Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! email from 10-31-11


posted for Christine by Jana


Hello lovelies! It's been a fast week here for me. As I was walking into the library I was trying to even remember the high points to tell you all about. So forgive me if I forget any of the major excitement.

We are finally getting some progress made on finding people to teach. We've got a few people who are willing to meet with us, now we just need to catch them at home! People here are ridiculously busy. Many say "I'm here doing nothing all day" But then we never seem to be able to catch them at home. But hopefully things will slowly begin to work out in that realm. We have real hope for a few people we've met with.

Yesterday was a pretty awesome day. All our appointments were no shows on us...doh. But our back-up plans worked splendidly. My favorite back-up plan was a dinner party a member was hosting with a whole group of nonmembers yesterday. She had made tons of soups and everyone brought their own bowl. The big soup of the day though what pumpkin curry soup. Oh my it was delicious!!! I've never had pumpkin soup before. And then one of the friends had pumpkin pie mousse she had made that was topped with candied ginger. I felt so fancy! You must understand there are two things that missionaries can get excited over, teaching people and food. So I get really excited over food. hehe The friends were all awesome too. They're all here in an acupuncture school together and from everywhere, one lady is from Romania. So we had some cool conversations and I got to tell them about missions and how they work and everything.

Then last evening the Elders in our district had two people getting baptized. So we went to the baptism. That was my first time at a baptism for someone not brought up in the Church. It was amazing! They are two really cool people and it was just a touching experience. It got my fire going to help someone to that point myself.

Saturday the ward held their trunk-or-treat. The Self family was determined to have Sister Patterson and I dressed up somehow because coming in just missionary clothes was not enough. They finally decided to dress us as Mormon Pioneers. Kaitlin (the 19 y/o) went on Trek and had some pioneer dresses. So we graciously took them thinking there was no way we'd actually be dressing up. Friday morning Sister Patterson and I had a meeting with President Barry. So at the end we asked very nicely if we could please dress as Nauvoo Missionaries for the party. He laughed and said of course. So we went as pioneers! Some people were pretty thrown off. It was a fun conversation starter for sure.

Speaking of the meeting with President Barry. That was an adventure all of its own. We were told a month ago there was a meeting for all the new missionaries being trained on Friday the 28th at 10 am. So we went to the church we were told it was at and there was no one there. So we called the President Barry to ask where we were supposed to be. He was told a different church. And then he tells us it's just the two of us and him and Sister Barry meeting. Eek! So they came and met us where we were. So we got a two hour one-on-one training/discussion with the mission president. It was awesome. It was nice to get some time to get to know him a little better too. Since we're so far west we don't see them much.

I hope all the kiddos have adorable costumes planned! I can't wait to see pictures of everyone. I'm disappointed I don't get to go all out with my pirate costume again. haha Today I get to dress as a Mormon missionary! (again!) We're planning to make halloween cookies and then trick-or-treat the older couples and widows in the ward with cookies this evening. I'm pretty excited!

Here's explanations of the pictures attached:

I think the first one is obvious. Aren't we cute little Mormon Pioneers? I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder a little though...

The next is myself and Sister Self. She dressed as Marge Simpson. I was thoroughly impressed with her. All homemade! She even painted herself yellow for the occasion!

This is how serious people take trunk-or-treats here. Apparently last year the whole back half of the car was a shark. These are the Nuesca's. They are a lovely couple! They are both returned missionaries. And she is from Idaho Falls! (She is Lindsay Johnson and graduated 98 at IF. Do you know her Jana?) We practice teach them and also we are teaching one of their friends for reals. They always brighten our days.

love y'all! the change!

