Friday, November 25, 2016

There is never really an end to Eternal Joy

I still remember the moment our beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson under the direction of the Lord announced to the world that an age change for missionaries would take place. "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 still remember to this day the excitement that I felt as a 16 year old, picking up my phone, calling my dad and mom and my friends to let them know that I wanted to serve and couldn't wait. Who knew that one small decision could change the entire way you look at life. I know that the lessons that I learned from my mission are lessons I could have never learned anywhere else. It's pretty hard to not just list out the many endless lessons and miracles that I experienced but as I reflected over the course of my mission, I realized there were some key principles that I needed to learn and that stood out to me.

I believe that the people we meet at the time that we meet them is no coincidence at all. God has a plan in store for all of us. Little did I know of this plan when I said goodbye to my dear family 18 months ago and awaited the plane ride that would take me to an unknown country. After four flights and little sleep, I wondered to myself, "What am I getting myself into?" I was blessed throughout the course of my mission to have been with 7 different companions. I was suprised to realize at the beginning of my last transfer that none of them were from Utah. It's quite rare to say that you didn't have a companion from Utah or even the states itself. Sister Schmidt (my trainer) from Germany. Sister Hamann from Australia. Sister Nguyen from Vietnam. Sister Fromgren from Norway. Sister Wang from China. Sister Chand from Fiji. And Sister Manage from Sri Lanka/Manchester. How blessed I was to be with each one of them. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for putting up with a crazy, silly companion like me. I can't count the many moments where we'd be treking through rain storms, crying because our friends no longer wanted to meet with us or were facing opposition, cooking and laughing about the silliest of things, and simply loving each other despite having been 24/7 with each other. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I must have had the first pick in Heaven to choose my companions. All of them each radiated the light of Christ and had a lesson for me to learn. Each area I was placed in- Redruth, Clapham, Brighton, and Staines carried different cultures, people, friends that we taught, wards, and lessons for us to learn. I loved each moment of each area. Though some days were harder than others, I know that the mapped out plan that God had for me of my mission was made perfectly and made right. 

As much as it was hard, I've learned that Agency plays a big role in the work whether it's with us or other people. It was so hard sometimes to not get frustrated at the moments when many people would say no to us or reject us. Many moments that I'm sure my companions can agree to, we found ourselves asking quite a few times, "Why must they have their agency?" I understand though that, without Agency, even we missionaries cannot progress. We cannot make our own choices and govern ourselves. The rewards and blessings for living the Gospel wouldn't be as sweet to us if we were given no choice. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf says it perfectly in Fourth Floor, Last Door (Oct. 2016, General Conference), "God will invite, persuade. God will reach out tirelessly with love and inspiration and encouragement. But God will never compel- that would undermine His great plan for our eternal growth." 

I learned not only the importance of Agency but I also came to understand the importance of obedience. Around the halfway mark of my mission, my mom emailed me a quote which makes a lot of sense. "Obedience brings blessings. Exact Obedience brings miracles." I testify that this quote is true. I was definitely not perfect on my mission but I strived to be. It wasn't easy but as my companions and I set goals to overcome our weaknesses, we felt the hand of the Lord helping us and more importantly, we witnessed so many miracles. I always thought of miracles to be consisting of someone who was in a major car accident and walked away with only a scratch or bruise. I thought a miracle consisted of someone battling cancer and overcoming it or perhaps someone willing to first pay tithing and sacrifice in that sense and then receive more funds back than they had planned. I never really thought that even the littlest of moments of someone answering their door to us, or saying yes to a return appointment, could be counted as a miracle. It was though. God promised our mission a season of miracles. A harvest. And oh what joy fills my heart to know that I got to be a part of it! I will never forget those moments when at the end of an evening, I got down on my knees, said a prayer, and felt the spirit confirm to me of the many miracles I got to witness. I know that my life will continue to bring so many miracles and I know that as we all reflect on what the Lord has done for us, we will be overcome with such gratitude and joy! "Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." (Alma 26:16). 

