Monday, April 18, 2016

My Testimony

I hope I can properly express the feelings of my heart in this letter. Deciding to come on my mission was a difficult decision. There were several events leading up to my decision, but I think there was one particular conversation when I decided, at that point I began to prepare. To my family's surprise I had received a call, and to all of our surprise I was being sent to a place called Estonia (later changed to Lithuania). As soon as I began my papers I was so excited and ready to go.

The MTC was a great experience. I am so glad I had the opportunity to be in the MTC during Thanksgiving and Christmas. There really was a special spirit there. I really enjoyed all of the devotionals and learned so much, but little did I know that this was just the beginning of huge spiritual growth I would gain throughout my mission. Finally the long awaited day after nine weeks arrived. As we began our long journey to Riga, we were anxious to leave the MTC and share the testimonies we had gained in the nine weeks we were there. I was excited for the next phase of my mission.

After a long travel, we finally arrived in Riga where we were able to meet President and Sister Harding. It was great to see their smiling faces, while our faces looked very weary from the travel. The next little bit was a blur as I struggled to keep my eyes open until finally we were able to sleep. The next day I was a little more alert as I prepared to meet my trainer and find out where my first area would be. Everything was still a little cloudy but I do remember that all of the sisters who were there to train looked so nice, and I thought to myself, "all of these sisters are going to be great trainers so it really doesn't matter which one I get." After we were assigned our new companion, Sister Hoskin and I headed on our way to my first area in Siauliai. That is where all of the experiences and learning would begin to take place that is now the sum total of who I am today.

From this point on I will write about the people I have met and the experiences I had with them and what I learned from the experiences and from the person. I will start with Sister Hoskin. Sister Hoskin was a great companion. One of the first lessons I learned was about how we all come from different backgrounds with different experiences. Sister Hoskin and I were similar in some ways, but different in many other ways. I found as I learned more about her and her family that she had a very different upbringing. I learned that we all have to be tolerant of how others think and act differently. Sometimes we forget that people have different families and different ways of thinking. Sister Hoskin was very good at loving others. We had one member who was difficult to love sometimes, but Sister Hoskin was always her friend and trying to serve her. Sister Hoskin also was very brave, she was so good at talking to people, and I really admired that every time she spoke with someone, whether they were interested or not, she was able to leave them with some kind of commitment, even if it was just to attend their own church more often. Another time she was brave was when we were out contacting in a more dangerous part of town and it was getting late and time to start walking toward home. There was a man on the corner and he said something that I didn't really understand, then he was kind of pulling something out of his coat. Then all of a sudden Sister Hoskin told me to just turn around and run. So I turn around and follow her across the street. We kept running until we were able to get home. We are not sure what he was pulling out, but Sister Hoskin suspected it was a gun. I am glad she knew what was going on, because I wasn't sure. Then even after that very scary experience she was still very calm. I am glad that she was following the spirit and knew that we should run. Sister Hoskin also helped me learn how to let go of some of the things I was holding back, so that I could become a more consecrated missionary.

My next companion was Sister Seaman. Sister Seaman was a great, very consecrated missionary. I learned what it meant to work hard. She really had righteous desires and wanted to work really hard always. I can see why she was chosen to be a leader early on in her mission. Sister Seaman was always happy and bubble and excited to see people. She had a quote that would stick with me for the rest of my mission, "what you focus on increases." I applied this quote in many different ways throughout my mission. I mostly applied it to my companions throughout my mission. I learned that although everyone has faults, they also have weaknesses and we can choose to let those weaknesses go and try and focus on the good they have within them, my view changes completely, but it can also go vice versa. If I focus on their bad qualities then all of a sudden I only see them as a terrible, annoying person. It helped me to see the good in all of my companions to remember that I also am not perfect and they can choose to focus on my faults as I might do to them and then we will just hate each other and never get along.

I had a very brief experience with Sister Penrose. Sister Penrose was also a hard worker. She was very humble about her language skills, I think she was better than she gave herself credit for. She was always so good at pushing me and helping me to get out of my comfort zone. During our brief time together we had an experience that drew us very close together. I am glad she was so calm and able to help me stay calm through that very scary experience.

I will be honest, when I found out I would be with Sister Neeley, I was a little nervous as I knew her least of all the sisters. I tried to put everything I had heard about her aside and tried to just get to know her, although I tried to do that, I think it still played a role in my relationship with her. There was a lot to learn from Sister Neeley, including some communication skills from our often long and frequent companionship inventories. I will say companionship inventories are definitely inspired and I am glad that we were able to discuss things open and honestly. I again saw how one's upbringing effects who they are today. Sister Neeley is also excellent at thinking deeply and at studying the scriptures, so those are definitely lessons I learned from her. I thought that these three transfers with her were my hardest, but I still had yet to experience my hardest time on the mission. Often though, the hardest times are also the times with the most learning, so I still had much learning to come. With Sister Neeley my time in Kauans came to an end, which I was sad because I absolutely love Kaunas and the people there, but I also knew that I couldn't become comfortable for too long. I left the city I love and came to Vilnius to start a new adventure with Sister Bestenlenher.

