Thursday, March 6, 2014

Christmas Eve at the Parkers!

December 30, 2013
Christmas at the Parkers!
Remember that this family has 12 children... they have a lot of Christmas cards to send, so we stuffed the envelopes.
Stuffing envelopes
And SANTA came to the Parker's house. 
After Santa, we all found some costumes and got dressed up for acting out the Nativity. The Parkers act out the Luke 2 story but start out with a few of prophecies of His birth. We started out in the entry way looking up at Brother Parker who was acting as Samuel the Lamanite prophesying that in 5 years the Savior would be born. We were acting as wicked unbelievers so we got to throw fake stones at him.
Hermana J Brown

Getting ready

So adorable!

What a nativity!

Cute angel or is it a heavenly host


so cute!
thought I figured out how to not have a sideways picture! Sorry!

more nativity costumes

Christmas Morning!

Well I have to say that Christmas day had to be one of the most distracting days of my whole mission. I was thinking about what I would talk to my family about, what they would have to say, did Kamber have her baby? I just couldn't wait!( MOM note: No baby yet!)
Christmas eve was when the festivities truly began. We went to carol to Sister Janacke, who was more than happy for the surprise visit. She willingly shared her sparkling grape juice, crackers and cheese. We sang a few Christmas songs, but mostly she just liked our company. Then we went to Carrie's for a quick visit. She of course had a little gift for Sister Brown and I. We shared a quick message about the Book of Mormon and about the birth of Jesus Christ. Then we stopped by a few families to drop off a few Christmas gifts. Then it was off to the Parker's house. Dinner was amazing. They make us feel like we are part of the family and I love it when people do that. I think that that really helps me feel not so homesick during the holiday season. We had dinner, we sang Christmas carols (along with playing the musical instruments), santa came to see us and give us candy, and then we acted out the Nativity.

Christmas morning we went to the Bishop's house for breakfast and for stockings. The Pearson family was so nice to think to invite us over. They sure made sure we were taken care of. We started by reading the Christmas story of Luke once again, but don't get me wrong it was worth hearing again. I always seem to learn something new or hear something new. After some excitement of opening stockings and presents, Sister Brown and I went to the car for some study time between appointments.
just a few treasures from Karee's stocking

Sis J Brown

Elf Karee
We then went over to the McIntyre family to share some more Christmas traditions. They gave us both some yummy Lindt chocolate and some very warm slippers! We also enjoyed a very delicious lunch. Then we had some time between then and when we were supposed to be at the Jarnagin's house to skype home. Believe me I was dying from anticipation. We decided to do a few stop by. We caroled to the few that were actually home. Then skype time, the time that I had been waiting for all day! The Jarnagins were very thoughtful and made sure to have everything ready for us to call our families. (Sorry family, I guess I got a little mixed up on the timing.)
Karee and her brother, Calvin(serving a mission in Texas) skyping

I feel like the time to skype was short. I didn't really know what to talk about or what to ask. It was really just nice to see them all and hear their voices. My family is pretty random and we came up with enough things to talk about. But I still came up with things to ask or topics to talk about after I signed out. The Jarnagins welcomed us into their Christmas evening dinner, presents and games. It was a very enjoyable and fulfilling evening. I taught them how to play the whipped topping game, and got a few videos, but sadly didn't get any pictures.

Remember Mary? She is the one that started talking to us while we were waiting for the elevator and then later invited us over to her house when we told her that we speak Spanish. Well we went over to her house and ... She is already a member. Apparently it has been a very long time. She was so sweet and invited us to come back. We tried to stop by on Sunday with some of the Lopez-Mayta family, but she was feeling under the weather. 

Friday I was in Billerica Massachusetts on exchanges with Sister Blair. She is such a sweet missionary and is always finding ways to complement. We went to a lot of people's house. One of them was Raquel. A recent convert. She is the mother of three and she is so cute! She told me that taking care of her children is one of her biggest worries. I didn't have that long with her, but I had an instant love for her. It is something that I can't really describe. When we were leaving she asked how long I was going to be there and if I would ever come back. I hope I get to see her again some day.

We had dinner with our ward mission leader on Saturday. I forget sometimes how awesome people are. His stepchildren, (the daughter was a mini missionary with Sister Wagner and Sister Garcia in Boston when I was there) have their own non-profit organization that helps children with cancer. It sure makes me feel like I should have done more while I was in high school. But some people are just naturally talented at doing things like that.

