Monday, November 6, 2017

Royal Palm Beach October 30, 2017

Hi everyone! 

I hope this email finds you well.  I have had a wonderful week here. 

Tuesday we had Zone Conference, and it was fantastic. One of my favorite ones from my whole mission! I loved Sister Garns's talk. She talked about the name we wear, and how we need to do our best to represent Him. President Garns talked about following the Spirit, having urgency in the work, and how we all need to be a little closer to our Father in Heaven if we are to do His work in His way. He talked about leaving everyone we teach or talk to with a feeling of "exquisite wonder." It was awesome. Then the Assistants to the President gave a training about being truly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through sacrifice. I learned a lot of things, it was great!

On Wednesday we went on a full-day exchange with the sisters in West Palm Beach, and I went with Sister Healy to their area. Sister Healy is from California, and she came into the mission at the same time I did. We had a great day together, and I loved being in a Spanish area! We got to teach their investigator that has recently been through back surgery. It was awesome to see how that has humbled him and prepared him to receive the gospel. The Elders came to give him a blessing, and he loved that.

Thursday we had an awesome lesson with the Henry family. We found them last week, and on Thursday our goal was to help them set a baptismal date. Erica (the mom) is very busy with school and work, and she feels pretty attached to her other church "Acts 2." Terrence (the dad) and Jessica (the 15 year old daughter) are both very receptive to the gospel. We had planned to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but before the lesson we were praying and I felt that we should teach them the Plan of Salvation because it would be new information that would leave them with "exquisite wonder." Sister Peterson agreed, and the lesson went very well. At the beginning we asked them what they believed about where they came from, and they all had a different answer and really were not sure what to think. The Plan of Salvation cleared up a lot of their questions, and they were all excited at the prospect of returning to the Celestial Kingdom. However, when we extended a baptismal date Erica was still hesitant. Jessica was so excited about it, and so she was quick to agree when we asked if we could kneel and pray about the baptismal date. We asked Terrence to say the prayer, he did, and the spirit filled the room. When he finished praying we all waited in silence for a few minutes, then Terrence asked Jessica if she would like to pray. Jessica's prayer was perfectly specific. She pleaded that God would help them know if they need to be baptized on Nov 25, and the spirit amplified times 10. Before we had even sat on the couch again, they had all agreed to be baptized because of the way they felt. It was awesome! We were so pumped when we came out of that lesson!

On Friday we spent the day visiting less-actives and inviting them to come to the ward Halloween party. We were so excited when one of them showed up, with his non-member wife. The Halloween party was lots of fun. Freddy and Darlyne came, Freddy was dressed up as "Where's Waldo" and Darlyne was dressed up as "Darlyne." Their kids looked adorable in their costumes, and they had a great time. Another miracle we saw that night was that a young man we had met in the park earlier that week randomly showed up. We were showing him around the chapel, and when we were nearly finished he admitted that he had met with missionaries many times before and been to church! We had a quick lesson with him, and left him with a Book of Mormon. It was great!

Saturday it poured rain all day. Turns out it was a tropical storm. We laughed because we would have had no idea if Freddy had not mentioned something when we stopped by to see their family. They are doing well, but we are still waiting for Darlyne's divorce to go through. Freddy always has the right answers for everything, and they can't wait! Most of our appointments ended up cancelling due to the storm, so we ended up knocking doors in a lot of rain. It was fun. 

Sunday we had church. Freddy and Darlyne were the only investigators that came, but we were happy to see them. In Gospel Principles we were talking about staying faithful in the church. The teacher asked why someone might fall away from the church. Freddy raised his hand and said he believed someone would fall away because they forgot the covenants they made when they were baptized, and how that was something that they had wanted. I just love how much they have changed, and  how badly they want to be baptized. We are still praying for a miracle, and we know that it will come in the Lord's timing. After church we went to go see the Henry family again, but it turned into a pretty tense lesson when Terrence's brother who was visiting was intent on picking apart everything we said. However, I know that he felt the spirit because we both did our best to be bold in our testimonies. It is never easy to look someone in the eye and defend your faith, but I love the quote that "the truth is like a lion, if you set it free it will defend itself." That makes our job easier, because all we have to do is testify with love and with the spirit. 

