Monday, April 29, 2013

Monty Python, Letters from Home and Prayer!

Hello family!
Happy happy Monday to the people I love so much! Today I just wanted to tell you about all the little things that have been happening and that have made me so happy.

Quoting Monty Python - Me and Sister Olsen keep our spirits up by occasionally speaking in British accents and quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Our favorite is one of us will say "What floats?" and the other will say "Sticks....apples....very small rocks.....churches..." and then the other person will say "A duck!" and then we laugh hysterically. Don't worry, we only do it when no one can hear us because we don't want anyone thinking that Mormons are daft. :)
24 Hours with Sister Jones - I got to go on exchanges this week with the Training Sister (essentially a female Zone Leader) and I freakin love her. It was like a breath of fresh air. I love Sister Olsen and we work really well together but it was nice to just change things up for a short time. We were strictly obedient, we had the Spirit, we smiled and laughed a lot, and we felt uplifted. And we taught one of the most powerful lessons I've taught yet. And while I was with her, I got some really good revelation for how we can help a recent convert come closer to Jesus Christ. It's amazing what one day can do for you!
Walking - We walk a LOT and I love it. It's good exercise, I'm starting to look like a golden brown marshmallow, and we get to talk to a lot of really great people. Last week we were walking to someone's house and we stopped and talked to this older man with lots of tattoos, a long beard, and looked and talked like Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty. Turns out he had hitchhiked across Nevada and he learned about Mormons there. We are going to go back sometime and help him clean up his yard. So great!
The Bus - I have a love/hate relationship with the bus. It is mostly convenient and air conditioned and I SHOULD be talking to people on the bus, but at the same time it is slow and only goes to certain places and I am a chicken and have a hard time opening my mouth to talk to college students on the bus. But seriously, without the bus it would be hard to function in this area, so I really am grateful for the ability to be able to get around without a car.
Mail - It's been so wonderful to get letters from you all. I love seeing your handwriting and reading your messages. On days when I don't get any mail, during lunch I read through old letters and I just love it. Letters help recharge my batteries - and Mondays are awesome because I get lots of emails that help my battery charge up to overflowing!
Prayer - Each person we teach is at a different level spiritually, but the one thing that we ask almost every person to do is pray. We met with C. yesterday, a returned missionary and the ward clerk. C. hasn't come to church for a while now, and he occasionally comes to activities, even though he is roommates with the Elders Quorum president. C.'s case scares me because it proves that even it you make temple covenants and serve a mission, there is no guarantee that you will stay safe in the gospel for the rest of your life. And we didn't have a ton of time to plan for C, and we took a returned missionary sister with us who likes to talk about her mission a lot a lot a lot (she got back three months ago). Plus, I didn't know what to say to C. that he doesn't know or hasn't heard before. So going in there was daunting is what I'm trying to say. But some how, I was able to ask questions that helped us figure out what his concerns are, and as we talked to him, my soul ached for him. I really really wanted him to be able to establish a relationship with his Heavenly Father again, and so I just asked him to talk to God, and find out if God is really there. And it was the simplest request but we could tell that it made C. stop and think about things. I don't know what will happen with C., but I know that God knows him and loves him and wants him to live with Him one day.
Okay, I love you all and hope that May will be magnificent for everyone! I pray for all of you daily and I'm so thankful that I have such a wonderful family supporting me.
-Sister Chausow

Monday, April 22, 2013

Free Speech Alley or Fiery Speech Alley??

Hey you awesome people!