Sister Bestenlenher is great. She is definitely one of the bravest, and most dedicated people I know. She taught me a lot about diligence. This short time with her became the hardest time of my mission, not only because I had to become used to her speed and try to match it, but because this is the transfer I received the news about my nephew who had gotten cancer. I feel really bad because we had just barely become companions and, luckily, I knew her before, otherwise it would have been a lot harder. She was so good during that difficult time. I went into a depression. I knew that he would be okay, there were promises made to him and my family. I never thought that I could become depressed. I really didn't think it was a very real thing. I was just sad all of the time and I never felt like I would be happy again. I blamed my depression on the news, the weather, and the time of year, but I know now that although those things may have played a part I know that it was something that I needed to go through to grow closer to my Heavenly Father, and to know that He loves me. I needed to learn to rely on him more fully. I got a blessing from Elder Nuttall and it gave me comfort to know that Heavenly Father is so aware. I thought it would be a blessing of comfort, but it turned into a blessing of healing. Sister Bestenlenher was always so good and patient as I burst into tears over spilled milk or when I had no desire to work. I also learned how important communication skills are when it comes to making decisions. We both felt that we had a hard time working together because we were both experienced missionaries who have had different experiences, so we both had different opinions of how the work should be done. I still felt like I still had much to learn from Sister Bestenlenher, but all too quickly our time ended and I was transferred away to be with Sister Madison.

Sister Madison is, as all of my companions are, one of the best. She is not only hilarious as everyone know, but I also found out that she is also a very deep person. I was very impressed by her ability to see a problem and find a solution. I think that this was a gift from the Holy Ghost. All of the time she would see maybe a character flaw in herself and be able to pinpoint exactly what it was and what she needed to do to fix it. I really admire that about her and I do want to learn to emulate that. Our two transfers have been interesting together as we have both been preparing for our return home. Sister Madison is great at complimenting and building people up. She is always kind to remember or notice the little things. She is a great socializer and I am glad that I have been able to learn a thing or two from her about that because that is definitely an area where I lack.

Overall I can say that my mission has been a great experience and I cannot wait to share it with those I love. My mission was definitely one of the most challenging and joyful experiences I have ever had. I don't think I changed anyone's life, but I do know that I am returning a much better person because of it. I hope I was at least a little helpful in building up the church here in Lithuania. I have come to love the people here. I will end with my testimony. I know that Heavenly Father loves me and is aware of my situation. I know that Jesus Christ has felt my joy and my pain. I know that Joseph Smith restored this church, the only true and living church, back to the earth. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and that we can receive real solutions to real problems in our lives. I know that we can pray and we will be comforted. I know that this church is led by Thomas S. Monson and that he is a prophet called by God. I know that my mission has been the one thing that could catapult me into progression. I know that my life will never be the same as before my mission. I know that commandments help us to receive blessings. I know that member missionary work is important. I can honestly say that I love my mission and I will never regret going.

Sister Brown

Homecoming! :)

We were told by another passenger that Brianna was on the last row of the plan, so we waited...and waited...! She finally came walking down the hall and she was already crying, and so was Mom. :) We all got some hugs and Jarom and Marisa joined us through Skype on Jen's phone. We are so glad she's home!! :D

Skyping Jarom and Marisa

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Last Week!!

April 11, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

I will keep this short since I will be seeing everyone in less than a week, I feel like I will have so much to share that everyone will be sick of hearing from me!

On Monday we went to a castle called Trakai. It was in a cute little quaint town on the outside of Vilnius, it was a great treat and we even had to get special permission to go. What a blessing! We were able to go with all of the other missionaries. Unfortunately, we could only see the outside as it is closed on Mondays. In the evening we were able to have Family Home Evening with a family in the branch. They are so nice to invite us over.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting where we were able to begin to watch General Conference in English. I really enjoyed the couple first talks and cannot wait to watch the rest when I get back!

On Wednesday Sister Madison went to Riga for some Mission Leadership training. Sister Bestenlenher, Sister Griffin and I were able to work on my letter that I need to write to President about my mission.

On Friday we had Zone Training in Kaunas. We thought we had our last Zone Training, but apparently, President Harding wanted another one this transfer and he wanted to come. We had a great training, it was fun to travel one last time with the district. On our way there we basically bought every seat on a bus except for like three seats. We have a lot of Vilnius missionaries. In the evening we were able to have another lesson with a different family in our area.

On Saturday and Sunday we watched General Conference in Lithuanian. On Saturday evening the Nuttall's (senior couple) wanted to take us out for dinner before we left, so we went to this really good little French restaurant. It was great, they are so kind and we even met these foreign people who were sitting at a table near by and they were speaking English. They were all young people who were here for an internship at the Embassies for their countries. Then we found out that two of them had stayed with Mormon families in America. It was pretty neat, hopefully they stop by while they are here for a little longer. I love you! I will see you all soon!

Sister Brown


Week 65

April 4, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

It was beautiful on Monday, so we planned to play soccer with the other missionaries and a few members. It was a lot of fun.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting, it was very reverent as we were preparing. Our mission has been focusing on reverence this transfer. I am beginning to see why reverence is so important and how it is more than just reverence before meetings, but also it is an attitude and kind of a way of life.

On Wednesday we had an opportunity to have interviews with President, it was great even though we will be seeing him in just a couple more weeks. I told him how I felt like I had just gotten here, and he told me that he felt that same way about our group of four sisters. After our interviews we had to wait for the sisters to meet us at the church for an exchange. After they arrived Sister Bestenlenher, Griffin and I had to hurry to our apartment to get a family proclamation for the Russian elders first English class that night so they could copy it. When we came back to the church the elders asked us to help in the English lesson since it was only two women, so we stayed to help them. After, we were finally able to go home and eat some dinner.

On Thursday I was able to go to Kaunas one last time to pick up Sister Madison. Our bus got in a little late so we decided we would meet the sisters at the church to exchange so they could be on time to English. I was so glad because I got to see a few of the members one last time. After we said our goodbyes we headed to the bus station and also had some dinner, where I had a panic attack over borsh (Russian soup), and then Sister Madison helped me figure out a plan for my life. I feel much better now.

