they all had 5-digit addresses and we were looking for a 4-digit address... We kept looking and at the end of the road was an airport. I kept driving, thinking the road would SURELY keep going. Neither of us knew where we were. There were these weird huge storage things with little man-sized doors and after them, the road curved, so I said, "i'm gonna keep going and see what's around the curve." I turned around the curve and slammed on the brakes, hahaha oh my heck we were barely ten yards from the airplane runway, and the road was all white and frosty and like, NOT driven on. We both started screaming and I turned the car around and we drove off, UTTERLY grateful that airport was quite small and quite deserted... (it was the birchwood airport if you wanna look it up....)

So that was fun. At dinner that night we started telling them that story and we both just erupted into laughter, and couldn't stop (we probably made them feel uncomfortable). So that was good, I was glad we could both have laugh attacks. We were kinda tired....

I have received no packages from either Lily or Anne, the last package I received was from Mom and Dad and was my new camera. I am just hoping, Lily, that that small package you sent first is just taking a really long time.... there was some mail I got recently that was about two weeks late, so maybe that happened. I dunno.


I dunno why but my session here has been extended like an addtional 20 minutes. Who knows.

We're at a public library in Anchorage. The Eagle River library apparently had a tense run-in with an elder and we're not supposed to email there. Haha. Sigh. So we go to Anchorage, it's just like twenty minutes away.

ANYWAYS I LOVE YOU. Everything's good. Learning lots. Loving it. I love the Lord and I am so happy I am a missionary. I know as we listen to the promptings of the Spirit, right as they come, we will be able to be the Lord's hands here on earth, and we'll be able to accomplish what He wants us to accomplish. I know as we have faith instead of fear we won't limit ourselves or let Satan discourage us from doing good. YOU ARE ALL AMAZING AND THE LORD LOVES YOU!!!!

And I love you too.

Sister Ashbrook, and the lack of moose (I haven't seen ONE yet!)

P.P.S. MAIA IF YOU ARE READING THIS, YOU BETTER WRITE ME TOO! I miss you lots and want to know how your life is going! HAHAHA :)
Um, here:
Sister Melissa Ashbrook
Alaska Anchorage Mission
3250 Strawberry Road
Anchorage, AK 99502