Tuesday, February 25, 2014

¨Yo No Se¨

Wow it´s so crazy I am actually a missionary! I forget. It doesn´t seem real at all. It just feels like I am living in some place with new people studying like always. But I am so happy here! Nothing about it is easy. But it´s not unbearable or too much to handle at all. I feel like this MTC is kind of more chill which probably isn´t good. After our first lesson with our investigator, ¨Mario¨ we were kind of dissapointed with ourselves. It was bad. So the next day Hermana Kaeding and I fasted and prayed and our lessons since then have improved. We teach an investigator every day I´m getting more comfortable with it. We thought we were doing well and then yesterday our teacher told us to read preach my gospel... If this were easy it wouldn´t be worth 18 months of my life.
I´m pretty intelligent here NOT. Hermana Kaeding asked me what a.m. and p.m. were in Spanish. I said almost positively, ´´Oh it´s Buenos and Dias!´´ durrrrrr. (that means goodmorning I just thought I´d split the two up). In one of our lessons I was lost with the language because my companion speaks really good Spanish and our investigator would not slow down or look at me so I could read his lips maybe. Apparantly they were having a discussion about Emma Smith. I interrupted and thought I would get a word in. I told our invesitgator that he had received revelation from God (meaning Joseph Smith). My comp just looked at me and said no we are talking about Emma! We tried not to laugh. Then later I was trying to ask a Latino if she were hungry, turns out I kept on saying ¨Do you have men?¨ oh wow. If I can do Spanish then anyone can.
I understand my teachers and felt better about my Spanish but then we went proselyting on Saturday. I understood NADA. They mumble here and speak quiet. I was paired with a Latina. She was so cute and sweet. We were sent up to the Mountains (more like hills). It is sooo dirt poor up there. It literally looks like that picture on my blog. I wish I had a picture but we can only take pictures on pday. It is beautiful though. Actually not really beautiful just amazing. There are a billion tiny cemets houses the size of my room smooshed in the hill all different bright colors. So cool. I wish you could see it. We treched up the dirt mountain through narrow streets. The sky is always grey here and there are a billion nasty dogs. They look so scarrry. Luckily we were with a member too. He took us to visit less active members. We (I mean my comp) taught four lessons and I shared my broken spanish testimony four times. It was a neat experience. We visited with a non member. We taught him how to pray and he said he would come to church the next day! cool stuff.
Sundays are the best I love them in the CCM! You are so spiritually fed. Which I thought I would be more of during the week days but you are so focused on learning the language and then teaching in the little language you know. But we watched the best missionary talk I have ever heard by Elder Holland. He said you only need to come home with one conversion and that is yourself. You cannot preach to all these people and demand that they change their lives and then go home and not change your own. He said ¨We are all God´s investigators lost in the missionary lessons somewhere.¨ It´s so true, we all have room to improve and be more converted. I am in the process of it right now.
I have a bipolar relationship with the food. When I got here I looked forward to trying new things and I actually thought the food was decent. Oh man two weeks later and the food taste like BlAAHHHH. It´s just kind of bland and we eat the almost the same thing every day. But for breakfast they have this really good yogurt that is like the consistency of cream and it´s tart. It´s my fav. Lunch and dinner is always so much meat and rice. I have stopped eating rice and bread because you can only handle so much?! But there ice cream is devine and I got a chocolate donut on Sunday which made my week. The coco puffs are the only highlight of my food and I don´t even like coco puffs.
No one can say Stringham here it´s pretty funny. When they say it, it comes out like ¨Stringhaahaaaam.¨ So I just say call me straight up STRING AND HAM don´t try to get the (um) in Stringum. Maybe I should teach them the silent H. I was in two earthquakes this week! Don´t worry they were teeny tiny ones.
Love you all! I´m doing fantastico so no need to worry.
Hermana Stringham

¨Peruvians are the most crazy drivers ever!!! You should be glad I'm living."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Friend Found