Sister McCracken




Monday, October 24, 2011

Sunny Days: email from 10-24-11

posted for Christine by Jana

Dear Devoted Fans,

Another week has already passed. The days are long, but the weeks are short. The work is rolling forward and we are making progress inch by inch. We got a referral from ward members last week and will meet with them and their friends tonight. All I have to say is I believe in members sharing what they believe! We have gotten zero investigators from knocking doors. Most people don't even open their doors. But people will talk to us if their friends sent us or they meet us at their friend's house. So now we're just working like crazy with the ward to get them to share their friends with us. So I beg you, if a missionary ever asks if you have someone you can share the gospel with, PLEASE GIVE A NAME! I feel so humbled and so regretful about the way I treated missionary work before I came out. I treated it as the missionary's job, well now I'm the missionary and I see that I can't get anywhere without my members. So please support them. Oh...and feed them...dinners are always nice. :D

It sounds like you have had quite the weekend playing. I'm jealous. I keep waiting for my "Saturday" morning when I'll get to sleep in even 30 minutes...and I then I realize oh yeah, that "Saturday" is 17 months away. Oh how I miss vacation days now. Why did I always waste them by getting up early and going to the gym?! I hope the weather was nice enough for at least one stroll on the beach with the kiddos. I bet they loved it. And I'm glad to hear that Ryker still wants to come on my mission. I would love to have him as a companion. I'm sure he could do a lot better door approaches than me. Speaking of door approaches...Last week we were knocking a neighborhood and I noticed what I thought was a girl placing one of those home security systems signs in a yard. On the next street over I saw another guy dressed like her carrying a sign as well...DOH! We were knocking the same neighborhood that 5 security system people were rushing/knocking...Needless to say we got in our car and moved to a new neighborhood. Even though my "security system" is better I didn't want to make a neighborhood hate us by being the second group to knock that night. Oh the comical side of knocking doors...

So anyway, thank you for the box and the clothes! I love it all and wore the skirt and blazer yesterday for stake conference. Everyone told us we are cute sister missionaries. So thank you! Stake Conference was amazing. The focus was all about the temple. Woot! Loved every minute of that.

I'd like to share one thing since I've heard rumors and bits and pieces about the cult accusations against our Church. President Barry (Mission Pres) spoke at the Saturday night session of conference. His main points that I took notes on are that we need to defend the Savior Jesus Christ. We are long past the days of defending Joseph Smith and what he did. We need to defend that we are Christian and not only that, but that we believe in the divinity of Christ. He was not just merely a good moral teacher. He lives, and is our Savior and Redeemer and that is what we need for people to know about us and what we believe.

Ok, so I went a little preachy with y'all like I swore I'd never do. Oops. Don't drift off now! This is still a fun letter! We got to do service Friday by cleaning up a members yard. She was brave enough to give me giant pruning shears and set me loose on the hedges. It made me miss the days of chainsaws and Grandpa's hedge...And made me wish I'd paid more attention...But I succeeded in taming the beasts! Who knew I had pruning skills? I'm surprising even myself sometimes. They all were laughing at me though because I was having so much fun with it and enjoying it so much. Oh well! It was my first hard labor in two months and I was stoked!

I miss you all as usual. You really are the best!


Sister McCracken the change!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Email from 10-17-11

posted for Christine by Jana


Hello Lovelies!

Hmm what exciting stories can I share... I actually sorta, kinda taught a lesson last week!!! We have some members we've been practice teaching on and last week they brought a friend who had questions and interest so we basically had a question/answer session with her about things like the law of the tithe and what that money does. Then we shared the story of the restoration. She soaked it up like a sponge! At the end I got bold and asked her to read the Book of Mormon. She said "How much and how soon?" I was hoping for the first chapter of Nephi and she said how about the first book of Nephi! AAAAH! The only catch is she is a Doctorate student in Chemistry at UF and is HUGELY busy with school (weird right?!), so she said it might take her until Christmas break to do that, but she promises to do it. You can tell she isn't half-hearted about this, so I'm really excited to see where this goes.

Otherwise we are still just knocking doors to no avail. People here are very religious and like their religions so not many people let us get past " missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ"...before they are closing the door. But that's okay. Eventually someone will want to know more. And I will be ready when that day comes!!! haha We are still working like mad-women to connect with the ward and get referrals there. We are slowly progressing on that front and hopefully will see the fruits of our labors there soon.

Sister Patterson hasn't been feeling well the last couple days so I've had a lot of time to sit and study in the apartment. It's been awesome. I've just been powering through the Book of Mormon (my goal is to read it at least 6 times while I'm out) and marking up all the scriptures that go with the Preach My Gospel lessons. And wow have my studies been awesome. Sister Patterson was shocked that I could just sit there and study for three hours straight. What she doesn't realize is that this is much more interesting than thermodynamics and much easier to stay awake through compared to special relativity and if I can study that for hours on end I can surely study the scriptures for three hours.