On Friday I was able to pull a few jokes on Sister Madison, including the Vaseline on the door handle. It was great fun. Then we made muffins for the other missionaries to give to them for service for Elder Downs' birthday, which was the next day, but also for April Fool's Day. We put little papers in the muffins that said "April Fool's." The elders also asked us to come early to service and we had no idea why, we were a little nervous it was an April Fool's joke. They surprised us with these cool Russian cookies that they get from Belarus. Elder Downs shared his stash with us. They are special cookies called Konetiki, where you bite a little off the top and a little off the bottom and then suck some milk through it to soften the cookie, then you "slam" it into your mouth and it is delicious.

On Saturday we were able to help in a lesson with Valentina, who is now a recent convert. She is really wonderful.

On Sunday it was our last real Sunday, as next week will be General Conference here. I took a lot of pictures and shared a lot of little Del Sol rings with all of the children, which they absolutely loved. There was a woman who we met as we were getting off the bus to go to church, she is a member from Russia and was trying to find the church and she wasn't quite sure how to get to the church so she was looking around for someone in skirts and wasn't seeing anyone until she saw us with our Book of Mormons. She just jumped off the bus when we got off and introduced herself and asked us if we were going to church. She was able to find the church and then she bore testimony about it during Sacrament meeting, it was a cool experience.

Sister Brown

Week 64

March 28, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

On Monday we went to play a game at the church with the other missionaries. It was so much fun. We also got permission to save part of our preparation day for another day of the week so we could go to this KGB Museum that is not open on Mondays. We saved our grocery shopping for the end of our preparation day, and so after we finished playing at the church we went and bought groceries and headed home. We got home and then we realized as we have two huge bags of groceries that we forgot our keys at the church. We called some elders who were at the church and they were nice enough to bring us our keys.

On Tuesday we taught English and it got a little heated, as we were talking about the great apostasy.

On Wednesday we had to pick up Sister Madison's new living permit at the immigration office, and then we took dinner that we made to Sister Miles at the school she works at because she has been really sick lately. We then had a practice for the activity on Saturday.

On Thursday we were able to go to Kaunas for a Zone Training. It was our last Zone Training, so at the end we bore our departing testimonies. It was a really good Zone Training where we talked about Christ and our fears in missionary work. They even had a funeral for our fears, with a casket made out of cardboard by Elder Nelson. It was a great Zone Training which helped me feel spiritually filled and ready to bear my testimony. After, we traveled back to Vilnius and we had a lesson with a less active who is going to a cooking school. She taught us how to make some really good tiramisu. Our lesson was about the temple and Elder Nuttall just wen through the temple interview so she could know what she and her husband need to do so that they can enter. It was a really good lesson.

On Friday we went to service and then after went to the museum. The museum was really interesting and sad. Part of the museum was in the prison and even to the execution chamber. It was a good learning experience. 

On Saturday we had our Easter activity where we acted out a story that someone's friend wrote, who is from Poland. It went really well. I was a good/bad spirit. We actually had many more people than expected show up for it. There were some technical difficulties at the beginning, but after that it went pretty smoothly. It was overall a great experience.

On Sunday it was a wonderful Easter. I was able to translate or read the translation since they had it in English. They had the youth do the program, it was really great. We got to teach the Young Women's lesson and it went pretty well. I passed out Del Sol key chains today to all of the youth and a few of the adults. It was great, they all were filled with wonder. After church we decorated eggs, then in the evening we went to the Bender's, who invited us over for Easter dinner with all of the other missionaries. She was so sweet trying to make it like Easter in America, with some American candy.

It was a great week.

Sister Brown

Easter eggs.

Those elders are just "dumpled" over.

Squished peeps.

Easter activity.

Week 63

March 22, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

Monday we shopped all day for a dress that would be long enough for Sister Madison, she was trying to find a new one so she can look nice when she gets off the plan and sees her family. She ended up finding a really cute one at the very end, when she had almost given up hope. Longer dress are definitely harder to find here.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting where we talked about reverence, especially reverence after a meeting. In the evening, after English class, we had a planning session with a few of the young adults for an Easter activity. They have a lot of good ideas, it should be a good activity.

On Wednesday we went to an appointment with the dermatologist for Sister Madison's nose, then we went to immigration to renew our living permits. After, we went and got something to eat before we met the sisters at the bus station for an exchange. We tried this really good Armenian restaurant, it was delicious. They even had baklava, which is delicious and reminds me of some good memories in my childhood.

On Thursday I was able to take a trip to Kaunas to pick up Sister Madison from her exchange, but before Sister Hubert and I went and ate some lunch at this place called Ecotaco, which was delicious as well. After we got back to Vilnius we had another planning meeting for the activity.

On Friday we had service at the food bank. They even had a news anchor and camera there interviewing someone from the food bank. The camera even did some close up shots of the elders as they were sorting food, so they are basically famous here in Lithuania now. After, we went home and got ready because Sister Madison had a meeting on Skype with the other leaders. After their meeting we prepared for a movie activity where we ate nachos and watched "Meet the Mormons." It was good, but not as many people as we expected showed up.

On Saturday we had a practice for the Easter activity where we will be acting out a play with a narrator. It was a lot of fun, I am excited. I get to be a village person. In the evening we were able to participate in the activity for the Relief Society birthday. It was so good to see everyone share their talents and crafts they have made. We even sang as sister missionaries.

On Sunday I was expecting to translate, but I guess my week has been changed to Easter Sunday. I was freaking out because I am not very good at translating and that is a big Sunday. Later on I found out that they actually have a script in English for the Easter program, so it won't be as hard as I thought because I can just read along with them, so that was an answer to my prayers and I am so grateful.

Sister Brown

Green eggs for St. Patricks Day!

Winter wonderland in March, it looks like Christmas out there.