I will never forget the things that this mission has done for me. Who knew the opportunities of walking, running, stressing, praying, weeping, laughing, teaching, declaring repentance, smiling, hoping, repenting, forgiving, and loving could bring you to being so much closer to God than you could have ever imagined. If anyone was to ask me if they should go on a mission whether when they are older or younger, I would have to simply say, "Yes. You definitely should. You wouldn't regret it either." I understand there are different circumstances in life that might make us question if we should go or not but if ever the Lord gives you an inkling to go on a mission, don't hesitate. I promise that the blessings of a mission are great! I love this work. I couldn't imagine my life without it. I know that this Church is the true church and I cannot deny that. As I drew closer to the Saviour throughout my mission, I realized that no man cannot be without him. He is our light, our friend, our brother, our Saviour. The atonement became so much greater to me than it ever has been before. I know that Christ is aware of every little pain, suffering, or trial that we go through. Though some may not recognize it, He will always be at our side, weeping with us, carrying us, and comforting us. I was grateful to be able to go on a mission because it helped me to realize the pathway that the Saviour walked. I cannot fully comprehend the suffering He had to go through but I know from the fraction of His pathway that I walked, I learned so much and rejoice in the knowledge of my Saviour. The Book of Mormon is a true testament of Him. It gave me a great lighter and conversion to find out that this Gospel is true. It's what got me started on this path of discipleship and I will do everything to continue to stay on this path. I love you all and thank you for the support and love that you showed to me throughout my mission! I could not have done it without you and your great love! 
Sister Anya Michelle Burtis 

A thanksgiving season filled with miracles

I love this time of the year where we can reflect on the things we are grateful for and to be able to realize the many blessings that we have received. As I reflected on this past week, it was one to remember for sure! Last week and this week has been great! We were able to work with a lot of the members and help them to see the importance of missionary work. What is great is that we have an upcoming Christmas party in the Staines Ward so Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I have worked to invite lots of people to that and invite the members to invite their friends. We have a feeling its going to be very successful! The past weekend, we got to see many miracles. Last week, while working in Stanwell, two of our appointments fell through that we had looked forward to teaching so we used the best of our time and went and contacted some potentials. We had knocked on a lady's door and she opened up. We asked her if she was Claire but she told us that Claire had moved. However, the best part of this amazing miracle was that she mentioned to us that she was Claire's mum. So with that, we got to see if she was interested and she was! Plus, she gave us Claire's new address so we were really excited. We will be able to teach her next week which I am looking forward to. This past weekend, we were suppose to have a dinner appointment with our Bishop and his family on Saturday but something came up for them so Sister Holt called us and asked if we would like to join them in the Thanksgiving meal that they would be having this past Sunday. Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I traveled our way over to their area and got to have an american thanksgiving meal! It was truly wonderful! It was fun to see the looks on Sister Manage's and Sister Chand's face as they saw all the different types of food that was there, seeing that this was their first thanksgiving meal. This past week, we got to see our friend Phil come to church and we were excited about that! He is usually caught up with work but he has a big desire to be baptized and made his way over to church this past week. We are working with Laura as well and she is doing amazing! We are planning to take her to the temple on Saturday which I am so excited for! She knows that this church is true and has a great desire to learn more. We are going to teach her about the restoration and watch the Joseph Smith movie with her so she can understand the life and calling of him. Apart from that, we got to go to President Gubler and Sister Gubler's home for my departure interview. It was really good and I loved the counsel of how my mission has prepared me for life and how the experiences that I've had are going to help me so much, which I don't doubt. It was funny though because we needed to take a train to get to President's home so we did but as we got out of the train station, it was pouring rain. Quickly pulling out our Ipads to locate the map, our map told us to take a footpath that led through a forest that would get to their house. I don't know what we were thinking but we went in and almost got lost. In this wooded forest, there were paths on the right and left sides of us and so we just prayed and continued to followed in front of us and eventually made it out. What was even funnier was that Sister Gubler had called us asking if we needed a lift from the train station but our phone was on silent so we never heard the call. We did eventually get there in the end which was good! :) On the way back from President's, we needed to go to Clapham Junction to switch trains. As we got there, Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I took one look at the Cornish Pasty Shop and knew we needed to go and nourish ourselves with the food from Heaven. As we bought some pasties (which brought be back to the days of Cornwall), a guy asked us what church we were from and told us that he was from Sri Lanka. Sister Manage mentioned back that she was from there too and they both started spouting out some magical language. All in all, we came to find out that this guy was part of a Pentecostal church but wasn't really practicing. What amazing was that he said he felt spiritually low and said a prayer that morning to God for help after seven full years of not praying. That same evening, we had met him and we were all amazed at how God works! Miracle! We talked to this guy and he said he wanted to learn more and was open-minded. Just as we were about to leave, he hurried and grabbed a cone of delicious looking fries and handed them to us, saying, "These are complimentary. A gift from God." What an amazing week! We had the opportunity to share the gospel and teach the plan of Salvation with another one of our new friends named Glen and he's now planning to come to church. I am just so grateful to be a part of this work! I can't imagine my life without it. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy eating lots of turkey, potatoes, and pie! Love you all! 
Sister Burtis 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Remembering the Fallen

