While on my mission I can be contacted at ashley.lynch@myldsmail.net

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

First off, I don't think I could tell you how much I love the Salem family. My love for them grows constantly. It is such a unique feeling, and I don't think I have ever been more invested in someone's life or cared about them so deeply. They are amazing though, especially their father. We have been putting a lot of effort lately into making sure their parents are included in our discussions despite the language barrier. We are working on being able to have a translator for church and lessons and have even started working on the long term goals of them learning English. There is a member of our ward that came up with the idea to have a Sunday school class dedicated to teaching English in a gospel setting that we, as well as the Salems, are very excited about. But having the children translate works well enough now and we have been able to have some wonderful conversations. The other day their father expressed how much he desires to follow Jesus Christ, and that he is ready for this new knowledge so he can do that more fully. Our last lesson with them was probably the best we ever had. Their mom was actively engaged for the first time which was so wonderful. At one point Jumana, the daughter, asked us why she had to pray and ask if these things were true if she already knew. This family has so much faith, but of course we talked about how vital that witness from the Holy Ghost is for their testimony. And at the end of the lesson, instead of arguing over who prayed last and who had to this time, they fought over who got to pray and then who got to pray first when we told them they both could. It just gives me so much joy to be a small part of this family's life and to help them make these change in their lives so they can be even closer to Jesus Christ.

Today, our ward put on a Memorial Day 5K and breakfast (which we got to participate in). It was so much fun, but to prepare for it this week we spent a lot of time visiting members and committing them to invite their friends and neighbors. It surprised me how many people were actually excited for this invitation. I have a very strong testimony of how important this is, because no matter how hard we as missionaries work, the work cannot go forward without the help of the ward and our leaders. I am so grateful for the awesome ward I get to serve in who is so excited to do missionary work and share the gospel in the best way-by This week was great and full of learning like usual!
simply loving those around them.

I mentioned before the commitment President Daines had given me to become equal with my companion in opening my mouth. Well the day before interviews, which is when he would be following up with me, I had a very sudden and emotional  realization that I had not made it there. I was a mess. Sister Speakman did not ignore the distance I still had to go, but she gently invited me to think about how far I have come lately. And then she simply asked me what I thought President would say to me the next day when I told him. The first thing that came to mind was the feelings that I have when I repent, when I recognize that I have fallen short despite my efforts and ask for help to be better. I always have feelings of immense love from my Savior because He knows I am trying. And what I felt from President Daines in our interview was a shadow of that. I am so grateful for my ability to keep moving forward, even though sometimes I slip up, because my  Savior was able to say "Thy will, O Lord, be done."

Yesterday while preparing for the Sacrament we sang that hymn and the last verse reads,
"We take the bread and cup this day
In mem'ry of the sinless One,
And pray for strength, that we may say,

As he, "Thy will, O Lord, be done."
That line really hit me as we sang that. I am so grateful that because my Savior had the courage to be perfectly obedient, I can rely on Him to have the strength to do so as well. Life may seem hard and we are all far from perfect, but through the Savior, we can keep moving forward.

We Ran!

Our new District

Sister Speakman and I

Monday, May 22, 2017

From trainee to JC

It has only been four short days since my last update, but it has been a roller coaster. First of all, Sister Speakman and I are staying together another transfer! AND I have officially finished my training, at least that's what they say. It doesn't really feel like it. But we keep moving forward, and things are going great!

Crazy awesome stuff! The Salem family (the one I told you about last time, whose parents don't speak English) is doing amazing! We are looking for more ways to effectively teach their parents, but they have a Book of Mormon and most of the pamphlets in Arabic which they read. All of them except their oldest son came to church this Sunday! How dedicated is that for the parents to come to church even though the service was in English. They are such special people and have a sincere desire to learn. That desire is so sincere that they are working towards baptism! We are so excited for their family, they are some of the greatest people I have ever met.

I have also been focusing on just being myself. Keith and Sister Speakman brought to my attention that I am very relaxed and speak freely around those I love (which is normal). But they also pointed out that I would be a lot more effective as a missionary and people would care more about what I was saying if more people got to see that. So that has been my focus and it has been amazing! It was really hard at first, but I have felt so much more comfortable the more open and genuine I am. Or at least I am really good at convincing myself I am comfortable. I am developing a strong testimony in the "fake it til you make it" principle.

We have been doing a lot of visits with less active members in our ward,  which honestly has been the hardest part of my week. Our Relief Society President gave us a list of names of women in our ward who need visits or don't come to church and we have been trying to see as many as we can. I know a lot of you are probably wondering what the hard part about this is, but it is simply seeing how quickly people can forget the blessings of living the gospel. As missionaries we put  so much time into helping others come to know Christ's restored gospel and it hurts my heart to see those blessed to have it forget it's importance. I know that it is the simple acts of living the gospel, like prayer, scripture study, and going to church, that keep our testimonies strong and living. Our Heavenly Father has given us so many things like the scriptures, prayer, family, our ward families, and most importantly our Savior Jesus Christ, that we can rely on to stay strong. We are to endure to the end, but nowhere does it say that we must endure alone.