Mom, I think I found two of your new best friends in Gainesville. One is a sister I would guess is your age. You would not believe her sewing area! She has a whole wall of shelves and the fabrics are sorted by color and some into clear totes and lableled with that color. Then there are drapes that pull closed across of it so you don't see the fabric, ribbon, thread storage. I plan to get pictures...Sorry Dad if this means next summers renovation project is fabric storage... Next is a couple my age that got married this spring. We walk in and he has three dehydrators going. I casually ask what he's drying, assuming a fruit of some sort. Oh no, he's making his own minute rice. Fruit was totally last year. Now he dries meals like taco soup, minute rice, oatmeal, and all these things so that all he has to do is add water and they've got dinner. They are majors hikers and are trying to come up with their own stock of MRE type foods. It amazed me what they had done.

I'm sad I missed Jason and Shelly's return to Ucon. Tell her I miss her and she was one of the best YW's leaders. And tell Kylene congrats!!! Alivia already sounds like she's going to be a heartbreaker. I love the name. I hope they're all doing well with the work of a new baby in the house.

I decided to add a few more photos this week just for fun:

  • Sister Wall's family loved sending food in the MTC (like every couple days) and Sister Delaplane and I loved eating it for her! And yes, Sister Delaplane is eating an oreo dipped in frosting. It's actually quite delicious. I ate my cupcake before the oreo fest though...
  • The plants here are crazy! I feel like I'm in a Dr. Seuss book half of the time. These flowers were on a tree.
  • And this is about how everyone's yards look. It is sooooo soooo sooo green and lush here. No one grows grass really since the soil is essentially sand and also no light reaches the ground. But it is so gorgeous!

I can't say that I'm sad I missed the snow. It's still t-shirt weather here. Some natives are saying it's getting cold and I just laugh! This is summer where I'm from! Which does make it very confusing when I realize it's the middle of October. I'm still struggling with that since it's even hot for me here some days.

Well, I dunno if I have much more to say. I love you all! And I miss EVERY one of you who reads this. Truly. I didn't realize how lucky I was with my friends and family until the umbilical cord got cut.

Remember, BE the change!


Sister McCracken



Monday, October 10, 2011

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the missionaries AREN’T snoring. . . (email from 10-10-11)

Posted for Christine by Jana

Here are some pictures she attached to the email. I inserted Christine’s descriptions of what they are, and can I just say that the last picture freaked me out when I first saw it? :

Well there's one of me at the Provo Temple.

DSCN0507The one of just my nametag was Sister White's artisitic creation. I personally love it.


The weird face picture is Sister Delaplane and I. Oh how I love her. We were best friends the 3 weeks at the MTC. We were always laughing together.


Well there's me mopping. Oh the joys of cleaning an apartment that has only ever been inhabited by Elders and may never have been cleaned....


The maroon beauty is our car. Yes, a 2011 Ford Fusion. (Austin can cry right now. ;) ) I am now the primary driver as I told the President I wanted to survive this transfer. Cleopatra (the car) and I are already good friends.


Umm...the cheesy smile is me attempting to...yeah, smile. That's me in the apartment proving that I still do wear makeup. Haven't let myself go yet ;)


And the last is a car that totally tripped me out in traffic and made me thing I was in the Forbidden Forest and that Harry Potter was going to show up soon. 


To my devoted family and friends,

First of all, I have received all the boxes you have sent Mom. Sorry I forgot to answer about the Mission Home ones last week, and yes I've been breaking in the rain coat and umbrella. Last night while we were sleeping was the worst. I didn't get much sleep after 3 am as I think there may have been a monsoon in our parking lot. Its been a few years since I've experienced such loooong heavy rainstorms and spectacular thunder and lightning. Too bad I wanted sleep more than I wanted a show... As to the box it said I never picked up, I went the next morning and got it. Thank you!!! It's nice to not sit in silence during studies and to have some music when I'm cooking. Yes mother, I'm cooking. Surprising, right?!?! You'll also see a picture of me manually mopping the floor. I miss my swiffer... Anyway all the items made it safe and sound with no damage.