What an incredible week! It seemed to be filled with so many miracles and we felt that our week was very productive! In the middle of last week, we had a wonderful miracle. Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I had correlation and afterwards we got talking to some members. While being at the chapel, we then saw a couple who had just walked in but we didnt recognize them. We immediately went over to them and introduced ourselves. They said they lived very close to the chapel and wanted to see what it was like inside. We showed them the chapel and shared our contact information because they said they would like to come on Sunday. They left but moments later, the wife then walked back into the chapel and wanted to make a donation. We kindly said that we could teach her more on the principle of tithing and offered to give her a chapel tour later in the week to which she gladly accepted! Amazing! Throughout the week, we were able to get several referrals from members. One of our returning friends who we've been teaching has a son who is 9 years old (not a member yet) and we asked the son if he wanted to be taught and he said yes! We also got to sit down with a family who just recently moved over from Utah not too long ago and set goals with them. It was incredible because the mom wanted to invite one of her friends to the ward Christmas social and the 11 year old daughter wanted to invite three of her friends to activity days this coming week. The following day, the mom reported to us that her daughter did indeed invite one of her friends to activity days! It's amazing how involved the Staines ward is with missionary work. A funny story that happened to us this past week happened as we headed to a dinner appointment. We took a train to an area called Virginia Water (a part of the area I had never been to yet) and traveled to get to the member's home. As we did so, it was really dark and we had no idea where we were going. Sister Manage was leading from the directions given from her IPad and somehow we found ourselves on a dark, thin footpath that lead through some trees. To me, I felt like we were walking through some haunted trail and had no idea if we were going to make it out alive. A shadow came from behind the trees and my heart jumped but it ended up only being a 14-15 year kid who was walking the opposite direction. We finally saw a street lamp and the main road and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. We thought our traveling was over but to our dismay, we came to the road that we were suppose to walk on and it was completely dark and pitch black. We decided we'd take the longer route and find the sidewalk to walk on beside the road but that didn't help to much either because there really wasn't a sidewalk and it was still dark nonetheless. On top of all that, our phone battery was close to dying. I felt like I was living in the thriller movies. Super scary! Not to worry, I'm writing this email out four or five days later so it means that I survived and haven't died. I just love the adventures that you can have on your missions. Looking back, it just seems so funny. We did finally end up making it to the member's home and we were able to get there at a reasonable time. This past Sunday was Remembrance Sunday and that was so fun to be a part of. The bishop of the ward here wanted for all of us to go and support the memorial that they do at Staines Town Hall so we all first met at the chapel and then walked over to where the Main Street was. People were gathered around everywhere and in the middle of the main street was soldiers dressed up in their uniforms, looking ready to march. At the beat of a drum, they marched forward and all the citizens of Staines trailing behind them.  We all then gathered around the Town Hall where they laid the wreaths of poppies, said some prayers, and made a speech about remembering the fallen. It was really neat to be a part of and to be able to see how they did this memorial service here in England. I thought of my Grandpa Miller who was in the war as well and how grateful I am for his great example of service and sacrifice. Thanks Grandpa!  Something that I came to learn this past week is that planning as a missionary is so important! I understand that it's not only going to help me for my mission but as well as the rest of my life.  The three of us-Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I planned and made solid back up plans with determination to find the prepared. We waited for our bus that would get us to a less-active's home so we could share a message with her. This less-active hasn't been to church due to health problems and she didn't know if she wanted to actually return to church or not. We got on the 203 bus to get to her house but ten minutes into the ride, we realized we were on the wrong bus. We got off, took out our Areabook/plans and felt prompted to stay in the area that we found ourselves now standing in. On our maps, we realised there were a couple of potentials to visit so we took that time to contact them. On our way to one of the former Investigator's homes, we made a man named Glen! Glen had just recently lost his dad and wanted to know more about our message. We got to set a return appointment for Saturday and parted ways. A minute later, we then stopped by the former's home and he was just about to go out somewhere. We introduced ourselves and he (David) mentioned to us that it had been four years since he had been taught but that him and his now 11 year old daughter would be willing to meet on Saturday as well! Miracle! To top that all off, the three of us then headed to the Relief Society Chili Cook Off night and to our surprise, the less-active sister who we had originally planned to stop by and visit that day, was there! Season of Miracles! It was great to learn that we should never doubt in the plans and backup plans that we made but to never be afraid to change them if we feel prompted! God knows how to direct His work so let us all carefully listen and willingly follow to His spirit. I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Sister Burtis 
Traveling to a members home in the dark woods.