Okay, first of all, you both are so amazing. Thank you for your love, and emails, and your letters. Dad, your handwriting does not stink - I grew up watching you write like that, your handwriting is YOU to me so if you do type your letters I will miss you even more haha. Mom, 8 pages is NOT AT ALL too long as a letter because I seriously love hearing all that you have to say. Please know that you don't have to email and write letters, one or the other is fine. I'm sorry for being demanding during that phone call, I feel bad that you've spent so much time writing emails AND letters when really just one or the other is enough. I want to be a low maintenance missionary :)

Thank you so so so much for sending the backpack and the talk and the story and the hymnbook. I use all of them daily! That cottage story is seriously the theme of my mission right now, and I am trying to be mold-able so that the Lord can make me into the most effective missionary. I realize that I am only as useful as the Lord makes me to be, and I need His help so much. It's funny though, whenever I get too focused on myself, the Lord puts someone in my path that is struggling more than I am, so I try to forget myself and just help others like the Savior did. Most of the time, that person is Sister Olsen. She is really struggling, and I feel bad because I'm not quite sure how to help  her. Despite her struggles, she continues to work hard and be obedient, and I love her for that. I'm trying to be a low maintainence greenie so that she doesn't have to worry about me. And I'm trying to be the outgoing companion so that the ward loves the missionaries and doesn't see them as withdrawn/aloof. So I just try to be peppy and loving and endear ourselves to the ward. And seriously, I love our ward. They have taught me so much through their spirit and faith and fire. Mikayda is always driving us around and helping us with free speech alley, Jessie is a recent convert and his desire to share his new faith inspires me, Eric is super logical, but despite what he doesn't know, he has faith that God is real and that this is His church. I could go on and on about the amazing people we are working with here, but the bottom line is that I love them because I feel Christ's love FOR them and THROUGH them, and all that love just leads to a really uplifting atmosphere as you can imagine :)

Okay, here's my crazy missionary story for the week: SO at Free Speech Alley, this student from the "Jesus Talks" group came over to talk to us (Jesus Talks in this older gentleman in a t-shirt that says "Jesus Talks" and he's pretty much a non-denominational, born-again Christian. He has a small follow of students who like to sit and talk with him about Christianity. Apparently he really hates Mormons, even though most of his followers love Mormons and love hanging out with and talking to the missionaries. Weird, right?) Anyway, so one of the students came over and I asked him what he knew about Mormons and he said that he knows that we believe in multiple gods (because we believe that God had to come from somewhere) and that was just the beginning of the craziness. Sister Olsen and him started arguing about the Trinity vs. the Godhead, and the Spirit wasn't there at all. They were both throwing around historical facts and scriptures from the Bible, and eventually I interrupted and thanked him for sharing his beliefs with us and just said, "You know Joshua, you clearly know the Bible better than I do. But I know that when I read the Book of Mormon and live what it teaches, I have a feeling of peace and love that is different from anything else, and I know that feeling is from God." Bearing your testimony normally works in the movies, but Joshua proceeded to tell me that what I was feeling was a demonic manifestation and that I had been led by Satan to believe in a false Jesus. And oh boy did Sister Olsen and Bradly Smith (a member who was with us, RM, super awesome) not take too well to that piece of information.   I just thanked Joshua for stopping by and told him to have a nice day.  I was okay because I know what I believe, but it's never real fun to be told that you've been deceived by Satan, especially, when that "deception" feels so good and you've felt so much love from that source. We only have one more week of Free Speech Alley so hopefully we can end the semester on a good note. 

Okay, thanks again for all the stuff and the sports updates! Go BYU! And go Blackhawks! Bummer that the Jazz didn't make it to the playoffs. And hopefully the Bulls get knocked out soon so that they can get some rest and a decent draft pick. 
I love you both so much! Thank you for raising me in a home where I could feel the Spirit and the love of the Savior. You guys rock! 
Love - Sister Chausow

Monday, April 15, 2013

Mike the Tiger, Red Ants and Free Speech Alley.....

Hey Mom and Dad-

So I made a note to make sure that I tell you that I really am okay.  Me and Sister Olsen have bonded, and President Wall just told me that when things get iffy, to just create my own bubble of happiness,  and that is what I've been doing. Most of the time, we work really well together, we really support each other, and she said that she has felt the Holy Spirit  more in this area than in any other area that she has served.  I'm so glad she said that because I have been really worrying that we don't have the spirit enough with us.  So thanks, Dad, for sending that scripture about having the spirit ..."and they knew it not."

