Monday, July 29, 2013

Adventures in Ajax :)

Hello beautiful family and friends, 

First of all - 

I need to wish my favorite eldest brother a HAPPY GOLDEN BIRTHDAY! I love you so much Landon! I hope you enjoy my birthday song :) I also hope you have the most magical day today. I hope that the letter got to you in time.. your birthday present will be a trip to Sizzler in just a few months.. haha

Also, Happy Birthday to Aunt Lisa on Thursday! I hope you and your family are doing well! I'd love to hear from ya!

Safe travels to Russia for Schwab's! I hope everything is going well with you, and that you find so much joy serving in Russia. You will be great mission presidents!

Happy 30th Anniversary on August 5th to my favorite people in the world! I love you so much Mom and Dad! Best Parents EVER!!!! I hope you know that your love is such an example to me. Thank you for getting married and raising our family. We are so blessed. 

This week was full of adventures here in Ajax :) I have completely fallen in love with this city. I never want to leave! It's a tad bit scary that transfers are in two weeks... I don't want to leave, but I've had this feeling that God maybe needs me somewhere else. Ajax has treated me well though. I will always remember this place as the place where I truly have learned to come to know my Savior better. 

Before I talk about Trevor's baptism, I'll share some of the other amazing things that happened this week...

The Bishop's wife, Sister Hagan finished making Sister Stats and I some skirts! They are so cute. Mine was 4$ total :) I felt so frugal. 

We found two new investigators this week! Carl, who is a great family man and really wants to learn more. Tracy, is a young mom who lives with her boyfriend. It was amazing because we taught her the plan of salvation while she sat there and smoked.. when we finished the lesson she told us that she knew we were sent from God. She is now working on quitting smoking, but baptism will be an issue because she lives with her boyfriend. She is so amazing though, and loves learning more about the gospel. 

Cassandra and her two girls (Monique and Raquel) are preparing for baptism on August 18th. Earlier in the week we simply texted her and asked her how the reading of the Book of Mormon was going as a family.. her response - "Hello Sisters we love you both. My girls and I have been doing our readings as a family.. actually we're on the road right now and Raquel is in the back seat reading the Book of Mormons.. everything is going well. We can't wait to meet with you on Friday for another lesson and take a look at the font where eventually we will all be baptized. See u ladies on Friday and until then keep up the good work on spreading the gospel." So we met with them on Friday at the church so they could see the baptismal font. It was an amazing lesson. We taught the plan of salvation so that they could learn it as family. Raquel asked the most amazing questions, that I wouldn't think a 9 year old would ask. One of the questions she asked was, "So what happens to babies who are miscarried?" She soaked everything up. Ahh I love this family! Another miracle with them coming up soon...

This week we had our last district meeting of this transfer.. so we had a testimony meeting. Elder Fagundes has been my district leader for my whole mission so far, and he is an amazing missionary. He goes home in about two weeks to Brazil. He bore his testimony last, and it brought me to tears. He talked about his sister passing away, and his family almost falling apart. But that the gospel has kept them all together. The Spirit was so strong, and it was just another testimony to me of how powerful this gospel is. Because of this gospel, we truly can be together forever. 

Angela, our eternal investigator, is so frustrating! We keep bringing new members with us, so that she can feel more comfortable coming to church. She said she was 100% sure that she would come next Sunday.... we've heard that more than once. If she doesn't come next Sunday though, we're dropping her. No ifs ands or buts about it. She says that she's waiting for the wrath of God to come upon her... so that's what we'll give her. Agency is so frustrating! There is a time for everyone though, and we can't force people. She thinks that I'm really clever, because I know how to trick her and I know how she rationalizes things. I sure do love her though. 

So many funny stories this week - 

#1 - Elder Fagundes had his birthday this past week, and we wanted to buy him a cake. So we went and bought him one, then we went to get Frozen Yogurt. I put the cake on the seat as we went in, and then I sat on it when we got back in the car. We were laughing SO hard. So needless to say, we had to go buy another cake, and we kept the smashed cake for ourselves :)

#2 - We were eating at the LaFrance's this week, and they are the funniest family. They were asking about the people we were teaching and we mentioned Angela and how she is an eternal investigator. Sister Stats was saying how Angela likes to do things differently, and one of the boys in the family said - "Oh like a hipster?" It was so unbelievably funny. 