Learning how to make fish

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Birthdays and Bicycles

Hello family and friends! I hope you are doing well. What seemed to be
a sunny week last week and nice temperatures, seemed to drop suddenly,
and become bitter cold all of the sudden. Sister Manage and I both
agreed that this weather was a lot colder this year than last year.
This past week has been filled with miracles! Last week, we were able
to attend correlation meeting and then our friend Hassan showed up to
English class which is usually taught by our ward mission leader. What
a miracle! Unfortunately he couldn't find the bus stop across the
chapel and someone eventually leaded him there but by the time he got
to the church, the class was over. The three of us sisters and a
member helped him though and did our best to teach him some English.
The following day, Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I got to travel to
Kingston for our district meeting which took us a while via trains and
buses but we made our way and found the chapel. It was a smaller
chapel and hidden behind some wooded forests so that was an adventure
to try and find! :) We had our district meeting with the district for
the first time for the transfer so I got to meet new missionaries.
It's crazy but as you get older and older in the mission, there are a
lot more missionaries that you don't know. After district meeting, we
went with the sister training leaders over to their area and had an
exchange. I was with Sister Walker and it was really fun! The most
different thing about this exchange was that Sister Walker and I rode
bikes all around Addleston. The three remaining sisters, Sister
Wiscombe, Sister Chand, and Sister Manage walked. I had not been on a
bike for all of my mission up until now so you can imagine how scary
it was for me and how out of shape I might have been. Ive got to
applaud all those missionaries who ride bikes throughout the course of
their mission because it's no easy thing. I was huffing and puffing
and my legs felt pretty sore by the end of it. Plus, the scariest part
of it all was trying to go around the roundabouts while at the same
time, looking out for cars to make sure they knew you were there. At
the end of the exchange, I realised why Heavenly Father might have
made sure I wasn't on bike....I don't think I would have survived ;)
The exchange was great overall and I learned so much! We also found a
lady who was interested and she seemed really enthusiastic about
hearing our message so I'm excited to hear from the sisters on how it
goes. The rest of the week consisted of us bundling up warm with our
boots, thick gloves, scarves, and coats. We did a lot of finding this
week and got to hand out lots of brochures and DVDs. The people here
in Staines, though they say no sometimes, are still very friendly and
willing to talk. Sister Manage, Sister Chand, and I were able to knock
on doors and do some street contacting and find ourselves in the
finding stages at the moment. We're not losing hope though and we have
faith that we will find the prepared! We got to do some service this
past week and do the poppy appeal which was fun! It's run by the
British legion and the poppy appeal is selling paper poppies and pins
and gathering donations for soldiers and families of soldiers. It's
all for remembrance day which will be this Sunday and it's to remember
those who have died in the wars and for the gratitude of the soldiers
in the war now. It's quite cool to see everyone in the different
communities being unified as they wear their poppies on their coats.
The end of the week consisted of Laura, our friend, coming to church
and that was great! That evening, we found out it was her husband's
birthday so we knocked on his door and sang Happy Birthday to him
which he seemed to really like! We feel the Lord working in many
different ways to soften the hearts of his children and we know that
there are prepared people out there. To top of the week, we got to
teach an 8 year old boy named Andrew about the restoration. His mum is
less-active but knows the importance of baptism so she wants us to
teach him. It's amazing the meekness and humility this little boy has
and how willing he is to listen. He would continually say to us, "I
want to receive the Holy Ghost!" We reassured him that he could in
time. The work of the Lord is great! I'm so grateful to be out here on
my mission and I know that the Lord has individual miracles for all of
us to witness. :) I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Sister Burtis