So I love the ward and I love working on campus.  It's really hard--the Lord is pushing me right in the ways that I am weakest, and at first, I was a little mad because I didn't want to have to change, I just wanted to help other people change. But then I realized that if Heavenly Father is going to work through me, I need to be more in line with His will and with what he wants me to be.  Even though it is hard, it will be worth it.  Some people here have totally helped me to feel of Christ's love for me, and now that I have felt that, I have an intense desire to do the same for other people.  I feel like I know now how Alma felt when he talked about "singing the song of redeeming love."  I know how that feels and I want so badly for others to feel that too.  And they can feel that through me if I let Heavenly Father take over and make me into who I was meant to be.

Which leads  me to ask if you could find that story or poem that talks about how we are like a cottage, and we think we are nice and cozy, but then God comes in and tears down the walls, puts up new additions, and it hurts and we don't understand, but when it's done, we have been turned in to mansion.  I really want to read that story again and have a copy of it, so if you could find it and send it to me that would be awesome.

Okay, so here are some Louisiana things:  I LOVE Louisiana, or Baton Rouge at least.  Everything grows on everything else.  It's like the bromeliads we saw in Peru times 27,000.  On the LSU campus, once or twice a week we do this thing called Free Speech Alley.  Which is this walkway on campus where different groups set up tables/displays and give out info or talk to people about their cause. So there are tables/groups handing out info on like the Right to Life/Anti-Abortion or on Free Trade, etc. etc.  Then you have our booth which is called: "Ask a Mormon" where if people ask us a question about Mormons/Mormon faith, we give them a free tie like the kind the male missionaries wear. HaHa!  It was hard and scary at first to put yourself out there and encourage people to talk to you, but it got easier and we talked to some really prepared people.  We will see what comes of it.

So I had my first encounter with Louisiana "wildlife"!  Last P-Day we visited Mike the Tiger, and he was just like Jack, lazy, laying in the sun/shade, sleeping.  So funny!  Google LSU Mike the Tiger for more info.  I also stepped in a red ant hill and got bitten a few times, that was exciting.  We were riding our bikes to campus (side note: Dad, the bike that you sent me is freakin' epic and gung-ho.  The tires are almost 2 inches fat and can take on anything.  The frame has some "sick shocks" and the color is Tiger Wood's Sunday Shirt Red.  It's seriously awesome) and so yeah, we stopped at a stop light, and I put my foot down right into the ant hill....oops!....the itching and stinging didn't last too long, thank goodness, haha!

One last note--who showed up the first night in our area to give us a ride to Wal-Mart but Jasmine Berthleson!!  It was a tender mercy that someone from my past showed up to help us out.  We thought we had called on some random girl in the ward (I didn't see her full name) and when we started talking and she found out that I was from Wisconsin, she put the pieces together and then I recognized her and she's  been a huge asset ever since. We ride our bikes to campus, the Institute Building, and to the members/less active houses nearby but we rely heavily on the members for rides and one of the sisters in the ward needs to go with us when we teach males.  Jasmine has her mission call to Chile so she is super stoked about missionary work right now.

K- I love you all so much and please give everyone big hugs from me!  I thank you with all my heart for raising me in the gospel and encouraging my desire to enter in to this great work.
Hugs and Smaaashes!
Sister Binks

p.s. I freakin' love you guys!! Seriously! Heavenly Father put me with the best parents ever!!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Uof U Flags, Cockroaches and other adjustments.....

Hello Friends, Family and Fellow Citizens-
This is Mama Chausow and I was so excited to get Johanna's snail mail letter today.  She shared some very pertinent details with me that I had been wondering about.  First interesting tidbit was the situation with the bugs that are quite numerous in Louisiana.  (I had worried about the bugs because when Johanna was in grade school we toured a cave in Tennessee and the walls were completely covered with creepy crawlers!  She didn't like it much AT ALL and I wondered if that experience would haunt her in the South.)
In Johanna's letter she also asked me to send her the weekly weather forecast.  It made me realize that I certainly take it for granted that I can check the tv, radio, newspaper, i-phone, or computer to find this information.  What a change to live technology free and not have these things at your fingertips!
Well, sit back and relax and enjoy reading another glimpse into the life of a Sister missionary "Serving in the South"!