Have a great week! I love you all!
Sister Monson
                                                                           Zone Conference
                                                                     Ward Halloween Party

Royal Palm Beach October 23, 2017

Hi everyone!

Hope it's been a great week for you all! We have been very busy this week, but it has been great. 

Last P-Day was lots of fun because we had a barbeque at the park, and then a water balloon fight with the missionaries in our zone. It was funny because we had the hardest time finding water balloons, all the Walmart employees told us it was a seasonal item, but there is really only 1 season in Florida! Anyway, it worked out well, and the water balloons we finally managed to find felt pretty good in the 80 degree weather. That night we were able to have an awesome lesson with our investigator Jenna. She is really sweet, and has a lot of questions, but is not ready to act at this moment. However, Sister Peterson and I came away feeling really good about the lesson, and knowing that the spirit was the one in charge. Our last visit of the night was to a less-active woman who used to be an Alaskan Eskimo. She told us all about her tribal life, she grew up as a hunter-gatherer and it was really interesting to get to know her. It was a little difficult to focus because she had 3 huge dogs that seemed to love me, and by the time we left my pants were drenched in dog slobber. Gr-oss! It's ok though, she was sweet, and she needed a visit. 

On Tuesday we had a district training, those are always great. After that Sister Peterson and I went to get icecream, then watched the Sunday morning session of General Conference. We are slowly, but surely, making our way through! After dinner we went to a park and drew out the Plan of Salvation in sidewalk chalk. Then we talked to a few guys that were hanging out in the park. Most of them didn't have much time to talk, but it was lots of fun. We are going to try it again this week at a different park. 

On Wednesday we saw a cool miracle because we decided to return to a street that we had passed earlier in the week, and had wanted to knock, but we hadn't had time in that moment. When we were there we ended up running into Shaina, a lady that we had been teaching, but had decided to drop because she was not keeping our appointments. We hadn't been able to get in contact with her for a while, but then we ran into her on that street when she was walking her kids home from school. She felt like that wasn't a coincidence, and ended up coming to church yesterday because of it! We knew we had been put in the right place at the right moment. 

On Thursday morning we made a few phone calls, and found out the startling news that Freddy and Darlyne will need 4 hours of marriage counseling in order to get their marriage license. We were not sure how they would get money to pay for that, but after a few more phone calls we ended up on the phone with a man who used to be in the mission presidency. He said that 3 of the missionary lessons would count towards those hours, and that he was willing to drive up to give them the last hour of marriage counseling, which would be a class on the Family: A Proclamation to the World. Not only would he give them a certificate that would allow them to get their marriage license on the same day they presented it to the court house, but it would reduce the fee of a marriage license from $90 to $60. It was definitely a tender mercy that we were able to get in contact with him. The class went well, and now, all we are waiting for, is Darlyne's divorce to go through! We would all appreciate continued prayers for that.

Friday we went on an exchange with the sisters in Port Saint Lucie. I ended up going to their area to work with Sister Noftle. She is really sweet. We ended up spending most of the afternoon is a sweet lady's house that had just been through knee surgery, and LOVED to talk! It was a good day though. 

Saturday we exchanged back, and then did another short exchange with the Sisters in Stuart. I knocked doors with Sister Callister who is training right now. She was in the middle of telling me about how she is feeling discouraged because they have not been able to find any new investigators, when we knocked on a door and the man let us right in to teach him and his fiance. They were very interested in learning about the Book of Mormon, promised to read it, and became 2 new investigators for the Stuart sisters. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father provided that miracle right when they needed a little boost. That afternoon we drove back to our area, made a few quick visits, and then went to a baptismal service for the Sisters in Palm Beach! They were baptizing a cute little 90 year old Haitian man, he had a hard time getting into the font, but he was just as determined as ever to "follow his Jesus." 