Week 62

March 15, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

Monday we were able to do a little souvenir shopping and we also went to see this little town called Uzupes, which is in Vilnius, it was really cute.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting where we talked about how understanding the people and their culture helps us with our missionary work. Also, it was Women's Day that they celebrate over here in Europe. I think we should definitely adopt the tradition. Everyone gives flowers to the women they know, there were a ton of flower vendors on the street. 

On Wednesday I was with Sister Bestenlenher and Sister Griffin while Sister Madison and Sister Jerman went up to Riga for a meeting. It was interesting contacting people on the street in a trio.

On Thursday I was able to teach English again with Sister Bestenlenher and Sister Griffin while Sister Madison and Sister Jerman had a Skype meeting with the other leaders. I really enjoy teaching English.

On Friday was another Independence Day here in Lithuania. We were supposed to have service at the food bank, but soon found out after we arrived that the food bank was not open on this holiday. After we found that out we went to a less active's house and since her calling is as a counselor in the Relief Society Presidency we had her help us make invitations for the Relief Society birthday party coming up. It was really good and she is pretty creative.

On Saturday we had a baptism here in Vilnius, her name is Valentina. She is really sweet and excited. It was kind of crazy though, as a youth activity was finishing a little late. There were people from all over Lithuania, so we had a full church. It was good to see everyone though. 

On Sunday the sun shined all day long, it really was a miracle, we even wore shoes instead of boots. It was beautiful.

Sister Brown

Week 61

March 7, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

On Monday we were able to go bowling with all of the other missionaries to celebrate Sister Jerman's birthday. It was very fun. It was also Elder Peterson's last Monday before he went home. Elder Lyon got transferred to Siauliai, so it was also our last Monday with him. After we went bowling we went out to eat with a member from Kaunas who was in town and asked us if we would want to meet up.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting before the sisters had to go up to Riga to meet their trainee. While the sisters were gone we were able to go and decorate their apartment that evening. I used a confetti cannon thing and I was trying to figure out how to use it, then it exploded, but not where I wanted it to. It was so loud, I was not expecting that.

On Wednesday we decorated Elder Water's apartment for the trainee. We made these calendars for our members so we were taking those around to them all week. They all seemed to really like them. When we stopped by one of the families to just drop it off we ran into the mom and daughter outside and they invited us in. They were really nice to let us in and shared fruit and tea with us.

On Thursday we got permission to go outside of the city limit to visit our Relief Society President. We brought Sister Nuttall along since she wanted to help out with the organization of the Relief Society. We could kind of see that Nijole, the Relief Society President, was a little overwhelmed and alone in her presidency since they just keep giving her new members and less actives as her counselors. It was really great, we got to see the little city she lives in. She lives 50 kilometers outside of Vilnius, which is about 31 miles. We were able to kind of be her presidency. We are glad we brought Sister Nuttall since she has much experience with Relief Society. We were there for about 3 hours and then we headed home, but since we hadn't eaten all day we decided we should grab some dinner when we got back into Vilnius. We went to this delicious little Georgian restaurant, it was so yummy. Then we got a little dessert at this Belgian restaurant, then we headed home. It was pretty much an all day event. 

On Friday we went to service where we wore our ugly sweaters that Elder Downs and Scott bought for us at a used clothing store, it was fun. We also got to meet the newest member of our district, who just got in, her name is Sister Griffin, she is really nice. 

On Saturday we were able to meet the new elder when we met for Missionary Coordination Meeting, his name is Elder Scabeland, he is half Japanese. It was a great week.

Sister Brown

Calendars we made for members.

Fruit for District Meeting.

My District.

Vilnius missionaries.

Decorating the sister's apartment.

Easter FHE basket we made for the members this week. I think it turned out pretty cute.

Week 60

February 29, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was the last week of the transfer, it was a great week. On Monday we took kind of a chill day and went to the Nuttall's (senior couple) house. It was great to just chat with them and help them prepare food. Then we ate Hawaiian haystacks with them.

On Tuesday we had Zone Conference, it was great to see everyone. The conference was based off of a few talks from a recent worldwide missionary broadcast. They also connected what we learned to our members and the Eastern Europe area goals that we are trying to help them with. After Zone Conference, and many pictures, I went to Kaunas with Sister Hubert for an exchange. It was, again, so good to be in Kaunas.

On Wednesday Sister Hubert and I were able to go to the Bruce's (senior couple) home for some lunch and to help Sister Bruce with a project she has going on. It was just like old times being at their apartment.

On Thursday we made a plan for things we could do for the members to help them with the goals leading up to Easter. For next week, we decided to give them a scripture reading calendar that they will read one scripture passage a day until Easter about Jesus Christ, then after they read it we will also give them some little Easter eggs that they will cover the days they have read. We decided it would be good for all of the families in our area.

On Friday we had service at the food bank. After service we went to this restaurant called Boom Burger, they have delicious burgers.

Saturday was a super crazy, busy day. We had a Zone Training Skype with the other cities in the morning, then we got to see all the youth and young adults from other cities and say hi before they began their career fair they were having. We ran home to eat before we had to be back for our choir concert. Our choir concert went great, we were able to sing some songs about the Restoration and do a little performance. We actually had more people than expected since we didn't feel like a lot of people knew it was going on.

On Sunday we heard some excellent talks from Brother Miles, who is from America and works at the Embassy here, and his young son, on the Priesthood. Brother Miles is the Young Men's President and as he spoke he shared tender memories of his Priesthood heroes and some jokes within the Young Men's program here. He really got them listening when he started talking about nachos, as apparently, it is their favorite and their answer for things when they don't know the answer to a question. It was super good and hit so many Gospel principles that need to be taught here more often.