#3 - We went to look at how dirty the baptismal font was, and we found like 3 spiders. So we were like, "Oh no! There are spiders in the font!" Which is so funny, because President Scott says, "No Spiders in the font" at the end of each email. Ahh I thought it was so funny. 

Remember Katrina? From the first transfer? Well she has told us that she is planning on going on a mission after she is done with school. Pure joy. 

So back to Cassandra and her girls. She mentioned how she wouldn't be able to get work off on Sunday to come to church. We were pretty bummed, because we wanted them to see Trevor's baptism. We simply asked for them to pray as a family for a way to get to church on Sunday. Well Saturday night, we texted her and asked if anything had changed.... not expecting anything. Well she replied and said that her supervisor said she would take her shift. I read the text out loud and Sister Stats and I just started giggling. It was such a miracle. We had been praying SOhard for it, and so was Cassandra and her girls. When they walked into the church on Sunday they were all glowing.It was truly a miracle. They are solid for baptism on August 18th. I hope I don't get transferred so I can witness it!

Yesterday was an amazing day with Trevor's baptism. It went so well, and he was so happy. I cannot believe that we met him just over three weeks ago and he is now baptized. Three weeks ago he didn't know anything about God or Jesus Christ. He didn't have any hope or light in his eyes. He had planned to take his life the following week. His life has truly been saved because of this gospel. Witnessing his change has been the most incredible thing to be apart of. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for calling me on a mission. It is truly the greatest opportunity in the world. I think back to the first couple weeks in the field when I was so sad and homesick, and now I never want my mission to end. When Trevor came out of the water, he had tears in his eyes, and I was filled with so much joy. The smile on his face said it all. Trevor plans to get the Holy Ghost next Sunday, then the Priesthood shortly after that. Also, he is planning on going to ward temple trip in two weeks. His life is completely changed and I witnessed it. The ward was so supportive, and the Bishop had tears in his eyes as he welcomed Trevor into the ward. I didn't want yesterday to end! Oh, Sister Stats, the Elders and I did a musical number... I recorded it but I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to send it.. I CAN'T SING! Sister Stats is an amazing singer though, so she always volunteers to do these things... hahahah 

We had dinner at the Russell's last night, and that was a miracle within itself. We love going there for dinner, because the Spirit in their home is so strong. Brother Russell is in a wheelchair, and has kidney failure. He has to go in for dialysis every other day for 4 hours! He has a really tough life physically and has the best attitude ever. We had an amazing dinner, then went to the family room to share a message. We were asking him how he has such a love for missionary work. He said the most amazing things, Sister Stats and I were both in tears yet again. He explained how he used to think that life was all about money, and material things. He said he had to come to a point in his life when he had to realize that the point of life is prepare to meet God. It simply does not matter how much money you have, what care you drive, etc. It's all about preparing the meet God. And how do we do that? We do that by serving others and helping others prepare to meet God as well. The Spirit was so strong, and Sister Stats read the scripture in D&C about having angels around us to bear us up. I was watching Brother Russell as Sister Stats was reading the scripture, and he has tears running down his face. He simply said - "That was perfect". There wasn't a dry eye in the room. I know that there were angels there with us. It was truly one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. 

I honestly never want my mission to end. I love you all very much, but Canada pretty much rocks. SO many amazing things and miracles are happening here. Sister Stats and I were able to finally reach the Standards of Excellence this week, we are being so blessed! This week we also get to meet with President Scott, and I'm really excited for that! I hope everyone has an amazing week :) stay safe and know that you're all in my prayers.

"Have Faith, Have Hope, Live Like His Son, Help Others on Their Way"

Sister Hardcastle

P.S. Next Monday is some sort of holiday - so pday will be next Tuesday!
P.P.S. I bought a new camera today! Life is good! It was on sale.  :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's me again - Week 9, I think...

Hello family and friends,

First and foremost - - - I would like to welcome Elsie Cottam to the world! Congrats to my new sweet baby cousin. 

I'm so glad that everyone had such a great safe week. I hope that this week everyone stays safe again with their travels for the 24th of July. 