Hey Mom-
Sorry my e-mails are always so rushed.  I just wanted to let you know about a few more things that I forgot/didn't have time to write about.
Hopefully everyone shares the letters I send because each says something different.  There is so much to tell.  My apartment is old but decent. NO cockroaches or bugs so I'm totally good.  The weather is getting much warmer.  Do you think you could send a print out of the weekly weather forecast or put it in your e-mail?  It is hard to dress here sometimes.
Oh, and my companion is a Ute/Utah fan and has this ugly red Utah banner hanging by my desk.  So could you maybe send a BYU flag?  I could also use a small hymnal (the one I brought is in spanish) and biking Sisters can  use backpacks, so if you could send my black backpack that I used in Peru, that would be awesome!
Sorry this has turned in to a gimme gimme letter.  I'm bummed because there's nothing I can do for you in return.  I tried to send pictures, but couldn't figure out the computer.  Please tell Dad thanks for buying such an awesome bike.  We don't have a car and the bus runs on a limited schedule, so our bikes definitely come in handy!
Love, Sister C

Monday, April 8, 2013

Highlights from the first day of serving as a Missionary!

Johanna sent me (Mama Chausow) a private letter but asked me to include her first day highlights in her blog!  So sit back and enjoy the fun...........

First day highlights:
-Falling off my bike into a mud puddle (awesome!)
-The chain falling off my bike and then having to walk home in the rain  (seriously awesome!)
-Meeting our ward members at the Young Single Adult picnic on Sunday
-Making plans to visit the four investigators the previous Elders left for us
-And of course General Conference rocked my socks, especially President Uchtdorf's talk and Elder Holland's talk

I Love you all so much!  I thank the Lord for sending me to our family!
Sister Chausow
Alma 14:28

p.s.--A little note from the Mama:  A special thanks to all of you that have sent Johanna letters, packages and prayers!  They mean the world to her (and to us!)Your friendship and love mean the world to us!  Can't wait til next week to hear what adventures she has enjoyed!  :-)

First P-Day in Baton Rouge

Hello familia!!!

So here I am, on LSU campus, sitting in the LSU library, writing home to the family that I love so much. It's been a crazy first week. 

Things I love:
-My companion - Sister Olsen is 27, super smart, a little crazy, and very patient. We work well together and she is happy to let me take 30 minute naps during our lunch break. Our strengths complement very well the other person's weaknesses.
-The area - I love Baton Rouge, it is green and beautiful, and not at all dry. LSU campus is like a jungle school and I love walking around here. 
-The members - the members of the YSA ward are so excited to have sisters for the first time in over two years, and they are so willing to help us with rides of information. Now we just want to get everyone pumped up about finding people for us to teach...
-Missionary work - I love that when people look at my name tag they see the Savior's name. I want so badly to emulate Him and help others feel of His love. 

Things that are difficult:
-My companion - Sister Olsen has some interesting ideas about the gospel, and is very analytical. Thankfully, she puts aside what she doesn't know and focuses and on what she does know most of the time.
-The area - it's really intimidating to talk to people my own age about the gospel. I have to really push myself to talk to the LSU students.
-Missionary work - I struggle to know the right things to do or say, and I worry that I don't have the Spirit with me enough. I want so badly to do right by the Lord and help His children. Like Elder Bednar says, though, I need to quit worrying so much about whether or not I am feeling the Spirit, just be a good girl, keep my covenants, and know that everything will work out.

I had my first good cry, so now that that is out of the way I'm ready to stop thinking about myself and just think about others. Hopefully the work will pick up now that spring break is over and we are finding our way around (we got double transferred in so neither of us really knew what was going on).

