I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have been called to serve in the Sacramento California Mission! This is my blog where you can follow my adventures for the next 18 months (January, 2013-June, 2014)
Did you know that Sacramento was the original place of the California Gold Rush? I'm so excited! See ya'll in 18 months, I'm going for spiritual Gold!

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Sacramento - Week 49

Due to the new security measures requested by the Mission leaders, the names of all investigators and people that Sarah comes into contact with will be replaced with the name of a well-known character from a children’s movie. This will keep the identities of people safe as well as make it easier to keep everyone straight. The name given is in NO WAY intended to reflect the personality, looks, or circumstances of the individual(s).

“Reflections on a Year of Glorious Missionary Life”
January 2, 2014

Well, it's official. Today marks my one year mission birthday. Where did the time go?!
In honor of that tremendous event, this letter will be a brief Christmas recap for those of you I didn't get to Skype with on Christmas day, and then some of my thoughts as I've reflected on all the things I've experienced and learned since I reported to the Missionary Training Center a year ago. 
All in all, Christmas was phenomenal, as was the whole month of December! It was such a blessing to be a part of the season where we celebrate Christ's birth. Being able to stand and testify of Him 24/7 and remind people how blessed we are because of His birth made every day sweet (even when I had the stomach flu and had to stay in bed for a few days, it just meant extra time to read my scriptures and be grateful for all the blessing we did have!) 

I was so blessed to see 2 baptisms in December, both investigators I had committed to dates before being transferred to Folsom. Little Mermaid's baptism was so wonderful! Her story is a miracle. Her mother is less active and has been since she was a teenager. They moved in next door to a young married couple who just happened to be our ward missionaries! They offered to take Little Mermaid to church and through her encouragement and example, her mom and two younger brothers started to come too. After 3 weeks Little Mermaid told her mom, "I want to be baptized! Can the missionaries come over and teach me?”
And we didn't even have to pay her to say it ;) We began teaching her with her mom and her brothers and on December 14th Little Mermaid was baptized. When she came up out of the water, she just squealed and giggled with pure joy! It was beautiful and wonderful and heaven smiled on everyone there. 

The second baptism was also an answer to many prayers. Sister Ward and I were having lunch at Subway, and as we sat down with our sandwiches the cell phone buzzed. I saw a text from one of the Assistants and it said, "Sister Burchett, Hermana Clontz wanted me to let you know that Rapunzel will be baptized tomorrow. Good work!"
It's a good thing we were the only people in the restaurant because I'm 99% certain I screamed. Let me explain this one. It all starts about 2 years ago. The Elders in La Sierra met Rapunzel and began teaching her. Rapunzel is from Nicaragua and moved to the states when she was a teenager. She committed to baptism, but her boyfriend was living with her and so he had to move out before she could be baptized.
The Elders dropped her and said to pick her up in a few months. At the beginning of 2013, the sister missionaries picked Rapunzel up and taught her again, but Rapunzel still wasn't ready and she dropped the sister missionaries. A few months later new sisters picked her up and taught her AGAIN. This time she committed to baptism but backed out about an hour before her baptismal interview. She said her brother told her if she was Mormon, she couldn't be Catholic anymore....And that was where the teaching record ended when Sister Kagie and I went to see Rapunzel again.
We met with her and taught her and she seemed more prepared than ever to be baptized. The boyfriend was ancient history, several things were happening in her family that had softened her heart and she was progressing well. But there was something wrong. Every time we taught her I could feel it and Sister Kagie did too. It was the weirdest feeling because everything was going the way it should and yet we didn't feel like it was. Rapunzel committed to a baptismal date, and yet I still felt like there was something missing. One night, I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed. I couldn't sleep, and so I really was just dilly-dallying trying to get my brain to calm down. I washed my face, brushed my hair....pretty sure I brushed my teeth twice, filed my nails. Finally I just sat on the edge of the bathtub and prayed.
I prayed about Rapunzel like I had so many times before and all of a sudden I knew exactly what she needed! I ran out in the bedroom and jumped on Sister Kagie (who was dead to the world asleep). "RAPUNZEL NEEDS TO BE TAUGHT IN SPANISH!" I'm sure this is what every sister missionary wants to wake up to. Poor Sister Kagie was so confused, so I told her to go back to bed and I would explain in the morning. You see, what the spirit told me was that since she had always been an English investigator, no one had ever thought to have her taught in Spanish, but Spanish was her first language! For her to truly understand what the gospel means, she needed to hear it in her native tongue. 
And so, with great joy that we knew what she needed, but great sadness that we had to pass her off, we turned Rapunzel over to the Spanish Sisters. When we gave them her teaching record, I promised them that if they would teach her, she would be baptized. All I asked was that they please let us know when she was, because we loved her so much. And so, on New Year's Eve, Rapunzel was baptized! Sister Kagie and I didn't get to go to the baptism because of new rules about returning for baptisms, but hopefully we get emailed some pictures soon! 
We capped off the season with a trip to the temple to do baptisms for the dead with a recent convert family in the ward. It was wonderful to be there as a ward family in the House of the Lord. I was handing in my recommend at the front desk when I looked up to see a familiar face! My dear friend, Christopher Robin, was there! We got to chat for a few minutes, and I couldn't help but think about how amazing and great our joy will be when we are all reunited in the next life. Those who are far from us are much closer than we think. They are watching over us and praying for us. They know us and are doing their best to help us be with them again. 
Christmas day was great! We spent the morning at our house opening gifts and just feeling ridiculously blessed. Our member we live with made us breakfast. Then we went to our Ward Mission Leader. Brother Munster's, house to Skype home. We ran to our investigator’s house for a lesson and card games. Then it was off to another family’s for Christmas lunch and a lesson with their non-member friend who is an Egyptian Christian. The lesson was fantastic and we are meeting again on Sunday. He is so excited to learn more! We talked about the Plan of Salvation, and it made me grateful, again. for the birth of our Savior. What a wonderful holiday! 