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

  A week filled with treats not tricks.


Trunk or Treat

Hello dear family and friends! So much has happened and I am so
grateful for the hand of the Lord in this great work. Last week, we
were able to go to the Trunk N' Treat at the chapel for the Staines
ward. Guess what we dressed up as? MISSIONARIES :) I think we won the
best costume award or at least, we should have ;) When we got there,
one of the part member families that we were teaching was there and it
was great because the husband (who's not a member) really enjoyed it
and got talking to a lot of the members. I got to know a lot more of
the members as well as we walked around the different trunks and got
to see how everything was decorated!  It was a lot of fun. It's a
shame to say that although this is probably an American tradition, I
had never been to a Trunk N' Treat until just this past week. It was a
great turnout though and lots of the members showed up. I think a hard
part of it was hearing the Halloween music from some car speakers.
Myself and my companions wanted to rock out to "Thriller" by Michael
Jackson but we knew that we could handle it and it was all worth the
sacrifice. We were able to do a lot of finding and contacting this
week and we actually got to meet a guy named Hassan on the bus. When
we got talking to him, his English was pretty limited but he seemed to
understand our purpose. The best part of it all was that he said he's
planning to come to our English class that our ward mission leader
teaches! It was such a great miracle! Last weekend, we were able to
teach our friend, Sue, and Sue is doing so good! She's got a heart of
gold and is so humble and so willing to learn more about our message.
As we have followed up on her scripture reading, she's doing really
good and continues to say, "I think the Book of Mormon is true." We
got to teach her about the gospel of Jesus Christ and she got so
excited as we approached the topic of baptism and Holy Ghost. The best
part of it all was that she came to church and that she loved it. The
members were so good to her and reached out to her with love. We were
able to teach Sue again just recently and as we asked how she liked
church, she smiled, and said, "I loved the things I learned. I want to
come again!" What a miracle! Phil, her husband, is working a lot but
also wants to learn so we are hoping that we can see the both of them
baptised before the end of the month. They have such great potential!
Halloween was really good here. Not a lot of England people celebrate
it as crazy as the Americans do but we were still able to see a lot of
people with their kids, dressed up, and trick or treating. That
Halloween evening, we got to do a FHE activity with Laura, our friend,
and got to cook butternut squash soup and share a message with her. It
was a lot of fun and her husband even joined as well. The Lord is so
good to us and though there seems to be a lot of opposition of times,
I know that the Saviour is with us and is guiding us. Some funny
things that happened this week was that since I came into Staines, we
needed to get another bed frame for my mattress. For a period of time,
I was sleeping on the mattress on the floor but it didn't bother me
because the mattress was comfy. This past week, we finally got a bed
and Sister Manage and I put it together. It was quite funny because
the wooden panels on it were really bent and it was a bit cheap so as
I got on the bed, it held the mattress up just fine as I slept but
then the next morning, the wood panels came down. It was a pretty
cheap bed frame I think but it's all good now and holding up together!
:) We also got to clear up our flat and have our carpets cleaned.
Apparently, the carpet hadn't been cleaned for a while and the flat
has been used by many missionaries before me and my two companions. We
got to clear out tons of clothes and things left behind by other
missionaries and ended up throwing away tons of things. It's been such
an eventful week! I'm so grateful to be a part of this work and I know
that the Lord is truly aware of our needs. I know He loves all of us
and really wants the best for us! I love you all and hope you all have
a great week!
Sister Burtis