On Sunday church was only 1 hour because they had to do some mold remediation in our building. Hurricane Irma strikes again. That's ok though, we had a great rest of the day. We went to the park and talked to a lot of families and invited them to the ward party this Friday. We also had a great lesson with another family we are teaching, the Henry family. It is a mom, a dad, and their 17 year old daughter. They all have very sincere desires to know if our message is true, and they are very excited to read the Book of Mormon. 

Overall, it has been a fantastic week. I know that Heavenly Father blesses us if we move forward with faith, and put our shoulder to the wheel. It's like the quote that says "Pray like everything depends on God, and then work like everything depends on you." I hope it is a great week for you all!

Love, Sister Monson

Royal Palm Beach October 16, 2017


It has been another great week in Florida! You would think it would start cooling down for Fall, but it is as humid as ever. I love Florida! 

Last Monday night we tried very hard to follow the Spirit in choosing a place to knock, and we saw some cool miracles come from it! We ended up in an apartment complex, and felt to knock a certain building. On the top floor we met an 18 year old girl that loves the bible, but is looking for more direction in her life. She loved hearing about the Book of Mormon, and promised to read it. On the second floor we found a woman that is not sure if she believes in God anymore, but wants to know what happens when we die. She loved hearing about the Plan of Salvation, and agreed to meet with us this upcoming week. On the bottom floor we found a man that wants to get baptized after recently converting to Christianity. He loved hearing about Priesthood authority, and agreed to meet with us this upcoming week as well. It was awesome! We knew that was exactly where God needed us to be. We will be meeting with a few of them this week, some have since fallen off, but we know that some great seeds were planted for future harvesting! 

On Wednesday Sister Peterson and I put on a "Sisterhood Conference" for all of the Sisters that we serve. We were able to talk about our goals, establish expectations, and do a fun activity where we decorated baby pumpkins with scriptures, quotes, and mormon.orgadvertisements to give out to people. We also talked about how we are in a war and "victory at all costs" is imperative, so it is up to us to find people looking for the gospel! It turned out really well. That day we had another lesson with the man that was excommunicated. We talked with him about keeping the sabbath day holy, and making sure he is at church every week so that he can have that foundation for his testimony. He is still struggling to make sure commitments, but he promised to do his  best. They also ordered us pizza, which was very sweet of them! After that we went to visit a less-active family that is not ready to come back to church right now. However, they were very nice, and after we got them talking for a while they ordered us pizza too! Needless to say it was a lot of pizza, but we had a couple of great visits so it was worth it!

On Thursday Sister Peterson and I had a companionship study with the assistants to the president (they do it with all of the STLs once per transfer). We talked about counseling with the people in our stewardships, and it was great! That is a big focus that President Garns has for the mission right now. That night we had a lesson with Freddy and Darlyne, and we brought a sweet sister from our ward with us. We were so excited when we heard that Darlyne's friends had mentioned that it might be possible for them to get the $400 fee on their divorce waived because they are "no income." The only problem was that Darlyne still had no way to get to the court house, but the member that had accompanied us offered to take her the following day. They went to the court, got the fee waived, and her divorce is FINALLY being processed!! The only problem is that they said it could take 2-5 months for the entire process to be completed. We still need a miracle to get it processed faster so they can be baptized on the date they picked for themselves (November 11). Any prayers in that direction would be much appreciated!

On Friday we went on an exchange, so Sister Goldstein came to Royal Palm Beach with me. She is 25 years old, and has been on her mission for 2 months. She is so sweet, and we had a great day together! We ended up spending a lot of the day doing service for a lady named Ivonne. She is not a member, and she lives alone so she really appreciated our help cleaning her house. She has some family that will be moving in with her from Puerto Rico. The bonus was that she made us lunch, and gave us cheesecake for dessert! 

On Saturday we had a great day! It started off with a temple tour with Freddy and Darlyne. A sweet couple from our ward, the Aloisios, picked them up. We were so grateful for their willingness to help out, and to take 2 cars the 3 hour round trip drive in order to fit everyone. Freddy and Darlyne loved the temple, and are excited to go back in a year! It was a great experience. It downpoured for about 20 minutes in the middle of the tour, so we had to take shelter in the little waiting area outside the temple doors. It was very peaceful, and they said they could definitely feel the spirit. 