On Saturday we also got transfer calls and I get to stay here in Vilnius with Sister Madison! Yay!

Sister Brown

Week 59

February 22, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

On Monday we had a request from Mindaugas to play basketball at an indoor court he was able to get for a few hours. We went and played basketball and volleyball, it was a lot of fun.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting, which I have really been enjoying lately. We end up discussing questions we have or sharing what we studied throughout the week. In the evening we were able to go celebrate a late Chinese New Year. We made a ton of fried rice. It was a lot of fun, we ate Chinese food and then played a game called "signs." 

On Wednesday I went on an exchange with Sister Hubert while Sister Madison went to a meeting in Riga. Sister Hubert and I were able to go after Mindaugas was set apart to say goodbye and wish him good luck. He left on Thursday morning.

On Thursday morning I left with Sister Neeley back to Kauanas for an exchange. It was great to be back in Kaunas for the day. I was even able to see a few members who I love in Kaunas. I saw Edvinas and Valdas, they are great. I found out that Valdas is planning a trip to America next year, I hope I will be able to see him, as he wants to come to Utah to go to the Salt Lake City temple. On Friday I returned to Vilnius just in time for service, where we were able to package some more coffee. We then had a lesson with a woman named Rita, who the sisters found and were passing off to us. It was a difficult lesson, as Lithuanian is actually her third language and she actually does not understand it that well. She insisted it be in Lithuanian instead of Russian because she wants to learn Lithuanian. We will continue to try and meet with her.

On Saturday we set up a super awesome fitness plan. We are excited to begin, we hope it will help us be healthy. In the evening we were able to lead a language thought with the other missionaries. We played Scattargories, but in Lithuanian, it was really hard, but fun. 

Sunday was such a wonderful day. First we were able to get to know some of the members we don't know very well and make friends. The Primary children love us now, as we keep sharing cookies and treats with them. Sister Madison did great teaching the Young Women about our purpose in life. We again had so many English speakers in church that we ran out of translators. It was a great day.

Sister Brown

Here is my quad that I got bound! I love it!

Week 58

February 15, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

On Monday, for preparation day, we went to the church and played signs with all of the other missionaries. It was so much fun. I love that game and we can't wait to play again.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting and then right after we went with the Russian speaking missionaries to go out to this lady's house to bring her our books to bind and tell her what we wanted done with them. We took the elders because she actually is Russian and does not understand English or Lithuanian very well. It is always so beautiful and fun to get out of the city and breath some fresh air.

On Wednesday it was my birthday, so Sister Madison made the day really special for me. We went to service in the morning, which was fun as always, the elders gave me a little gift with gummy bears, a lime, and mint flavored soda, some Russian shampoo and this other type of bar that you eat that apparently has the consistency of sawdust. It was really nice of them. Then the sisters, as we were leaving, gave me a cute little cake and we were eating where we were not supposed to be eating it, so we got in a little trouble with the food bank. After service Sister Madison and I went out for a birthday lunch, we went to this restaurant called Vapianos and they sell really good pasta. They make it fresh, right in front of you. On Wednesday night we went to a farewell party for Mindaugas, since he is leaving for his mission next week. Since he is going to the Scotland/Ireland mission, Sister bender made all kinds of delicious traditional food from there. It was a surprise party. It is really neat because the missionaries are kind of like his family who have been helping him along the way, since he is the only member in his family.

On Thursday we were really busy. We were able to visit a member from the Russian branch who we had promised to visit. She told us some really amazing stories from her life. Afterward we went to meet the elders to stop by this man we had found in their area the other night, who we gave a Book of  Mormon to. We were able to talk to him, but he was on his way out to go to the doctor. Afterward the elders invited us to go with them to the orphanage to bring them toys and candy. We went and they were all so cute, they really appreciated the service we were able to give them. Afterward we went and grabbed some dinner at this cool taco place that we wanted to try, but it is never actually open, it just happened to be open when we tried. After we got done eating we heard these people speaking English, so Sister Madison asked where they were from and why they were here. He was from Connecticut and she is from the Ukraine, and he works for the Embassy. We asked if he knew the members that work at the Embassy and he did know them. It was neat, it is always fun to hear an American accent.

On Friday we went and heart-attacked some members who live out in the country, since we made a goal to heart-attack all of our members for Valentine's Day.

On Sunday we had so many visitors at church. We had people from BYU TV to make that film they are filming here. We also had visitors from some students who are doing an internship in Latvia. It is neat, they are all returned missionaries, most from Russia, but also one who served in the Ukraine, and one who served in Latvia. It seems like a fun program. We ran out of translators, there were so many English speakers there, it was great.

Sister Brown

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Week 57

February 8, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

Funny story from last week that I forgot to tell. When we were coming back from immigration last week we have to take a bus to near the church, then get off and get on a different bus to get home. We get on the first bus and Sister Madison sits down and starts talking to this lady, so then eventually I go sit down with my back facing her near the front of the bus. All of a sudden I cannot hear her voice anymore and I wasn't quite sure which bus stop we were planning on getting off at. I start to try and look behind me, but the bus was really crowded. Finally I stand up after the bus had emptied out a little bit and I see she is no longer on the bus, she had already gotten off according to this old lady who saw me looking around. I then get off. Sister Madison has the phone, so I can't call her. I decide to start walking back to see if maybe she would be waiting at the stop before the one I got off. I had no idea when she got off. Then I get there to the stop before and she is not there. I keep thinking I should ask somebody to borrow their phone but decide to wait to see if a bus comes by with her on it. I wait for a few minutes and one bus that wasn't ours goes by, then I decide to start walking toward the next one. As I begin to walk away I see the number 10 bus, the bus we would be taking home, so I stop and look and there I see Sister Madison, Bestenlenher, and Jerman waving at me to get on. So I run a little ways back so I could catch the bus. I guess Sister Madison could not see me either so she got off early thinking I had already gotten off. She then called our district leader who just told her to keep going to where we were headed, which was home. Then somewhere in there she ran into the other sisters. I am so glad we were not separated for too long. I am proud to say that is the first time that this had ever happened to me in my whole mission. We then decided we should actually come up with a plan if we do get separated again.