The Past Year: 
When I think about 2013, I am filled with so many memories and flooded with feelings of love. When I think about the person I was on January 2, 2013 and the person I am today, January 2, 2014, I am amazed at how I can still be so very much myself and yet be so completely different! I feel like God has taken me and helped me enhance all my good traits and chipped away at the bad, all the while teaching me new things and blessing me with glimpses of the person I can be, opening my eyes to sides of myself that I didn't even know were there. 
I am so very aware now of my own wonderful nothingness. I am weak and "prone to wander" and headstrong and prideful and so very human in every way. Then there is our Heavenly Father and our Savior, who are so full of strength, steadiness, meekness, and humility. I have come to such a more profound knowledge of Their goodness and mercy, Their willingness to forgive, Their arms that are ever open to all of us. 

One of the most amazing experiences I've had as a missionary is to be teaching someone about the gospel and know that the person talking isn't me at all, and then to realize that what is coming from my mouth isn't just for them. So many times the message from the Spirit is equally as much for me! Teaching about repentance reminds me of my own sins and imperfections and my own need for the atonement in my life and daily repentance. Teaching about covenants reminds me of the covenants I have made and the duty I have to keep and magnify them. Teaching about eternal marriage reminds me how blessed I am to have a family that has been sealed together, and how much I want that for myself one day. 
Serving the Lord and being welcomed into the lives of so many people has taught me to count my blessings. I HAVE BEEN SO SPOILED! We had an experience with our investigator family. We had a very cold spell a few weeks ago, and they couldn't afford to buy coats for their 4 children who had completely outgrown their old ones. The kids walked to school, and so they just doubled up on jackets. But it was still SO cold. We were over for a lesson and the Mom said to the 6 year old, "Tell the sisters what you go to wake up for last night."
I was cursing my inability to not cry as he told us "A coat!"
They told us the story of how they heard a knock at the door and opened it to find 4 brand new coats waiting for them. They ran upstairs and woke the kids to come down and see. They were so excited that they slept in their coats! As the kids modeled their new winter wear for us, the mom and dad said, "We don't know who it was, but if you find out, tell them thank you for us."
They couldn't even express how grateful they were. They just sat there and looked at their 4 children, wearing coats, with glistening eyes, and my heart was so full I thought it might explode! I have been so blessed. Even in the hardest of times, I have always had a coat. How many things have I taken for granted in my life? SO MANY! How much do I REALLY need? Not a lot at all. Just the gospel, loved ones, food to eat, water drink, something to wear, and a roof over my head. And I don't even need a roof. I know a kid who can make me a teepee! I also thought about service and what a blessing it is to the giver and the receiver. No wonder Christ tells us so many times to be a servant, to serve like He did. 
My mission has taught me that I am so very far from perfection. Aren't we all! The beautiful thing is that we aren't expected to be perfect now. We are expected to try our very best every day, and then wake up and try again tomorrow. In His infinite wisdom, our Heavenly Father has given us the opportunity to fall and get back up again over and over and over. The falling isn't what matters to Him, through the atonement of His Son, He promises to "remember no more" our oopsies, uh ohs, and hiccups. What matters is that we get back up. We are learning how to endure, how to press on, how to be exalted. 
Most importantly, this past year I have learned to love more deeply than I could have ever imagined. I know I've tried to explain before the amazing sensation of meeting someone for the first time and loving them SO deeply almost instantaneously. It is a miracle. Love is a miracle. Love is a gift from our Father in Heaven. Charity is the pure love of Christ, and no matter how hard we work at it, we can never gain it on our own. Charity is given, and so we should plead with our Father in Heaven that we may be filled with that love. I think God wants us to learn to love with everything that our human capacity can, so that we will be prepared to experience God-like love in the eternities. How amazing and incomprehensible must that feel like! 
I am so grateful for this past year. I'm grateful for this new year and the chance I have to be a new person every day. I'm grateful for a lifetime of lessons learned, and people loved. Most of all, I am grateful for my testimony of this gospel. It's true! It's all true! And that's the greatest miracle of all. 
Happy New Year! Make it a great one! Save a soul, even if it's your own. 

Sister Burchett

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