As for the work with the Spanish group, we are still working on finding people. We set a goal as a companionship to see all the Spanish members that we have met so far at least once a week. This week we have plans to do just that. We have also been going through the list of people that were taught before by Spanish missionaries. We found a few so far all of which have invited us to come back. Very welcoming and wanting to learn. 

Carrie had a family home evening with the Parkers on Monday. We have been trying to think of how we can help her to understand that we are not really here to be someone to listen, but that we actually  have a message to share and to give to her that really can bless her life. We both agreed that we needed her to meet more members. The Parkers are of course amazing and thought to invite her to share an evening with them. She loved it! And she ended up staying after for quite some time talking with Sister Parker. Sister Parker invited her to start taking the missionary discussions and she said yes! I am convinced that it is the direct result of the prayers of the members. There are quite a few of them that are really good at asking about who we are teaching. I always thought that it was very kind of them to show an interest in the work that we are doing, but then I read a conference talk Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, when he mentioned that the members should pray for the missionaries by name and for their investigators it all clicked. Ever since then when the members ask us about who we are teaching we write out a list of people and specific things that they might need that they can pray for. Carrie was one on the list and now she is going to start investigating. I know it is because if the prayers of our faithful members and those of you back home. Thank you!
Karee opening gifts

soft blanket

Sis Brown opening gifts

Karee with her ear warmer from her sister, Katelyn
one of the sisters in her apt opening gifts
one of the sisters in her apt. opening gifts

just a few items Kare got for Christmas

Sunday, March 2, 2014

My Thoughts on Christmas!

December 23, 2013

I have been thinking a lot about why Christmas is so important. Of course there is the commercial side of it with all of the presents and the fact that most people make it a time to share with family, which is good. But I am talking about the Christ part. Why do we celebrate the birth of a baby, who was born over 2,000 years ago? Why did so many prophets prophesy of His birth and life years before? Then better question, why would I choose to not spend this Christmas with my family because of this Man?
This morning I decided to study in the scriptures to find some answers or at least scriptural answers to my questions. Because this matter is of such greatness I thought I would share. My thoughts may not be complete or flow smoothly, but I hope that you might be able to catch a glimpse of how I feel about the Christmas season.
"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14). I learned that Immanuel, or Emmanuel, in Hebrew means "with us is God." This prophet was prophesying that Jesus was actually going to be in our physical presence. We can read about how God was with the Children of Israel when they wandered in the wilderness, but He wasn't physically with them or with any of the people until He was born. Which brings up another interesting thing, that He was born as a child; and in the lowliest and humble of places, a stable.
"And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God." (Alma 7:10). We believe that we are all literally sons and daughters of God, but that Jesus was the only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. 
"and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6). But even with all of these glorious names, He still came and suffered. 
"The Son of Man hath descended below them all." (Doctrine and Covenants 122:8). To me this means that Jesus had to go below all to accurately know how to help us. Think of the lowest of lows that you have ever felt. He knows exactly how that felt, and more. 

It was prophesied what He would do. 
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death" (Hosea 13:14). 
 "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me." (Alma 7:11-13). He came so that we could turn to Him. We all make mistakes and we all fall short, but through Him, those mistakes can be erased. We can be made clean, so that we could return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father. His love for us, and His desire for our happiness is why He came. Because He knew that there was no other way for us as imperfect beings to return to the presence of perfect beings, unless someone stepped up to help us out. And that is what He did!
There are a few people who are puzzled by the fact that I will not be home for Christmas. Yet the reason for Christmas is the reason that I am here serving a mission. It is because of the knowledge of Christ that I have, the joy that I feel that is too good to keep to myself.  "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." (3 Nephi 5:13). 

Snow Storm

December 23, 2013
Brrr! That is cold!

That darn snow!

What was awaiting after the Christmas Devotional

We had a Christmas Devotional for the missionaries in Belmont the other day. When we left the house to head up to the temple it was 3 degrees! Freezing cold. Then after the devotional we had a couple inches of snow. It was a lot of fun to see all the cars covered in snow and then all the elders trying their best to get them uncovered.
The work this week was a mix between the Merrimack ward and the Spanish group. I guess that is how it is going to be until we get more direction from the Stake president here. We did some visiting teaching with some sisters from the Merrimack ward, which is always fun.