I would just like to say a few things - 

1. Cold showers are terrible.
2. Loosing your camera is so sad. (Sorry Mom and Dad)
3. Canada is so hot. 
4. I wear the same 5 outfits over and over again. Hahah
5. I got about 12 bug bits on my feet this week, they are gnarly! (I have pictures but no camera, lol)

This week was a pretty great week. TREVOR IS GETTING BAPTIZED IN 6 DAYS! Woot woot! SO much to say about Trevor - -

Last Sunday/Monday, he had a really hard time. All of his friends are Anti-Mormon because of Family Guy and things like that. They all told him that they didn't want anything to do with him anymore. He took it really rough, and was really scaring us with how sad he was. We scheduled for him to have a Priesthood blessing because He needed more help than we could give him. After the Priesthood blessing you could seriously see the change in his countenance. He had that light back in his eyes. He described that he felt that there was a physical weight lifted off of his shoulders. Ever since that night, he's been doing so well. He has a hard time realizing that he does deserve the happiness that the Gospel brings.  I had an incredible experience when I was talking with him last week. Sister Stats, Trevor and I were sitting outside the church (We couldn't go in - stupid rules) and he was expressing his doubts about not being good enough for this. I had such a strong feeling in my heart that I needed to just tell him one of my experiences when I realized how much God loved me. Testifying to Trevor about how much God loves him brought tears to my eyes. I just had tears rolling down my face, and when I looked at Trevor, I could see his eyes light up even more. I didn't even feel like it was me speaking, but the words were just coming out of my mouth perfectly. I don't even know if how I'm describing this makes ANY sense at all, but it was an amazing experience. He is getting interviewed by the DL on Wednesday, and the baptism is all set for Sunday at 1:00 :) By the way, the baptismal font in this chapel is SO little. We'll see how it goes... I'm so humbled and grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me the chance to witness and be apart of Trevor's transformation. This isn't my baptism by any means, it's God's baptism. But He allowed me to take part in that, and it's the most fulfilling feeling in the world. 

Funny story, Trevor is so nervous about his baptism, and didn't want a lot of people there. Well Saturday night when we were meeting with him, he said that whoever in the ward wants to come, can come. So Sister Stats and I took that as permission to invite everyone.. Sooo that's what we did :) After church yesterday, Trevor was so overwhelmed because everyone was going up to him congratulating him and telling him that they'll be at his baptism next week. Hahahah, poor guy. The whole ward was invited, and I think that is exactly what he needs. It was just so funny because he was so nervous about it to begin with, now 70 or more people will probably be there.  :) 

Okay so remember how I mentioned earlier how hot Canada is? Well, the other day it was 36 degrees C plus humidity. Our ZL told us that it felt like 120 degrees F. I DON'T WANT ANY OF YOU TO EVER COMPLAIN OF HEAT AGAIN! Hahah, I am so tan though. But you seriously walk outside and you are immediately damp and sticky. Not my thing. 

We were able to go on an exchange this week.. well sorta. One of the STL's just came with Sister Stats and I so we were in a tripanionship. Her name is Sister Fabiano from Utah, and she is just about to head home from her mission. She was so great to work with for a day, and helped me realize my potential! She told me that she didn't know I was in training until we told her, which I guess is a compliment.  :)

We were able to teach Cassandra twice this week. She is the one who lives in Scarborough, but we got permission to teach her here in Ajax :) Last night she brought her two daughters to the lesson. Riquelle and Monique :) they both have baptismal dates for the same day as Cassandra - August 18th! It's super exciting because each area has a goal to baptize a family by September 29th, 2013. So Riquelle is 9 and she reminds me SO much of Brynn. Last night, we were asking her why she agreed to meet with us. Guess what she said? She was like, "I guess it's because I want to become a Mormon." Hahah I just got a big grin on my face. Monique is 15, and is really shy, but she is so sweet and has such a sweet Spirit about her. Oh, another thing Riquelle asked, "Does God have a parent?" She is seriously just like Brynn, asks all of these questions that I can't even answer. We watched The Restoration video with them last night and the Spirit was so strong. I love the times when the Spirit is so evident, that you can literally scoop it out of the air.  

Man I have to tell you about one of my proudest moments of my mission so far. We have been getting so close to dropping Angela, the eternal investigator, but something keeps us holding on. We were discussing 3 Nephi 18 and the importance of church. She was being so stubborn about it, going through the same routine she always does, making excuses for why she can't come. We're really close with her now though, so we laid down the line. We basically told her to stop making excuses. Here is where my proud moment comes in - I asked her if she thought that coming to church was a commandment. She paused for a little bit, then she said yes. Well, what did I do? I pulled out John14:15 - If ye love me, keep my commandments. When I asked her if she would read it, she couldn't speak because it hit her so hard. After she was finally able to read it, something clicked in her head. She committed to come to church next Sunday - and if she doesn't come, we're going to drop her. I really don't want to do that though.. she has so much potential. I've realized though, that we need to focus our time on the people who will act and who do want this in their lives. 