That relates a lot to what I would like to share with you this week. It comes from Alma 38:2
"And now, my son, I trust that I shall have great joy in you, because of your steadiness and your faithfulness unto God; for as you have commenced in your youth to look to the Lord your God, even so I hope that you will continue in keeping his commandments; for blessed is he that endureth to the end."
As we learn now to be committed to God and build our faith in Him, we will not easily stray. We can have those blessings and the strength to endure to the end, even when we face the most difficult trials, as we look to the Lord in all things.

I love you all, just keep smiling!
The sun shines, even when it's raining buckets!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Read Until It Hurts"

There are so many awesome things we experience as missionaries and I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. There was an experience last Monday that made my favorites list. We went to go see a referral and it wasn't at all what I expected. This 10 year old kid came out of the house and was sent to apologize to us for making us come, and that made us so sad.  What happened was he accidentally called missionaries in California and when they asked if he would like to meet with missionaries he said yes. So that's where we come in and we assured him that he wasn't wasting our time at all and we really do want to talk to him. After a few minutes of trying to get to know him a bit his friends at the park see him and walk over wanting to know what was going on and who we were. So we told them and started talking to them about what we do as missionaries. One of the girls sat down and before long all six of us were sitting on the sidewalk in front of this kids house eating sour patch kids this girl was pulling out of her pocket and talking about Jesus Christ. We were able to share with them the whole message of the Restoration of Christ's gospel and have a wonderful conversation. That is something I will always remember and I hope they will too. We wanted to make sure they remembered the name of our church before we left so we covered our tags and this one boy said (basically jumping up and down) "I know! The Church of Jesus and the After Saints!....or something like that." It was the best thing I have ever heard someone call us.

We met this crazy awesome family this past week! Meeting with them just makes us so happy. Last Wednesday we were trying to visit someone but they ended up not being home, but Sister Speakman had a feeling we should knock on the door across the way so of course we did. We met a young woman and we started to share the message of the restoration with her at the door, but she stopped us and asked if we would like to come in and meet the rest of her family.  Of course we would! Their family moved to the United States about three years ago and started practicing Christianity when they did. They are so interested in learning more about Jesus Christ and they wanted us to come back and share more with them. We have been going back since then and reading from the Book of Mormon with them and talking about who Jesus Christ is and what He means for each of us. Testifying of Jesus Christ and explaining the gospel to someone with little knowledge of Christianity has really strengthened my own testimony and love for Jesus Christ. We teach the three teenagers, and then they share with their parents who don't speak English. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met and are truly seeking. I cannot wait to see how having to gospel will bless their lives.

This week has definitely been a hard one. It is really hard that Satan is so loud almost all of the time and the Holy Ghost has to speak so quietly. But I am learning to listen better to the right voice, and even though it is hard right now I know that the more I do what I know is true the better I will be able to hear it. What I want everyone to please remember is to go to the right sources, don't judge or dispute anything until you have done sufficient research from notable sources. Like when you have a representative of Jesus Christ and the church in front of you, don't ignore them and then trust the first result on Google as truth. The theme this week has been for people to tell us all the reason they believe we are wrong and why our personal testimonies don't stand. It has been really hard on us, but I know that I cannot deny what I know to be true. No matter how shaky my testimony has felt because of these attacks on the church and us personally, I know it still stands. Lots of prayers and having a wonderful companion have been a huge strength in this time. Satan can tell us some pretty awful lies, like that we aren't doing our best or aren't on the right path, but I know that in the times that feel hardest if we pray and really listen our Heavenly Father will bless us with guidance and comfort. Like my very wise companion told me, if we just go one moment and one decision at a time, and choose in all the small moments to do our best, we will be alright.

2 Nephi 32:3
"Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do."

I want all of you to know how much I love the scriptures. I remember a time when it was hard for me to sit down and get myself to read the scriptures, but now an hour is just not long enough. It is so incredible to me that the scriptures literally contain the words of Christ and the things our loving Father in Heaven would have us know. It has been amazing how every time I fervently pray, and really need something, I find exactly what I need in my scripture study the next morning. I can promise you that if you humbly pray to God and really seek, you will always find our answers in the scriptures because that is how God speaks to us. We were talking to Keith last week about scripture study and we asked him what he though it meant to "feast upon the words of Christ." He said it's like Thanksgiving, where we eat until it hurts and we feel like we are going to burst. So Keith's advice to all of us is to "read until it hurts" and I can add my witness to that, because in doing that we can find great strength.

Monday, May 8, 2017

"I'm so glad I don't missionary alone!"

We got a new car! It always amazes me how much they trust 18 and 19 year old kids, but they sent us on our way with a brand new Chevy Malibu. I probably will never drive such a new car again in my life. And the best part is we no longer have to share!

  Heavenly Father is absolutely amazing. He gives us strength where we lack, He accomplishes the impossible, His plan for all of His children is perfect.

  He gives me strength where I lack: I have been working hard to keep President's commitment to me of being equal with my companion at opening my mouth, and let me tell you, it is so hard. I can't believe how much I get in His way. When I just let go it is amazing what the Lord does through me, and our teaching is so powerful. But sometimes I still let my own fears keep Him from working those miracles with me, even though I have seen them before. I have seen what can be done when I just open my mouth and say the words the spirit gives me, our challenge now is to make those amazing powerful moments more consistent. I know with the Lord's strength I will be able to keep my commitments.