In other news, we got to go to the dermatologist to get a little bump on Sister Madison's face layered off. We had service again where we unwrapped and stickered coffee again. We also had zone training which was really great as well. We were committed to begin to learn the members last names and begin calling them brother and sister with their last names. We have never really done that here because, first of all, they prefer their first names, and second, their last names are really hard and change according to marital status, age and gender. So I began working on those so I can address them all appropriately.

This week the sun has finally come out and has melted all of the snow and it feels so nice outside. I love when the sun comes out because all of a sudden all of the people are out with their families doing things together outside. 

On Saturday one less active member is in cooking school and she invited us to this thing where her school would be kind of showcasing what they do. We went to support her. It cost 5 euros and we were under the impression there would be just a bunch of free food to try, but we got there and there were a ton of young adults. We came to find out that it was actually a college fair and it was huge like all of Lithuania was there. We were afraid it was going to be a little hard to find her. As we were walking around we ran into her. It was good that we saw her so she could know we came for her. 

On Sunday we were able to go contact this lady who was a referral from another missionary's relative who bought a really nicely bound journal off of Easy from someone who lives in Vilnius. We went out to her house which is sort of in the country. She happened to be home and we didn't want to freak her out or anything and start teaching her the Gospel since she actually has no idea that was why we were there, so we talked about if she could bind our books and asked her questions about that. She didn't speak Lithuanian very well, or English, so she got her son who speaks English to translate. She said she could bind our books, so we got her number so we could bring our books back. We are very excited since they used to have a member in Riga that could do it, but she doesn't really do it anymore. All the missionaries will be really excited to hear. It was a really great and busy week.

Sister Brown

Week 56

February 1, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was crazy busy and fun. On Monday we got lost on our way to the church to make caramel apples for an elder's birthday. Eventually we found our way there. Then on Tuesday we had District Meeting and right before English class Sister Madison and I met Sister Neeley and Sister Hurbert from Kaunas so Sister Neeley and Madison could go up to Riga for Mission Leadership Council, since they are sister training leaders. Sister Hubert and I got to be together in Vilnius while they were away. Sister Hubert and I then went and taught English class. Then on Wednesday our companions were still in Riga, so we got to teach two lessons, one with an investigator, Arunas, and the other with a really intimidating family in the branch. I was really nervous because I hardly know them and they are really quite scary. I though, "oh maybe they will warm up to us as we get to know each other," but that was not the case. The lesson was about 20 minutes long. Every question I asked to get to know them was answered with a one worded answer, eventually I just ran out of questions to ask. It was good that it was short because then we got to meet with our other investigator, Mandy, at the young single adult family home evening. We watched the Stonecutter, it is really a good movie. Then the sisters were supposed to get back that night but Sister Neeley forgot her passport and made it up there okay, but they would not let her back on the bus to come back to Lithuania. The elders in Kaunas had to send it through the bus mail, then they finally got to head back Thursday morning. On Friday we had to meet Kestutis, who helps us with our immigration work at the immigration office, so I can renew my card that gives me permission to live in Lithuania. We got there and got a number, there were 39 people ahead of us so we decided we would try again on a different day. On Saturday we had the opportunity to participate in some service as a district at the food bank where we unwrapped coffee and then put their sticker on it. It was really fun to talk and work together. After that we had to hurry to the church because the branch historian wanted us to record our stories of why we came on a mission. I was a little nervous I wouldn't be able to express myself well in Lithuania, but it was actually really fun. After that the elders asked us to help in a lesson, so we helped them in a lesson then we went home to eat something. After that we had to head back to the church for missionary coordination and a language though with the other missionaries. It was a very busy week. On Sunday Sister Madison was asked to teach a primary class lesson right before because the teacher wanted to go to the adult class, as it was combined and they were talking about the new area goals. It was fun, the little girls were really cute, there were three of them and two of them are sisters. They range from 8-10 years old. Overall, it was a great week.

Sister Brown

"I ran into this sweet missionary at church in Vilnius today. She seems really happy. I heard she only has a couple more transfers to go. I bet you've been missing her. :)
-Christianne Kendall

Week 55

January 25, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

This week I got transferred across town to be with Sister Madison, and Sister Madison's companion, Sister Jerman, got transferred to be with my old companion, Sister Bestenlenher. So we just switched companions. I am excited to be serving with Sister Madison, she is just a wonderful social butterfly. I know it is going to be a great transfer. Our first day together on Wednesday after we switched companions we had a lesson with this really nice investigator, Arunas. He is really good and loves to read the Book of Mormon and General Conference. He learns a lot just from all the reading he does. He has a lot of good questions and he even has a baptismal date. We talked to him about staying for all three hours of church, he comes every week but ends up leaving after the second hour. We committed him to staying for all three hours. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to make it to our lesson we planned for Saturday or for church on Sunday because he got sick. On Friday we got to watch this really neat worldwide missionary and mission president training broadcast. It was really neat and they really expounded on those basic things that we really know because we study them all the time and expound on the to help us teach better and follow the Holy Ghost more. On Saturday we were able to have a lesson with a less active couple at the senior couples apartment. It went really well and I feel like we were able to help them see the importance of the temple and what preparation they will need to enter. We know that they really want to go to be sealed, but they need to understand what that means. We asked them to read the Book of Mormon five minutes each together for a total of ten minutes, and then five minutes personally each day. They said they would, we also asked if they would be at church and they said they would be there, or try to be there. They did come, it was only for Sacrament meeting, but they said they would come for longer next week. They are making some more progress now and it is really exciting.