Yesterday we had a fantastic Stake Conference. The best part was that President and Sister Garns came, and they were able to meet Freddy and Darlyne! I think it meant a lot to Freddy, so that was pretty neat. Last night we had dinner at the Aloisio's house, and they are so sweet! Sister Aloisio bought us little scarecrows, and then drew little missionary name tags on them with our names. I just love the members in this ward, they are fantastic. 

I hope you all have a great week!
Love, Sister Monson

1. Temple tour with Freddy and Darlyne
2. Dinner with the Aloisios and our scarecrows
3. Sisterhood Conference

Monday, October 9, 2017

Royal Palm Beach October 9, 2017

Hi everyone!

It has been another fantastic week in Florida! We have been getting back to normal, and I must say that has been kind of nice. 

We have met with Freddy and Darlyne several more times this week. Freddy was finally able to get a little bit of work with one of our ward members, but then he injured himself when he tripped over something and dropped the heavy vase he was carrying on his hand. Now he can't work for a while. It seems like one thing after another is  being thrown at them, but they are still going strong! They love reading the Book of Mormon, and they loved church yesterday. They were able to look into getting some financial help, which will hopefully help things get moving with their divorce and then marriage. 

On Tuesday we were able to teach a man in our ward that was excommunicated a long time ago, but he has made some huge changes in his life, and would like to be baptized again. It was a very cool experience. The atonement is just so real. It is truly able to purify the sinners and perfect the saints. 

On Wednesday we did a full day exchange with the Wellington Sisters (the sisters we live with). I got to go to the Wellington area with Sister Johnson, who is one of the sweetest people I've ever met. We met a couple of potentials and had a great day. We were also able to watch on of the sessions of Conference, which was awesome, of course. 

On Thursday we had a cool experience while we were knocking doors. We have been meaning to visit a particular former investigator for a few weeks now, but we could not find the street she lives on. Well, on Thursday we were driving around looking for somewhere to knock for a few minutes that would be close to our next appointment, and we found the street that she lives on! We did not have her teaching record with us, so we had no house number. We decided to knock one or two doors and then come back another day to visit the former. As soon as we got out of the car I felt like we should knock a particular house, but I almost shrugged it off because there were no cars in the driveway (everyone parks in the driveway in Florida) and no lights on. I mentioned it to Sister Peterson, and she agreed to knock it. No one answered, and just as we were about to leave we heard the door creak open behind us. We ran back, turns out we had accidentally knocked right into the former investigator we had been wanting to visit! She was excited to see us, and had lots of questions about the Book of Mormon. We ended up teaching about the Book of Mormon, and it was a great lesson! She has a lot of things going on in her life right now, and is not sure she is ready to make the commitment to meet with us or come to church. However, she will definitely  be more open to future missionaries after having some of her concerns resolved. I am so grateful for the guidance of the Spirit that led us to her door, but also gave us scriptures to use, and things to say when we were talking to her.

On Friday I had my first MLC. It was awesome! All of the zone leaders, STLs, and Assistants to the President met together at the mission home. It was a training focused on Christlike leadership and how we can better serve the people in our stewardships. I came away feeling like I have 50 bajillion things to improve on, but also very inspired. We barely made it back to our area in time for a recent convert in our ward to take us to dinner. He is a single man, and he is just awesome. He was baptized in April, so we had fun talking to him, and we also had some great barbeque. 

Saturday we had a meeting with the Zone Leaders in the morning, and then we spent a lot of the day in the car in order to have some fire exchanges with 2 companionships of sisters. They are both so sweet! I love getting to know the other sisters. We got to our area just in time for a quick lesson with Freddy and Darlyne about callings, and serving in the church. They both agreed to prepare for a calling, and we are pretty sure that with all the trials they have been going through Heavenly Father has big things in store for them!