There was a Christmas activity for the Relief Society here. We helped set up, simple but cute. It was a soup and salad dinner with some live Christmas music provided by some of the youth. 

One day we were waiting for the elevator in our apartment building. We had just stopped by to get a few copies of the Book of Mormon. A lady walked up and asked if we were Mormon. I could tell she had an accent but couldn't quite place it. When I asked she told me that she was from Columbia. So she speaks Spanish! She was so excited to have us to speak to. She welcomed us to come and stop by some time. The few times we have tried during the day she hasn't been home so we are going to try again this evening. 

Also, the man that is involved in the community outreach for the Latinos in the area, is from Guatemala and used to have the missionaries come teach him at his house there. He is going to be going away for the holidays, but was very excited to be in contact with missionaries again. He is going to be very useful to help us get in contact with some of the Spanish speaking people in the area.

We did have about two feet of snow in some places, but now it is melting because of rain. It is definitely not what I am used to because it hasn't started to freeze yet, but it is pretty cold. I think we are going to get a white Christmas. At least with left over snow.

Christmas plans are as follows:
Breakfast and opening stockings at the Bishop's  house.
Skyping and family time with the Jarnagin family.
Caroling with the Jarnagins and Gustafson families
Dinner at the McIntyre family.

I am really excited to hear from and see my family. Hopefully Kamber has the baby before so that I can see him.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas!

I love you all!
Hermana K. Brown

Ready or Not, Here Come the Holidays!

December 16, 2013
All snowed in

The Elders to the rescue! Digging us out

Ready or not here comes the holidays and the snow! It has been a pretty cold week, but it was really dry until Saturday night when a slow moving storm finally blew in. We ended up with 9-12 inches of snow. It just so happened to be the first night of the live nativity here. It was cold, but it was really awesome. Sadly not many people came because of the snow Saturday night, but Sunday there was a pretty good turn out. The costumes for the actors were amazing, all handmade! They even made sure we had some costumes to wear, which I thought was really nice of them.

Elders Shepard, Bushnell, Lee, Oliver, Karee and Hermana J Brown
More pics of the Elders and sisters

Karee with her favorite towns people

Carrie and Hermana Brown

Carrie and Karee

Zoe and Hermana Browns

Karee with a couple of women

The Jarnagins and the Hermana Browns

I was able to talk to quite a few people and realized something as I was saying it.I pointed out how amazing the Christmas spirit is. How happy everyone feels and how willing they are to give of themselves. Then I told her that as missionaries we get to have that spirit with us all the time. We are constantly looking for ways to serve and give to  others and we are constantly thinking about the Savior because for these 18 months that is who I represent. It really is amazing!

What I learned:
Last week we went to Young Women's third hour and had a really good lesson by Sister Jarnagin about the gifts of the spirits. She challenged us to write down the spiritual gifts that we have and then pray to know who we can help or serve with those gifts. I started to study in Moroni 10 about the spiritual gifts, but got stuck because the first one that it mentions is teaching the word of wisdom and the next is teaching the word of knowledge. I got hung up on why it would say almost the same thing twice. So i did a little more in depth of a study. The difference that I seemed to find is that wisdom is the how. When you have experience you learn how to do things. Knowledge is more of the why. So in reference to the Gospel teaching wisdom is like leaders and parents sharing what they have learned by their words and by their actions. Teaching wisdom is teaching the why of the Gospel through words and actions and study. 

My cultural influence for the week:
I finally had mangu! This is a Dominican staple, funny enough it was my first time even eating it. Apparently this is something that they eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sister Fernandez told us that some Dominicans first made it for some Americans who said, "man good!" So the name became what the people heard. It is a lot like mashed potatoes, but it is made with plantains. Monday night we went to the Fernandez family for dinner and family home evening. We went a little early so that we could help her make dinner. They eat it with eggs, onions, fried cheese, meat, or what ever you want.

There is a cute family that have decided to teach their children to not say "oh my gosh," because sometimes it can sound like something else. Well, yesterday at the nativity a visitor happened to say it, then came the cute response by the three year old, "We do not say that word it is a bad word!" It was cute, though it might have alarmed the visitor a little, the family was able to explain that it was a family rule. Maybe it was something that you just had to be there for it to be funny, but it was cute!