Sister Brown

District photo.

Sister Madison and I.

Week 54

January 18, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was a really good one actually, mostly Sunday was really good. First we went to church where President and Sister Harding were there. We were able to talk to Sister Harding about the Primary organization here in Vilnius. After, we had a wonderful Sacrament meeting where they talked about the new area goals for this year. It was great and I am excited to start helping implement more of these goals with the members here. After that we were able to go to Primary where Sister Harding joined us while we translated for two little girls in the branch who speak English. It was really good, Sister Harding was there because she plays the piano really good and they wanted Sister Bestenlenher or I to play. Which, we are good, but not that good. I translated the singing time and Sister Bestenlenher translated the sharing time, then the Primary splits into two classes where the older children go to one and the younger to the other. I had the opportunity to translate in the older class for the older little girl named Glori. She is really cute and very smart. After church we helped Kamile, a young single adult member here who has recently decided she wants to serve a mission, with her mission papers. She just needed help understanding some of the questions and with what some of it was saying. Then in the evening we were able to go and participate in the opening of a mission call that was delivered by President to Mindaugas. It was such a special moment for him. We all gathered at the senior couples apartment. He is the only member in his family and he was actually less active not too long ago, but then Sister Bestenlenher and her companionship at the time invited him to serve a mission, while in the past he had been dead set against it. He agreed to think about it and then decided he should serve. It is an incredible story and transformation. He opened it and read it, and he is going to Scotland. It is really exciting, he sat there quiet for a really long time, he was speechless, which never happens, then he even cried a little, which I hear he never cries. This is a big deal and we all know this is where he is supposed to serve. It was really neat because he is such an example in the Branch. This is really making a big effect on a lot of the youth and young adults, many of the young adults since have decided to serve missions and we had a few young men at the call opening, afterward we asked them if they were excited to open their call someday and they were really excited to go. I am excited for him and he is going to be a great missionary.

Sister Brown

Week 53

January 11, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

This week it finally warmed up to about +20 degrees Farenheight. I never would have said that is warm before my mission. One of the coldest nights I heard was about -30 Celsius, which is -22 fahrenheit. I guess this Winter is even cold for them lately. We have been eating a lot of soup and drinking a lot of tea to stay warm, as well as wearing lots of layers. I even wore four scarfs one day and maybe 3 pairs of tights, two coats, two cardigans, two undershirts, and two pair of gloves. You go outside with all of that on and your toes and fingers still freeze instantly. I have definitely never lived in this cold of weather before and don't think I will ever complain about the cold at home again.

This week we were able to meet with two less actives. They are both actually really good and really are trying to come as their circumstances allow.

We met several interesting people this week while knocking. One man was kind of rude, connecting us way too much with America. I just told him we are not here representing America, we are here representing Jesus Christ. He basically told us that we were really uneducated because we are Americans. He just did not understand why we are here and he didn't see any way we could help him. Another day we found a really nice man who accepted a Book of Mormon and even kissed our hands when we were saying goodbye. We think we will send the elders back over to that one. In that same building we met a really sweet old woman. It was really sad because we wanted to help her and we asked if we could and gave her our number, if she needs help she can call. We also gave her a Book of Mormon because she was interested in reading it.

It was a great week.

Sister Brown

PS- I also celebrated my year mark in Lithuania on Tuesday. On Monday for that occasion we were invited over to the Nuttalls (senior couple) and they made us dinner. It was very fancy and Mom will be proud because I ate a huge thing of salmon. It still is not my favorite, but they were really kind to have us over.

Week 52

January 4, 2016

Dear Family and Friends,

On Monday we went to the church to play ping pong with the other missionaries and then watched Johnny Lingo. It was really fun.

On Tuesday we had District Meeting where we are about to finish watching General Conference. We watched the talks by Carol M. Stephens and Allen D. Haynie. The theme was about commandments. I really like how Sister Stephens connected them with love for us and also how we are able to express our love for Heavenly Father. I liked in Elder Haynie's talk about the Atonement and a little bit about why it was necessary. I really like that Sister Bestenlenher's family sent us a General Conference Ensign in her Christmas package, so now I can start to go back and read all of the talks that I really liked. For the rest of District Meeting, Sister Madison talked about how to prepare people for baptism, and Sister Bestenlenher taught us about addiction recovery. One of our commitments was to do this activity in Preach My Gospel where you try to quit a habit that you have for a day, and then after that a week. Then think about how hard it is for someone with an addiction. It was hard to think about what my bad habit could be, some people chose cracking there knuckles, other suggestions were adjusting your glasses and overeating. It is kind of a cool commitment to help us become better.

It has been really cold outside for the last week and we made a mistake on Wednesday that we wouldn't be making again, it has been about -8 degrees farenheight here. We decided one morning to go outside for about 3 hours. We didn't make it the whole 3 hours, we ended up going into a store to warm up for a few minutes, then we knocked on people's doors to get out of the cold. There were definitely people to find during that time, so I am glad we did it. We will just be smarter about that. This is definitely the coldest humid weather I have ever lived in.