Yesterday it was great to go back to church again. We had not had normal church for a month, so it was great! Freddy and Darlyne loved it, and it was good to see all the ward members again. After church we went to visit a sweet Jamaican less active member that lives with her son. Her son was not home to take care of his dogs, and she is scared of them, so she had us sit in her bedroom to share the message and eat lunch. We all crowded in and had a pretty comical message with the dogs barking at the door. She was very touched though, and we are hoping to continue working with her. That afternoon we ended up teaching a few lessons to people that very obviously need the gospel right now, and the spirit was there to confirm it during the lesson, but they still chose not to accept it. We know they will be ready one day, but it is heartbreaking to know the happiness they are choosing to forgo. 

It has been a very busy, but a very good week! I know that our Savior lives, He knows, and loves us. He is the source of true hope and happiness. I love you all!

Love, Sister Monson

Monday, October 2, 2017

More Pictures from The Keys October 2, 2017

Trash Mountain
                                                           Selfie with Sister Petersen

                                     Storm surge line....up to 5 or 6 feet in some places.

Royal Palm Beach and More Clean Up in the Keys October 2, 2017

Hi everybody!

I hope you all had a great week, and especially a great conference weekend! I will start out with the disclaimer that we did not get to watch Conference this weekend because we were in the Keys. We will have to watch in whenever we get time over the next few weeks, so I don't have too much to say about that yet :).

Last Tuesday was our P-Day, and then we went out to work at 6:00 like normal. We saw so many miracles that night which was a huge blessing because we had been in the Keys all weekend and we hadn't had much time to work in our area. We knocked into a sweet girl named Ciara, she is 17, and she is trying hard to regain her faith. She said she has felt such a difference since trying to learn about Jesus Christ, and then she was so surprised when we showed up at her door! She loved the lesson, and was excited to learn more. It was so cute because in the closing prayer she thanked Heavenly Father for sending his angels to talk to her. Unfortunately we haven't been able to meet with her since then, but we are trying hard to get back in contact with her this week! 

After that we went to go and visit a potential, but she wasn't home. However, her two younger sisters were, and they loved our message. They are twins, and they love going to church so they said they would definitely be willing to give our church a try. Hopefully they will be able to come next week. They weren't broadcasting Conference at our chapel because a lot of people were going to the Keys to help, so we will have to make sure they are at church next week. We came home that night feeling so blessed to be able to find 3 new investigators in one night, Heavenly Father was definitely making up the time that we spent serving in the Keys. 

Wednesday was a fairly normal day, we drove around to visit a lot of less-active members. We tried to meet with Fitore again, but she wasn't home. We were able to meet with Freddy and Darlyne and talk about temples. I love visiting them, I just always come away so much happier. Freddy always loves to tease us so we started teaching the lesson, and he says "Um, sisters, I learned all of this on my first day at church." He told us that they'd talked about temples in Priesthood, and he remembered a lot of what was said. They are excited to go to the temple after they are baptized. 

Thursday we had our first District Training of the new transfer. We have an additional set of Elders in our district now because they opened the Creole area for the Winter (apparently all the Haitians leave in the summer, and return in the Winter-no one is really sure why). Anyway, that was great. Most of our lessons that night fell through as well, but it was a good day. 

Friday we did our weekly planning, and we were both feeling a little off. It was just one of those days, but thankfully we had another lesson with Freddy and that lifted our spirits right out of the slump. Darlyne was gone to help her sister, so we taught Freddy a little more about the Priesthood. We had an awesome couple from our ward that came with us, and they helped a ton. Freddy was telling them about how he'd lost his job, and they can't get married because they have to have money to get divorced first. Brother McFarlane just expressed his own testimony, and so much love for Freddy that it was just what he needed to hear. Freddy said the closing prayer in which he thanked God for "his sisters" and "his new friends" and then he said "until we talk again" before he closed his prayer. It was so cute, and it made me think of how that's really how prayer should be-an ongoing conversation with Heavenly Father. I love Freddy and Darlyne so much! They were supposed to be able to watch conference with a ward member this weekend, but we are not sure if that worked out or not. If not, we will make sure they are able to see it this week!