Sister Stringham found Sister Mahas in the Lima MTC

A Friend Made

 Hola Amigas!
I made it to the land of Peru. Hurray! We arrived way early on Sunday so we got about 2 hours of sleep and then had a full on jam packed Sunday. Seriously was the LONGEST day of my life it felt like an eternity! But I am loving it here! I kind of knew my companion before I even got here (well through facebook). We are the only sisters in our district that are both new, so it is a major struggle. We don´t know any of the rules still and no one tells us either! I think we broke every rule on our first day. We set our alarm for 6:45 oops... took pictures (you can only do that on p-day), sat across from each other at lunch, was late to many meetings. So we are very very slowly figuring things out. Due to our flight cancellation my comp and I are three days behind everyone else so we have to do double studying but we have NO time to do it. The hardest part is definitely espanol. Wow it is hard to learn a language, and it´s hard not to compare yourself with others who have been out the same amount of time but are wayy better at spanish. I will get it though in time. The food is RICE, pasta, bread, and loads of meat. It´s pretty good it reminds me a lot of Costa Rica, but without beans. All the sisters are envious of my comp and I. Every other sister has to share a room with six and they share one community bathroom with three showers and three toilets to twelve people. Somehow Hermana Kaeding and I got our OWN room!! with our OWN bathroom!! We must be doing something right. My companion´s name is Hermana Adriana Kaeding. AND I LOVE HER. She is from Provo, Utah. We are almost the same person we get along sooooo well. It is such a blessing. It´s almost a curse because we laugh way way too much. We just can´t help it! I swear everything in the CCM is extremely funny. I laugh at dumbest things. We are just so happy. I think we are laughing off all of our stress and nerves and that is the only way we know how to cope with it all.
Last night we had to teach our first fake investigator named Mario. Oh man oh man. It was a blow. How are we supposed to teach a whole lesson when we can´t speak a lick of spanish! We had only gotten our language books a few hours before so we knew absolutely nada! Everyone else knows already how to pray, say their testimony, and the first lesson. Yeah we missed all of that. So we just bore our testimonies and then sat there trying not to burst out laughing because it was soooooo bad. Mario cut us off (it was supposed to be 15 minutes). He told us what we already knew, yeah it was bad. But he shared a really good scripture with us, Alma 42:32. He said we need to be patient, have dilligence and faith. He said to just go by the spirit, but the spirit can only go by what you know and we don´t know much haha. We have to teach him tomorrow again twice... Spanish is very dificil. On our first day Hermana Kaeding was talking to me about where we need to go to get our badge and she said ´´Hermana Gonzales,´´ then she looked at me I just stared back at her and said,´´what´s that?´´ hahaha my spanish. helpp.
Today we went to the temple and a grocery store. We take a bus the temple. I think I breathed in the sweat of the guy standing next to me. They pack a billion people in those things. We were all just spooning each other standing up. It was an adventure! The temple is so pretty and so tiny inside! I had to get an extra large dress and the largest shoes. Ápparantly they don´t carry ´´Sarah´´ sizes in Peru. I forgot my running shoes so I ran in flip flops yesterday. We tried to find some but no one wears a size 10 over here dang it!!!
It is a joyous life I live. Very Busy. Stressful. But I seem to not ever get nervous or stressed. We just laugh it off like I said, a little too much.
Love you all!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Off to Peru




Sarah's flight was one of the many flights to be cancelled do to the awful storm that hit Atlanta last Tuesday and Wednesday.  After waiting three days Sarah is finally on her way. You would think she was just going on a vacation by her calm demeanor.  Beautiful, strong, amazing, fearless Sister Stringham - We love you!!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

FAREWELL for now.

I have the worlds greatest friends.

This is my farewell talk I gave in church on February 9, 2014. 