Love you all and hope all is well at home. My new address is: 
1645 Brightside Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70820

-Sister Chausow

Monday, April 1, 2013

Letters to Dad and the Family

Hey Daddy!
I just wanted to tell you specifically that I love you and thank you for the wonderful advice you sent in your e-mail.  Thank you also for the Easter card- I've opened one card every day for four days and it seems like each card has been exactly what I needed on that day.  Just know that I love you and I love serving the Lord.
Thank you for letting me go :)
Sister Chausow

Hey Family!
Sending you all love and hugs from the MTC! Life here is great, and while I've had some ups and downs, I love the spirit and the love that I feel here.
Some highlights from last week include:
-Bonding with my district (four elders and five sisters)  Elder Ott is super funny- he does the best Forest Gump impressions, and I've learned a lot from Elder Elmer- he is an amazing example of hard work and confidence.  I love my companions (I'm in a trio)-Sister Wolf is from Texas and says y'all a lot, and Sister Stennett is from Hawaii and she is so sunny and happy, just like her home state.
-The food:  I eat waaaay too much ice cream here.  It's kinda embarassing......
-The Spirit:  It's amazing how much I can feel God's love here, not only for myself but for the people I serve and for the people I serve with.  I've definitely come to know God better and my Savior Jesus Christ while I've been here.

I love you all and I'm sorry I can't write more/send pictures.
Sister Chausow

Questions! Answering all Mom's questions! :-)

Mama Cakes!
Oh my gosh, I love love LOVED reading your email.  And I loved the package that you sent and my entire district loved the donuts!  You definitely know how to spoil a sister missionary:)
It's hard to tell you how much I loved reading all the updates, and thank you so much for the encouragement.  When I read your e-mail, it felt like the world was normal again for a minute and that was really comforting.
Let me answer your questions and then I'll write some updates of my own:
1.) Are you sleeping okay?
Yes! The night seems like it is over the minute I close my eyes but I am definitely sleeping okay.  I wish we could sleep a little bit more but I get at least 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep every night so that is great. I'm surprisingly doing okay with getting up early.  I get a little sleepy in the afternoons, but all in all the Lord has blessed me to be able to be awake and alert most of the time.
2.) Are you warm enough?  We did not send you dressed for snow and it seems like it has snowed every day you have been at the MTC.
I am warm enough, and I am so glad you made me take long sleeve cardigans/jackets.  I'm also glad that I brought thick tights-those have been a life saver.  Thank you so much for sending those other black tights (my favorite pair in the whole world).  The cold here really isn't that cold compared to Wisconsin winters, so I am fine, but one of my companions, who is from Hawaii, has really struggled with the cold and snow.  She really misses the sunshine and warmth, but she has a really good attitude and she sets a great example to me about positive thinking.
3.) Are you getting enough to eat?
Yes, I am actually getting too much to eat- the food here is pretty good and not always the healthiest.  I need to have some self control when it comes to how much ice cream I eat, and I could use a little more fruit and veggies in my diet :)
4.) Spend whatever money you need if you need to purchase some warm clothes!
Like I said before, the long sleeve cardigans with my rain jacket over it and the long tights keep me really warm, so I am A-OK!

I think I am going to send a general e-mail to the fam, and the grandparents but I specifically wanted to answer your questions and thank you for everything.  My other companion, Sister Wolf, has gotten no mail and didn't get an e-mail from her family, and I feel so so sad for her.  At the same time, I've realized how blessed I am, and I thank Heavenly Father for putting me in your loving, stable family.

Sending lots of Love!
Just so you know, when I get to Louisiana next week, I will have missed p-day, so I won't be able to email until a week from Monday.  But I am sure that they will let me send you a quick letter via snail mail just so you know that I'm alive.  Also, we are allowed to call home when we get to the airport in SLC, so expect an  early morning call (7-ish your time?) next week Tuesday.
Sister Chausow