On Thursday was New Year's Eve. We had to be in by at least 5 PM, or dark. We went in and we watched these little For the Strength of Youth DVD's we have. They were so good and uplifting, I definitely want to use them in Family Home Evenings when I get home. They are also pretty entertaining. We also decided for the New Year we would try to give up sugar. We gathered all of our candy and things so we could eat it for New Years Eve. It was really hard and I even ended up throwing away some, as well as giving it away to others. I think I will feel better as I don't eat as much sugar. We were told that there would be a ton of fireworks on New Years Eve. They were going off long before even midnight, but at midnight I woke up to watch them and they were literally going off all over in the distance. It was really fun. Sister Bestenlenher was too tired and warm in her bed to come and watch. It was exciting. We went to a baptism on Saturday for an investigator of the elders. Her name is Giedra. She is really sweet and so excited to be baptized.

Sister Brown

Gingerbread dome and scene.

Sister Bestenlenher with her new socks.

"Table of Sacrifice." Going no sugar for the new year.

Ready to go out in the -8 weather with about 5 layers on, we are lookin' chubby.

Week 51

December 28, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! This week was great, we were able to talk to a lot of really nice people on the street because everyone is a little nicer around the holidays. We got to open our gifts that were sent from home, as well as Skype our families. It was a great week. We were able to visit a member named Birute and she is really sweet. We met with her on Wednesday since she would be going to her sisters for Christmas who lives in the country. We had a real treat on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we were able to listen to our music all day, usually we are only allowed to listen to it on Monday's. We also had to be in by dark on both days so that was about 4:30 in the evening. Sister Bestenlenher and I eve did a little nativity scene. I was Mary and Sister Bestenlenher was the narrator/a shepherd. It was a lot of fun. On Christmas day we got to Skype our families and we did that at the senior couples home where they let us eat food before we Skyped. It was fun, but very loud when it came time to Skype. After some technical difficulties we were able to get connected. It was a wonderful experience having Christmas on a mission. You really do focus more and relearn the reason for the season. On Sunday night it began to snow and it hasn't let up since. It finally feels like Winter is here.

Sister Brown

Caroling on Christmas Eve.



Week 50

December 21, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

It has been hard to work because we have not had an area book until this last Saturday. We mostly just would walk around and try and find people. Now we are excited to have an area book so that we can use that for finding and setting up lessons. On Saturday mornings we have Missionary Coordination Meeting and a language though with the other missionaries. It is really interesting because there are so many other missionaries here in Vilnius. When we are all gathered it feels like a missionary training meeting. There are 7 Lithuanian speaking elders and 4 sisters including us. There are also 2 Russian speaking missionaries. We are split into 2 districts all of the Lithuanian speaking elders are in one district and all of the sisters are in a district with the Russian speaking elders. It is fun to get to know them as well, as I didn't know them as well, but they are actually really great. I liked something that Alvydas our Branch mission leader said. He was talking about people on the street, he said... "we follow Christ, not tradition." People really for the most part live according to their tradition. Usually their religion is tradition. For our Christmas Zone Conference we got to peel 40 potatoes for mashed potatoes. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. We also had a white elephant gift exchange. I bought this alarm clock that is like a robot for the gift I would bring, and I received a really cute mug with different kinds of tea and chocolate inside. It is a really cute mug. We also got to see a slide show they put together for the missionaries with pictures of all the missionaries from the Baltics. We then watched a really well put together slide show that Sister Harding put together with Christmas Mormon Messages, as well as singing and performances by the missionaries. At the end they asked us to think about one thing we could give Christ this year. It was really a fun day, and at the end they handed out all of the Christmas packages from home. After, we went straight on an exchange. I went with Sister Madison and Sister Bestenlenher went with Sister Neeley. It was a lot of fun, as we were all staying at Sister Madison's apartment here in Vilnius. It was a good exchange. Then on Saturday we had a branch activity that the branch actually put together and the missionaries had nothing to do with it. It was very impressive and they put a lot of effort into it. They had some singing and other performances and they also had a Christmas dinner. One investigator even brought a choir with her to perform, I don't know if anyone was expecting that. It was a really good turn out and it was fun to socialize and get to know everyone.

Sister Brown

Week 49

December 14, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow, this week was a crazy one. We had transfers and after 9 transfers and 9.5 months I finally left Kaunas. I was sad to go, I really love the members there, but now I have the opportunity to serve in Vilnius with Sister Bestenlenher. Vilnius is quite a big city, it is going to take awhile for me to figure out how to get around. Sister Bestenlenher and I are both new to the area, Vilnius East, so we are doing something called white washing. Sister Bestenlenher just came from Vilnius West, so she knows the bus system pretty well, so that helps a lot with knowing how to get around. This week on Monday we were anxiously waiting for transfer calls all day, then we finally go them and found out that Sister Neeley was also leaving Kaunas West and going to Kaunas North with Sister Hubert. We had from when they called us that evening at about 10 PM until our train left at 1:45 plus district meeting at 11:00 for an hour to be packed. We started right then and ended up staying up until about 12:30 with most everything packed. In the morning we continued packing and we were all packed by the time we went to District Meeting. After District Meeting we had to go straight home and get our stuff by taxi to the train station and eat some lunch. We made it on time and all traveled to Vilnius. Sister Seaman was headed to Riga Latvia to go home. Her mission has now ended and she is home with her family. She is a wonderful missionary and it is sad to see her and also Elder Martin go home. After we got here we met a lot of the other missionaries to swap companions. Sister Bestenlenher headed to our new apartment to drop my stuff off, then we met the other sisters in Vilnius, Sister Madison and Jerman, to help clean Sister Bestenlenher's old apartment that the Elders would be moving into. Then we moved Sister Bestenlenher's things into our new apartment. The next day we were able to go grocery shopping and finish up the cleaning and moving. Then we were able to unpack and get situated. Let's just say the beginning of the week was exhausting and a little overwhelming, but we made it.

Sister Brown

My district in Kauanas.

My worn out shoes that I finally threw away.

New companion Sister Bestenlenher