Oh man, another story. We were teaching Trevor about tithing and fast offerings. When we asked him if he would commit to do those things after he was baptized he responded, "I can't start on Sunday?" HE IS SO PREPARED! My jaw just dropped. He's all for every single commandment, and has no problem with anything.. he even bought Sister Stats and I a 25$ gift card to the restaurant that we met him outside of. He also wrote us the sweetest card thanking us for all that we have done for him. We have to keep reminding him that it's God, not us. 

OH! Lauren, there is this member in the ward that is exactly like you. She is obsessed with history and doing her nails. She has 3 crates full of nail polish. Duplicates of certain colors even. We were having dinner at her house and we made the mistake of asking her what her favorite history story is. She went off for about 15 about Henry the 8th or something. Haha, but she is seriously exactly like you. Glasses and all.

We had the monthly movie night at the church on Friday. We watched The Testaments, and that movie always gets me crying haha. Trevor was there, and he said that he just had chills the whole time. It's truly amazing all of this knowledge that we have. We know that Christ lives and that He will come again to redeem us. Saturday was such a great day. We didn't knock a single door -HALLELUJAH :) We were able to do a lot of service! We helped a family in the ward move and went to a soup kitchen in Oshawa. It was so much fun to go to the soup kitchen with the other missionaries and serve others. We were there for most of the day, but came back to teach Trevor and go to dinner at a members house. We are being so blessed with busy schedules here in Ajax. We are trying our best to be too busy to tract - and God is definitely helping us with that. 

I just want to end this week by saying thank you to all of you. Thank you for the emails, occasional letters (hint hint) but most importantly - the prayers. I feel them each and every day. Somehow I receive the strength to make it through the day when I wake up with a throbbing headache, or sore muscles, etc. I wouldn't be able to do this without the faith from all of you, and Heavenly Father blessing me. As I'm out in the mission field longer and longer, I realize more and more things. You can be told something over and over again, but until you apply it and believe it, it's useless. I can be told that all the work starts with loving the people, but that means nothing unless I truly love the people. I can be told that practice makes me a better teacher, but that means nothing unless I practice. It's been one of those weeks where I'm grateful for all of the mistakes that I make. They've taught me some HUGE lessons this week. One of those lessons being that I just need to do my best. Every missionary has been chosen by God to be where they are. Which means, God will qualify them. God will make His work go on, even with my mistakes. That is the most humbling thing in the world. We will all make mistakes, but God is so loving and so amazing that He still helps us through it. Never forget that!

I have felt inspired to leave you all with the same challenge we leave to every member - The Book of Mormon Challenge. I have probably brought this up before, but I've upgraded it. I want all of you reading this - yes all of you - to give away a Book of Mormon by August 11th. That gives you 3 weeks! Who's in? Here is how you do it -

1. Pray with faith. Pray with a purpose. Ask God to help you have the strength to give away a Book of Mormon. Ask Him to put people in your paths, etc. 
2. Make a list. Write down people that come into your mind, ideas, etc. 
3. Strengthen your own testimony of the book. Enough said. 
4. Write your testimony in the cover. 
5. Start a gospel discussion. If it is someone that you are close with, simply say, "You know what? I want to show you something that means a lot to me, and brings me so much joy. This book has brought me peace in the hardest of times." Or something like that. If it's someone that you are close with, and they see how much something means to you, they will have interest. That I can promise. 
6. Bear your testimony to the person you're giving the book to. Then give them the book, and challenge them to start reading it. 

I know you can all do it! I do it everyday, and it's not hard. It's AMAZING! I'll be following up... ;)

I love you all. Make it a great week! Happy 24th of July!

"Have Faith, Have Hope, Live Like His Son, Help Others On Their Way"

Sister Hardcastle

P.S. There are no pictures this week because I lost my camera. Sorry!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Week 9? I lost track...

Hello Family and Friends,

Here is a little insight into the life of a missionary - it's very humbling. This week was full of very humbling experiences that taught me A LOT. Before I talk about that though, I want everyone to go read "Happily Ever After" by President Uchtdorf. I don't care if it's aimed at Young Women, it applies to us all, haha. Life is hard. We are in our "Once Upon a Time" right now on this earth. We will only have this experience ONCE. Now, think about all of the major fairy tales. Cinderella endured SO much hardship before she found her Happily Ever After. Think about Tangled and Rapunzel being locked in a tower for 18 years. Uh, yeah that would suck! Yet, she persevered, and found her Happily Ever After. No one, absolutely no one, is exempt from trial and hardship. Those are the things that make us grow and in the end, give us our Happily Ever After. I was reading this talk last week and I had about 184923 thoughts running through my head. 