Saturday morning we woke up at 3:30am and met at the home of a couple from our ward. They loaded up their 15 passenger van with 8 people and a lot of camping gear, then we made the 4 hour drive to the Keys. We arrived, set up camp, and set out to work. They gave us a bunch of work orders to fill with our group which consisted of the sweet old couple who drove us, 3 other brothers from our ward, a few teenagers, and us. We spent all morning pulling branches, seaweed, and debri out of people's homes. The Keys looked a lot better than they had the week before, but there was still so much destruction. We drove down one street that had been hit really hard, one of the trailers had completely blown away and all that was left to show it was once there was the tile floor. It was crazy. People were so grateful, especially a spunky little 86 year old lady named Mary Ann. She really couldn't do the work for herself, so she was very glad to have help. Sister Peterson and I noticed her neighbor across the street needed some help as well, so we went to go rake her yard as well. She told us it had taken her an entire week to rake the seaweed off of one half of her yard. We helped her finish the other half in an hour or two. She was so grateful.  We spent most of the day outside doing tree/branch/seaweed/debri removal so by the time 6:00 rolled around we were thoroughly exhausted. We all headed back to the campground, and thankfully they had portable showers. I don't think I would have been able to sleep smelling the seaweed on myself all night. They allowed the missionaries to sleep in the same museum again (we were so grateful because none of us have tents or sleeping bags). They broadcast Priesthood session, and re-broadcast women's session so we got to watch that before bed. 

The next morning we woke up, got dressed, had some breakfast, and we all set out to work again. When we arrived at the church they decided to send our group further south because they needed more help in some of the other islands. The further south we got, the worse the destruction was. We arrived at a Boy Scout camp on the beach where they had headquarters. They didn't have any more formal work orders, so they just sent us out and said "see what you can find." A lot of the houses are built on cinder block stilts, so the house itself is raised off the ground about 10 feet. We ended up helping one man muck out his garage, which was underneath his house, and it got filled with garbage and mud. We cleared everything out, trying not to slip on the mud, then shoveled mud into wheelbarrows, and dumped it in a pile for the city to pick up. Sister Peterson and I got so muddy, but it was fun. Next we went to his next door neighbor, her yard was knee deep in seaweed and trash. There was a hot tub, a refrigerator, a desk, a sopping wet mattress, and a fence in her yard that weren't even hers. We couldn't even begin to move the hot tub, but with all of us working together we were able to clear the rest of the debri out, and we made some good headway on the seaweed before we had to head back to the campground and return our supplies. We were all smelly, and so so tired for the drive home, but we made it! It was another great weekend in the Keys. I have learned so much from being able to serve these people. 

It really helps you prioritize, and it has given me a whole new perspective on attitude. Some people are absolutely hopeless, self-pitying, and bitter. Others are so full of faith, and are so grateful for the help they receive. Those are the people that are happy, they know it is in God's hands, and they are able to move forward. I hope to be able to emulate that attitude, because I have definitely seen that it makes all the difference in the world. 

I hope it's another great week for you all! Love you!
Sister Monson
                                                               Her District
                                                     President and Sister Garns

                          Museum where they were able to sleep.  Sister Peterson and Sister Monson
                                                               Portable Showers

                                                                      The Beach

September 28, 2017 Royal Palm Beach and Clean Up in the Keys

Hello everyone!

I hope everyone has had a great week! This week has been one of the most amazing weeks of my whole mission!

Last week started off great. We got back from doing service in Miami, started off the week with a pretty normal P-Day, and then did our best to get back into normal missionary routine after all of the craziness that has been happening. On Tuesday night we were going to visit a former investigator, turns out they had moved, but the lady who answered the door agreed to listen to our message. Her name is Fitore, and she is such a sweetheart! She is a young mom, and she has a sweet little 1 year old girl named Athena that is always trying to crawl onto our laps. We taught her about the Restoration of the gospel, and she just kept saying "wow, that is so cool! I've never heard that! Wow!" It was a fun lesson with those kinds of comments inserted every few minutes. She is really excited to read the Book of Mormon, and hopefully she will be able to come to church this next Sunday. 