Sounds like the weather there took just as crazy a turn as it did here. I had been here a week with warm temps and sunny skies. The past 4 days have been sporatically rainy and sometimes it's overcast. Still warm though! :D Hopefully the boys don't freeze too much on their hunting trip.

Yes, I've still got all the travel money you gave me (minus what I paid to check my luggage, but I was reimbursed on my proselyting card [missionary credit card] so I'm at full funds) and yes I have it hidden. Mine isn't an altoid tin, but I think it is almost as creative a hiding spot. So I think I should be ok. I'll take note and keep it a secret spot.

Things have slowly been picking up here. We are meeting with members and trying to build a relationship with a ward since Sister Patterson prefers to do her work through the members. Statistically converts are more solid if they have been fellowshipped by a member who introduced them to the Church than if we just knocked their door. So I agree with her, but we've also got to fill our days with work, so we finally got out tracting Saturday night. To no avail. The city shuts down on Saturdays for Gator games. Not even ward members would let us in. So we are discussing with President Barry the possibility of moving P-Day to Saturdays at least through the football season since it's essentially an all day event for these people (Drink before the game, watch the game, be drunk/drink more after the game) so we have no hope of meeting new investigators or getting lesson appointments on those days. I'll keep you updated as to if that will happen.

But Church yesterday was amazing, almost every person who got up and bore their testimony talked about how they had shared the gospel with someone that week. So we tracked them all down after sacrament and said LET US HELP!!! So we are hoping to get some referrals this week. We got a referral from a student couple last week, sort of. We have been practicing teaching on them since I don't want my first few lessons to be affecting someones salvation. We asked after our last lesson if they maybe had any referrals and they said "Oh, duh! I can't believe we didn't invite her!" They have a friend who is super interested in the Church and will hopefully come to our next lesson with them this week! Woohoo! We're going to do more tracting this week (I've almost got Sister Patterson convinced it's not as bad as eating pickled beets. But that's about the face she makes when I bring it up haha.) So hopefully we can find some people that way. We tried to find some less actives to reactivate and thus far none of them live there anymore. One apartment we knocked said they had lived there for 3 years and hadn't heard of the person we were looking for. So some of our work is just cleaning up the ward roster. Opening an area is definitely a learning experience. I'll be the best missionary in the FJM after this! haha probably not...but I'll know how to do everything except be in a leadership position...(cross our fingers that doesn't happen while I'm training)

For the pictures I attached I'll try to give little explanations.

Well there's one of me at the Provo Temple. Maybe one like this for my plaque? There's a whole bunch on the SD card I'll send home this week, so you can pick one.

The one of just my nametag was Sister White's artisitic creation. I personally love it.

The weird face picture is Sister Delaplane and I. Oh how I love her. We were best friends the 3 weeks at the MTC. We were always laughing together.

Well there's me mopping. Oh the joys of cleaning an apartment that has only ever been inhabited by Elders and may never have been cleaned....

The maroon beauty is our car. Yes, a 2011 Ford Fusion. (Austin can cry right now. ;) ) I am now the primary driver as I told the President I wanted to survive this transfer. Cleopatra (the car) and I are already good friends.

Umm...the cheesy smile is me attempting to...yeah, smile. That's me in the apartment proving that I still do wear makeup. Haven't let myself go yet ;)

And the last is a car that totally tripped me out in traffic and made me thing I was in the Forbidden Forest and that Harry Potter was going to show up soon.

I'll be sending the SD card home this week so you can see and share more. So for anyone who wants to see more....well....heckle the Momma and the Poppa because they'll have them!

I miss and love you all! Thank you for the support and prayers! I can feel it.

Remember, be the change!

And I, Sister McCracken, make an end of my writings concerning these things. Amen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

letter from 10-03-11

Posted for Christine by Jana

Here are some pictures I swiped off the mission blog that Christine was in:


Here is a picture of Christine with her trainer, Sis. Patterson:


Christine is just off to the side in this picture, but I swiped it anyways:


One more:


Christine’s email:

Good afternoon Gainesville fans!