We have started to teach Patricia, a friend of Sister Andujar's. And also Ernie, a friend of Natalie's. 

We redid the shelf outside our door to be a little more festive. Bishop Pearson and his wife were kind enough to help us find a nativity set. We also opened up a Bible to Luke 2 with the Christmas story. I am not too great at the whole interior design but I think this turned out alright.
Nativity set up at our entrance to our apartment
The holidays are here and it seems like there is so much to do and hardly any time to do it. Surprisingly that is another thing about the Christmas season that missionaries deal with a lot too. Funny how that works. I hope that all of you are doing well. I hope that you make time for those that mean the most for you and that you remember the true meaning for the season.

I love you all!

All Moved In

December 9, 2013

cool pics of Karee in the cold brisk weather

evening pics

As much as I didn't want this day to come, it did. I had no idea what to take a picture doing because we don't have that great of a view here of the city of Boston and we didn't have any snow. It was a rainy dreary kind of day, then I realized that we are in New England! So I decided to take a New England picture. I guess it turned out a bit blurred, but It was like I have a message to share (Light of Christ) in a dark world. notice the cathedral behind me... we thought it looked cool.

Karee looks like an angel

Last Sunday President Packard came to talk to us about starting the Spanish group here in Nashua. Since then we have been super busy. For a couple of days I have been feeling like an office missionary. We have been studying the area, finding people, making maps and adding addresses in the GPS, typing up proposals, researching what has been done in the past, and looking in the community as far as advertising and community outreach. It is amazing to see how much we are able to each contribute different aspects to the project. Sister J. Brown is really computer savvy and is really organized.
Hermana J Brown  on the computer

Studying the area
She has really helped us get things in order and helped me to stay on track. I know that Heavenly Father knew what He was doing when He put us together. It wasn't a joke to have two Browns together.

Miracles have started to happen. It is amazing! Sunday we met Patricia in the Nashua ward, who just came to see what the church was about. We were able to set up an appointment and taught Patricia, who is super interested in learning more about the church. We also found a few less-actives that we are going to start to work with. Last night at Family Home Evening at the Lopez-Carrasco's home, we were told that Ernie, a family friend, wants to learn more and he has already decided to be baptized. 
Lopez-Mayta family and Karee

dessert we had

We got to have dinner at the Jarnagin's! 
Karee and Sis Jarnagin
We taught a lesson about the Restoration as if they were non-members with their youngest daughter teaching. She knew what she was doing and brought up the priesthood. Brother Jarnagin then shared his testimony about how he has seen the priesthood bless his family. It was just what we needed because later we went to Carrie's house (a lady we have been visiting with and who has expressed an interest in learning more). Carrie had had a really rough day and was not feeling very good. We showed her a few mormon messages and then suggested she get a priesthood blessing. Brother Burson was more than willing to come over quickly. It was a wonderful experience and I know that she was able to feel the difference and feel the Spirit.

We had Zone meeting on Friday, where the Stake young men and young women presidents came and spoke to us about the new youth program. We are excited to get to work with the youth in our ward and stake to help them as they prepare themselves by strengthening their testimonies and sharing with others. 

We had our ward Christmas party Friday with lots of fun! There were so many people there! We sang Christmas songs, there were talents preformed, and a nativity preformed by the primary children.

Saturday morning we made the move to a different building in Nashua, New Hampshire. We needed to be closer to the area that we will be working in with the group. I love the new apartment. The ceilings are high and there are two bathrooms. We have a really nice gym (which is really going to be nice with the cold and snow that we are starting to get). We have a shelf outside our door that we can decorate. We are planning to get lights and then a little nativity set up. We might put a few candy canes out as well. I love that we have a PINK door!
Karee's new place

nice lights!

the new apartment

outside the apartment door

looking out the window

Sunday there were two Spanish baptisms. They had been taught by the Spanish Elders that had been here before us. The service was all in Spanish and it was like coming home again. I love the Spanish language, hispanic culture. and just the love that I feel when I am with them. We have two more people to add to our list of Spanish Group.
(Pictures of the room we all sleep in, with the high ceiling and the view out the window)

The Christmas season is coming. I hope that you take time for your family and to remember the things that are the most important. Remember Christ and what He did for you and what it means. This season I am going to be reflecting on this and what gift I can give to the Savior.
Nice Christmas tree

lovely suspenders, Karee!