We also had zone conference this past week, and it was awesome! President Garns showed us some of the work he did as a photographer, and it was amazing. Then he talked about how our personal conversion to the gospel will increase our desire to share it, so as we become more personally converted, we will have more motivation to work hard as a missionary. It was amazing. Sweet Sister Garns talked about how much Heavenly Father is aware of us in our work. They are so wonderful, and I am so grateful to be blessed to serve with them. I have so much respect for the way they have been handling everything lately, and they just never stop telling us they love us. 

On Wednesday we did a full-day exchange, so I went to Port Saint Lucie with Sister Wingert. We had a great day, we visited lots of potentials, knocked on lots of doors, and found a new investigator at the very end of the night. I learned a lot from Sister Wingert about trust in the Lord. She came out on her mission at the same time as me, then she had to return home for medical reasons. She came back out, but is now experiencing medical problems again. She told me that she is doing well, and that she is just willing to go wherever the Lord needs her to be. She is awesome. 

On Thursday we had a long drive to exchange back because Port Saint Lucie is an hour and a half away from our area. That took up a lot of our morning, which made the rest of the day a little crazy. We were able to see Freddy and Darlyne though. We haven't been able to meet with them for a while due to the hurricane, and then they were sick. They have been going through such a hard time. A lot of their things got ruined in the hurricane because one of the windows of their trailer blew open and a lot of wind got in. As soon as they got back home they all got sick, and then Freddy lost his job. We are trying to help them stay motivated, and I am so impressed with their faith. They understand so well that as we turn to God we will be supported in our trials, even though it might be tempting to turn away. They seemed a little down, so we talked about that, and they told us that they still really want to get baptized. They will need at least another month in order to get the divorce/marriage/smoking figured out, but we prayed about a new baptismal date with them and they chose November 11. They are just wonderful, and I love them. Darlyne texted us this weekend to say she got a a job at McDonalds, and they were so grateful for that blessing. 

Friday morning we woke up, packed, ran to the store, and then a couple from our ward came to pick us up so we could head down to the Keys. They had 3 stakes going, and missionaries from all over the mission. We all headed down to the Keys to camp for the weekend and serve with the Helping Hands. The lady we drove with told us that they had 270 registered volunteers, but most of them arrived on Saturday. The drive was about 4 and a half hours, so we got there around 5:30 pm. Sister Peterson and I were the only sisters there, and there were a couple of other missionaries from our zone so we spent a few hours clearing the church parking lot of trees and branches to make spaces for more cars to park as they arrived. After that we headed to the campground to set up our tent, but we found out that the owner of a nearby museum was going to allow the missionaries to stay in the museum so we would have air conditioning. That was a huge blessing! The Elders slept on one side of the museum, and the Sisters slept on the other. Most of the other ward members and stake leaders slept in the chapel down the street. It was quite the interesting experience to sleep in a museum. We were blessed with an air mattress, but it was still a little creepy to sleep surrounded by taxidermy. We had fun though, and we were so grateful for the AC. 

On Saturday morning we woke up around 4:45, got ready, and walked with the other missionaries from our zone to the chapel which was about 1/2 mile down the street. Somehow we got assigned to help with parking so we spent an hour and a half directing traffic. We were grateful when one of our ward members came to pick us up to head out with a work crew, we wanted to feel helpful! We headed out with our Bishop, a few members of our ward, and 3 of the Elders from our zone. We had an awesome work crew, and we did not stop! The first house we went to was right on the beach, and there was a fantastic view. There was trees and branches all over his yard, it took us about an hour and half to clear everything out and haul it to a huge pile on the main road. We spent the rest of the morning doing work orders like that one, mostly just tons of tree removal. We would use a chainsaw to cut the trees, and then carry the pieces out. 