Now I’m sorry I’m not as skilled as my brother Steve who wrote his whole farewell talk on his hand, I actually had to use paper. I am standing in front of you today because I have been called by God to serve a mission in Piura, Peru. I am sure most of you, like me, have never heard of Piura so I will try to tell you the little I know. Piura is 360 miles from the equator, so it is hot! The daily highs this week range from 91-97 degrees Fahrenheit. I’ll be walking in sand and facing wind gusts for the next eighteen months, but I can’t wait. 
Today I am speaking on Hastening the Work which in essence means to OPEN YOUR MOUTH. I think this is a challenge all of us face. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord tells us specifically five times to open our mouths. In the 60th section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says, I’m not well pleased for those who do not open their mouth. For they hide their talent because of the fear of men. And if they are not more faithful this gift will be taken away. As members of the church we have covenanted to share the gospel. It is a responsibility not a calling. 
A talk that has been meaningful to me is Elder Wirthlin’s talk called Journey To Higher Ground. He begins his talk by telling of the earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004 causing a deadly tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people. There was one group of people whose village was completely destroyed by the tsunami.  However not a single life was lost because they moved to higher ground. They recognized the signs and took action. In our day we are faced with a similar choice. Whether or not we listen and obey our prophet. We see many signs of the second coming today. It is evident that the waters are receding. However, many of us are not moving to higher ground. We are getting caught in the sand with the rest of the world.  
The people of Enoch were very wicked so the Lord commanded Enoch to open his mouth and warn them of their own destruction unless they repented. Enoch, though he was afraid, traveled and cried mightily to the people warning them of destruction because of their wickedness. There were many who didn’t listen to Enoch, but the few that were humble followed him and abandoned all their sins. The people were saved because they listened to the words of their prophet and moved to higher ground. 
This past June President Thomas S. Monson boldly stated: “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together…and labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.” 
As members have we obeyed the words of President Monson when he pronounced that NOW is the time for everyone to be engaged in missionary work? Have we recognized that President Monson’s announcement is another sign of Christ’s coming? I hope we have. 
President Brigham Young said, “We believe, as the time draws near, the Lord will hasten His work, and nations will soon be gathered into the fold for Christ.”
Brigham Young’s prophecy has come to pass. The Lord is relying on us to spread his gospel to every nation, kindred, and tongue. He cannot come again until His work has been done. You know we’ll all be doing missionary work in the millennium so why not get a head start? Lets not put this off. There are three steps to becoming a better member or full time missionary. They are having a testimony, a love for others, and faith. 
Sharing the gospel with others requires a testimony. I believe as we share the gospel more our own testimony grows stronger. My testimony came step by step. I have been blessed to be raised in the gospel and I have always had tremendous faith and belief in the church. But there have been little experiences that have made my testimony grow stronger. 
Some of you may wonder why I chose to serve a mission as a girl. Well it is because of my testimony. I’ve always had a deep desire to serve a mission, but I wasn’t too sure it would happen at age 21. I’m going to read President Monson’s direct words when he announced the age change for girls because it gives me the chills. I quote, “Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.” I about had a heart attack when he made that announcement. In exactly one year from the time the announcement was made I could potentially have my mission call. I knew the moment President Monson made the announcement that I would go, but I had to pray and make sure it was the right thing to do. Now I never get answers to my prayers quickly or loudly, but this time it was different. Two days after I had prayed to know if I should go on a mission I was working at a Tagge’s Fruit Stand all by myself. An older man came into my stand to buy some apples. He looked at me and said, “You look like a church girl.” I don’t know if that was a compliment or not but I said “yeah you’re right I am a churchy girl I guess.” We got on the topic of general conference and of course the mission age change. I told him I wanted to serve a mission. The man left and I went back to work. I sat down for five minutes when I heard a car drive up.  The same guy was back.  He rolled down his window so I got up to see what he needed.  I looked into eyes they were filled with tears and he said, "I forgot something." He reached out the window to give me a five dollar tip and said, "I just wanted to thank you for your willingness to serve a mission.  If it weren't for young people like you spreading the gospel I wouldn't be in the church today, I would be lost."  He explained that he had grown up in the Lutheran church and was a minister for most of his life.  At that point he was weeping, and could say no more.  I was completely taken back and a little shocked at his emotion. I walked back to the little fruit stand and my chest was burning soooo strong, it was evident to me that God was saying to me, “Sarah you must go.”  I have never felt the spirit so strong. Right then and there I knew my prayers had been answered and I committed myself to go on a mission. I saw how missionary work can change lives. There are people like that sweet old man who are living in darkness and I can’t wait to bring that into their lives. I am grateful for my testimony that has developed through small experiences over the years. First seek to gain your own testimony, then you can share it with others. 