My address is:

3461 SW 2nd Ave Apt 266

Gainesville, FL 32607

WRITE ME! :) please

I'm finally living in a real college town!!! WOOHOO!!!

It's another warm day in the south! Our apartment got all the way down to 70 last night with the air conditioning and fans going all night. But then I got up and it was cooler outside than inside. Oh the injustice. But I'm too nervous to sleep with my window open here.

I did get to watch conference this weekend. Saturday morning we watched it at the stake center. Then the Bishop's wife invited us over to watch the afternoon session with her. Sunday we watched it with the Self family. We watched the morning session, ate lunch, and then watched the afternoon session with them. They are a wonderful family, amazingly generous, and have the most beautiful home I've ever seen. Here's it more like the afternoon and evening sessions, so that was different. It was wonderful though! I took copious amounts of notes and still feel like I missed a lot. I'd love to hear from you all what you learned and what inspiration you recieved. I felt that every talk was just for me and had little gems to boost me up specifically.

My arrival is a hilarious story! We were assigned Gainesville handed car keys, given a brand new phone, google map directions to the apartment and told good luck...Someone was smart enough to scrawl the DLs and ZLs numbers on a paper for us at last minute and then sent us on our way. Sister Patterson had to drive as I am still working to get permissions since I have to repent for my accident in 2009. She is from Redmond, Oregon and doesn't know how to drive in a city. Needless to say my life flashed before my eyes many times. (It was short and boring.) We got to the apartment 2 hours later after getting lost a couple times only to discover no one had given us a key to the apartment. We called our DL and he promptly told us the spanish elders had it and would bring it by. 30 minutes later we finally got a key and into the apartment. Only to find it has no food but a few packs of ramen and a can of soup. There is also no area book. The area book is the holy grail of missionary life. It has information on all investigators, baptisms, ward people, where things are in the city, a map of the area, and other such gems of knowledge. But since we are opening the area for sisters, there was no such book. :( We called the ZLs who used to be over the ward we were now the missionaries for and they said they'd bring us an area book. Hours later they came over and handed us outdated investigator records from when sisters were here last. And that is all we had. So the first day made me want to cry and fly home. But I couldn't, cause I didn't even know where I was really and how to get anywhere. So I unpacked and settled in for battle. The next evening we finally got a borrowed gps from the elders, found a walmart and went grocery shopping. Its the end of the month so sister patterson knew she didn't have a lot of money left on her card, but figured she had about $20. I knew I was only given $13.81 to finish the month. She took her half of our meager groceries (we had bread, peanut butter, jelly, milk, and a few other things) It rang up to $13.81. She ran her card and was denied. She apparently had spent her funds. She looked at me panicked. She only had a small portion of the groceries. I told him to add mine to the total and see where that got us. $45.24 (we had gotten some cleaning supplies and a pillow for me as well). At this point I had no choice but to pull out my own debit card and make the purchase. All I could think was how blessed I was to have that internship over the summer or we would have had to go hungry until the month rolled over and we got our october funds. It also reminded me of what Austin taught me. He said to always keep a reserve of $50 because you never knew what situation you were going into in a transfer. Well, I got a broke companion, a new area, and empty cupboards. I am now a firm believer of the $50 reserve. Thank you Austin. And thank you Heavenly Father for the blessing of a job that meant I had a cushion for emergencies.

But no fear! I love it here. The few people we have met are wonderful. The Bishop and RS pres are both out of town so it's just been random ward members so far, but they are amazing. The Self family has a 19 year old daughter attending UF that is a mix between Emily (brookhart) and I. I already love her! Her boyfriend isn't Mormon so we hope to work with her and her boyfriend and maybe take care of that. :) Her mom is really hopeful.

We are the only sisters in the district. We are opening this as a sisters area. Boy does the Lord have more faith in me than I do. So pray for us! It's an uphill battle like you wouldn't believe to open an area.

Kylene is close to her due date! YAY! Can't wait to hear about the newest blonde beauty to storm Ucon.

Any news on Michelle's heart? Thanks for keeping me in the loop. Hopefully we get answers soon.

I forgot to bring my camera to the no pics...I'm sorry!!!! I promise to send some next week and copy an sd card and send them all home.

love y'all!

Remember, be the change!

Sister McCracken