After a quick lunch break we went to a house that had been affected really badly. The poor homeowner was feeling so overwhelmed because the water had come into her home, and the watermark was at about 2 feet. There was already mold growing on the walls, and all of her appliances were ruined. We helped her carry her things out, remove her appliances, then we all put on masks and took out the drywall and the insulation to prevent further mold growth. We felt  pretty official walking around with masks and scorers, but mostly it was just amazing to be able to help this poor woman in her time of need. By the time we finished her house was pretty bare, but a lot more manageable. At least she had something to work with. She was so so grateful for us, and was very emotional as we left her with a prayer. We were about to leave to go to the next work order, but a few of her neighbors stopped us and begged for help. They had some large trucks and cranes working their way slowly around the neighborhood to pick things up, and they needed help to get everything out before they arrived. We hauled more branches, furniture, and other things out of people's yards for a few hours. We finally burned out around 6. Just as we were leaving, there was a woman that came running up to us and begged us to come eat in a nearby parking lot where they were serving free dinner for all the volunteers. Who doesn't love free food? We headed over there, and had a delicious meal with some volunteers from other groups. It was so cool to see how people from all over, and all walks of life traveled down to the keys to help with cleanup. 

We returned to the campground that night, and they had set up a little portable shower. There was not much privacy, but we were grateful to be able to wash off. The mold did not smell good, and I am pretty sure I have never been so sweaty in my whole life! It was such a great day. To make things better they brought a tv over from the chapel and set up Women's Conference for the Sisters so we were able to watch it in the museum. What a great meeting!

Sunday morning we woke up early again, walked to the chapel for breakfast, then walked back to the campground for Sacrament meeting. They had us stand outside the museum in rows (kind of like pews) for the meeting. We have not been to actual church for 3 weeks now, but we have been blessed with the chance to take the sacrament every week. I have come to really treasure the few moments of respite it offers, no matter where we are. After the meeting we cleared our stuff out of the museum, cleaned it inside and out, then headed to the chapel to get assigned to our work crews. We ended up in a work crew with our Bishop again (he is awesome by the way), a few more ward members, and the same 3 Elders from our zone. The first house we went to was the worst one I have seen by far. The street looked like it was from a 3rd world country because the houses were so badly thrashed. This house was covered in smelly muck and seaweed, pretty much everything inside was ruined. We helped haul out furniture, and then the Elders helped her remove her fridge and her storage freezer. Even though we zip tied them closed the smell of rotten food was overpowering, and when you combined that with the seaweed and the muck it was absolutely disgusting. I felt so bad for the poor homeowner, but she was pretty positive about it. After that we helped a few more people on her street, and at one point a little Latin family came over to talk to us. They called me over to translate, it turns out they were in desperate need of food, water, and diapers. We gave them everything we had, and promised to return with more. We drove back to the church for more food, water, and hygiene kits, but realized we were out of diapers. I remembered (and I'm pretty sure it was the spirit) passing a chapel called Church of The Keys that had some free supplies, diapers included. We made a quick stop by that chapel on our way back, and they had plenty of diapers for this family. It was funny because inside this church they all kept saying "Oh! You're the Mormons! We love the Mormons!" It was so cool to see the missionary opportunities that will surely come from all this service. Anyway, we rushed back to this family with boxes of food, water, and diapers. They were so grateful, and promised to share with their family and friends. 

We spent the rest of the day with tree removal, and ended the day at a house that was built on stilts so the inside was fine, but the outside was a disaster. There was seaweed, debri, trash, and furniture from all over the place. A single woman lives there alone, so she was very grateful for our help. We got it mostly cleared up, and wished we could have stayed longer, but we still had a 4 hour drive home. We met our ride back at the chapel, drove home, took a MUCH needed shower, and tumbled into bed. 

This weekend has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It definitely helps you to sort out your priorities, and realize how blessed we are the things we have. I am so grateful that I was able to serve my brothers and sisters, and just to see the smiles on their faces made everything so worth it! Service is truly the quickest solution to happiness! I love you all! Have a wonderful week!

Sister Monson

 Hermana Monson and Sister Petersen