  1. LOVE. 
In order to hasten the work you need to first be a true friend to those you love.  Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Until you know a person’s name and face, the Lord cannot help you know his or her heart.” This year I have been praying to see others as Christ would see them and feel Christ’s love for them. It has helped me a lot. I am less quick to judge and am more open to others. The easiest way to learn to love someone is to serve. Seek to serve rather than to be served.
I recently completed my first semester of college at BYU. I went into college feeling incapable of even being at BYU and I often felt like I didn’t measure up.  At first sight everyone in “happy valley” seemed to be literally the happiest and most well rounded people I have ever met. But I soon discovered that even at BYU most everyone there felt inadequate and discouraged just like me. Everyone was just as scared as I was to take a final. In fact most students had a lot more on their plate than I did.  And there I was sitting in the library stressing over my little life with very few problems. That’s when I decided that I could and needed to be a better friend. As a missionary and member hastening the work is not just about baptizing people into the church it’s about bringing people a step closer to God in whatever way you can. This is hastening the work. Learn to have a Christ like love for everyone you meet, and remember that everyone, member or not, needs to be uplifted daily.

  1. FAITH
Faith=work. When we share the gospel we are exercising our faith. We’ve all heard talks on hastening the work; usually we don’t want to listen to those talks because hastening the work requires actual work. I will be completely honest I haven’t done much in my life to really hasten the work. When I’m on an airplane I’m selfish. I just put in my earphones, close my eyes, and have my mom pass me peanut m&ns. But I’d like to share an experience I had last week in attempt to hasten the work.  As I was trying to prepare this talk I was feeling kind of guilty and not sure what to say because I have not been a good member missionary better yet I haven’t even tried! Here I am telling you all to open your mouths and be a good Mormon, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I have tried to talk to someone about our church. So I thought I would put my words into action.
My dad came home all excited one day with two stacks of pass-along- cards.  And said, “Sarah, lets go to work.” I kind of laughed about it and said are you serious dad? I was so reluctant give out pass-along-cards, and yet I just signed myself up for it for 18 months! We said a prayer and I asked in faith for God’s strength to do something our of my own comfort. We drove up to Park City to find some people. On our drive up I started getting really nervous and wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. But then I remembered that we had both committed in prayer to Heavenly Father that we would try and share the gospel even when it was out of our comfort. We role played in the car over and over trying to prepare. My dad dropped me off at one end of a random shopping center and said, “good luck.” I was all alone in Park City about to go bombard these humans with my heavy duty pass-along-cards. I was surprised to find that sharing the gospel is not that scary! All you need is to be bold. My dad even got into it. A group of kids were smoking by a dumpster and he went straight up to them and gave them all pass-along-cards. I was pretty proud of him.    
The last guy I came across was by far the most successful out of all my attempts. I was standing outside of Smith’s feeling a little awkward trying to give out my pass-along-cards in Utah, when I noticed a man close by. I walked up to him and asked, would you like some cards?! Before he could say no I hurried and explained to him what they were and told him I was a Mormon. He wasn’t familiar with our church because he wasn’t from here. He was from Novo Scotia. When he said Nova Scotia my mind immediately went to one of my best friends, Grace Gochnour. I got excited and told him about Grace who is serving a mission in Halifax. It turned out that that’s was where he was from! He said to me, “I don’t know what missionaries really need, but if she ever needs something I can help her out.” I asked if it would be okay if she came over sometime and he said sure. He gave me his name and number like it was nothing. I couldn’t believe it was that easy. I sent his contact information to Grace right away and she is going to give his number to the missionaries who are serving in that area. I don’t know what will come from meeting Doug, but I do know that God knows his children and I was led to that man because of faith and prayer. 
I know that if we would all be more attentive to the Spirit and open our mouths more to our friends or strangers we would see success. God does not and will not let us fail. This is His work and He will never leave us alone.  
The time is NOW. We have been counseled and told by our prophet many times that we must all, members and missionaries, spread the word. I hope something that I have said has prompted all of you today to seek out someone you know who maybe just needs a friend. Remember we can hasten the work by first being a friend, then when the time is right have a discussion about the gospel. In D&C 100:5-6 “therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.” The Lord never gives us a challenge without a promise. He promises to be with us in the very moment we need him. All we need to do is open our mouths. God will guide us with the rest.  We all have a call from the prophet so let’s not ignore it.
The waters are rising and we must run to higher ground before it’s too late. We have been told that we are in the last days. The Tsunami is right around the corner. We must save the village and hasten the work of salvation by bringing all we can to higher ground. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that “after all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”

If what you want in the future is different from where you are now, then you have to change what you are doing now. I know this to be true.