  He can accomplish the impossible: We are His hands and as long as we keep working hard and doing all that is asked of us, His work can be done and miraces will come about. We set goals everyday, and as long as we keep pushing to the very end and have the faith that the Lord will provide, we always meet them. There have been countless times this has happened, like the other night where we found a new investigator in the last 15 minutes of our day. She was very closed off at first but we were literally able to see the spirit work on her and open her heart. Last night was especially amazing. Half an hour before we had to go home we knocked on the door of a woman who used to meet with the missionaries, we talked for a while and she really wanted to start meeting with us again. Before I really got what was happening, Sister Speakman extended the invitation to be baptized and the woman accepted! I am learning everyday that a lot of times what the Lord has planned or is asking us to do, does not make logical sense, but we have to just run with it and have the faith that He has a better way than us.

  He has created a perfect plan for all of His children: The highlight of my week was this Friday night when we were able to accompany our recent convert Keith to the temple for the first time! Our Father's plan for us is perfect, He has given us everything we need in this life to return back to Him. One of those necessary things to return back to Him is baptism by His authority. The temple is a very special and sacred place where baptism, and other saving ordinances, are performed  in behalf of those who did not have the opportunity to receive them during their time in this life. Again, our Father's plan is perfect, no one is left out. Keith had the amazing opportunity to be baptized for his own brother, and it brought tears to my eyes knowing that he is giving his brother the same opportunity that has brought him so much joy.

Keith at the Temple!
  Quote of the week, "I'm so glad I don't missionary alone!" -Sister Speakman. I'm so glad I don't have to missionary alone either. I'm so glad I don't do life alone! I have an amazing family, some fantastic friends, and wonderful companions to help me face it all. Most importantly though I know that no matter what any of us are facing, we always have the support of our Savior Jesus Christ. Something I have been thinking a lot about lately is how amazing it is that we can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Often when we talk to people about their personal relationship they will indirectly answer our questions or talk about something totally unrelated, and I am starting to realize that many people don't know they can or don't know how to have a personal relationship with their Savior. I am so grateful for this knowledge. I know I am just at the beginning of my life and the start of my journey of coming to know my Savior, but I am more grateful everyday that I can know Him and that He knows me.

 I love you all, just keep smiling!

Monday, May 1, 2017

In His Strength I Can Do All Things

We had interviews this week! I love interviews with President and Sister Daines, although this one was a little intimidating because we would be teaching them the first lesson. It wasn't that bad though and interviews were just as wonderful and packed with learning. We talked a lot about fortifying ourselves and how important it is to build up that protection in the good times when it doesn't seem like Satan is fighting us as hard. That was such an interesting thing to discuss after my realization last week that it is just going to be a continual cycle of pushing through the battles just to reach another one. Satan knows us and knows where our shortcomings and weaknesses are, and that is where he will go for first. I would encourage everyone to really look at yourself and if you don't know where he hits you to find out so you can start fortifying yourself now, even if it may seem like a time of peace. 

President Daines left me with a commitment like he usually does, and it was that by next interviews I will be able to say I am equal with my companion in opening my mouth. This week as I have been working on that the changes have been incredible in just this short time. Sister Speakman and I have become more unified, I am following the spirit more, and our teaching is much more powerful. I am very excited for the progress yet to come so I can keep that commitment.

So I told you last time about the Little girl we met who wanted to learn more about Jesus. Well her name is Alexis and she is the sweetest thing. We were a little late for our appointment earlier this week and apparently she was very disappointed because she thought we weren't coming. But when she answered the door she was basically jumping up and down. I had never taught anyone that young before so it was definitely an educational experience on how to teach simply. I am so thrilled by how excited she is about everything and so happy that we are helping her build that foundation in Christ at such a young age. I was so blessed to have that growing up, and that's really the reason I came on a mission. So knowing I am helping others have that same opportunity makes me so happy.

Rick came to church! I don't remember how much I told you about his situation, but he was on date for baptism and working through some things but a few weeks ago told us he wanted a break from meeting with us and everything. We keep in contact with him every once in a while just to see how he was doing and the other day I don't even remember what I said, the spirit had definitely taken over at that point, but before we knew it he said, "you know, you're right. I'll see you at church Sunday." And we did! I hope this is a step in the direction of us being able to meet with him again and help him continue to work towards baptism.

With the experiences I have been having and struggles I have been facing lately, my mind keeps going back to my favorite scripture in the Book of Mormon, Alma 26:11-12
      11 But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
      12 Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever.

We can have so much joy in our lives when we realize that we truly cannot do anything on our own. When we humble ourselves enough to rely on the Lord we will be granted the strength to do all things. As I am learning how to more fully rely on the Lord I have been able to do things I know I otherwise would not be capable of. I find so much comfort in knowing I don't have to worry about anything because I will always have the support of He who is capable of all things.

I love you all. And remember, just keep smiling!