The Spirit directed me to another talk, and of course I can't remember the name of it right now. But it was talking about trials. It said, "If I can't remove it, I guess I'll improve it." We can't take away the trials that we are given, but we can turn them into opportunities and make them triumphs. That's something that I'm learning more and more. 

Real quick, back to the Happily Ever After talk. I was thinking about how my mission is my "Once Upon A Time..". How do I want my mission to end? With a Happily Ever After? Just something I've been thinking about....

We had the PRIME example of member missionary work this week. We had dinner at the Caughill's (this awesome family in the ward - the dad looks like Mr. Incredible) and they brought their non-member friend. She had been to church a few weeks back, and has wanted to come back ever since. Her name is Cassandra and she also has two girls (15 and 9). The girls weren't with her when we taught her, but we had a very powerful first lesson. When I was talking to her about the first vision I told her to really pay attention to how she feels when I tell it to her. She gathered tears in her eyes, it was so powerful. Anywho, we committed her for baptism on August 18th, and she is solid. Want to know what is even better? Her girls want to learn more as well, and we will be teaching the whole family again tomorrow with the Caughill's. One problem though, they don't live in our area. But they want to come to our ward, and we got permission to teach them (WHICH NEVER HAPPENS). Miracle right there. 

Remember when I mentioned Trevor last week quickly? The one who called us! The one we met walking out of the restaurant because our dinner appointment bombed us? He's golden. We taught him last Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He came to church yesterday, and we taught him after church as well. The very first night that we taught him though, we did a church tour. He hadn't even stepped into a church since he was 6 years old, and he is now 29. He was so nervous, but we had an amazing lesson. The pictures around the church tell the restoration story, so that is what we did. We had the Struck's (a young couple in the ward) come with us. They have completely taken Trevor under their wing and fellow shipped him. It's perfect! We set him for Baptism on July 28th. We asked him to say the closing prayer, and it was the first time he had ever prayed in his life. The Spirit was so strong, and I was in tears (I know what you're all thinking - me crying? hahaha) He's since expressed to us that if we haven't talked to him, he may not be on this earth anymore. It's honestly that most peaceful feeling to see him have that hope in his eyes again. I asked him how he felt after church, and all he could say is "happy". Oh, and after the second lesson, he went home and through out all of his cigarettes and dumped out all of his beer. He was simply SO PREPARED. Okay, here is where it gets a little creepy - he bought us flowers! hahahaha they are beautiful, but we aren't sure how we feel about them. (See the pictures). 

Another humbling thing that happened this week, is I felt so sick for about two days. One morning I woke up and my body wouldn't move. It was honestly like I had gotten hit by a truck. I stayed in bed all morning, worked during the day and then went to bed early for two days. It made me realize that I'm still human and I can't do everything...

A couple funny stories that you will all enjoy - 

#1 - We taught our neighbor the first lesson. It went well. Except his dog. Oh my goodness. His dog! She is the ugliest dog I've ever seen and she sheds SO MUCH. She was jumping on me, licking my legs, getting into my bag. She even ate one of my papers that had a referral on it. I was honestly so mad the whole lesson, but I kept my cool.. We were so covered in dog hair that we had to go change after because it was THAT bad. Jaclyn, you would've died! 

#2 - We had dinner with a less active on Friday night. She is Chinese and guess what we had for dinner? Rice and peas. Oh my goodness I hate peas so much. It was hands down the worst meal yet. When I saw it, I just said a prayer to please help me get it down. I felt so sick to my stomach the whole time... but I got most of it down. Ugh it was terrible and I feel sick even writing about it, haha. Peas suck! That story is for you Katie!

#3 - Traffic outside of Toronto is a joke. We were driving to a dinner appointment at the wrong time of day. It should have taken us about 10 minutes. Guess how long it took? About 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are so many people here! I guess that just means more work ;)

#4 - We were going for a walk one morning, and we saw these two ladies setting up their yard sale. We went over and asked if there was anything we could help them with. Turns out, one of the ladies mom was a Mormon. They were so nice to us and asked us if there was anything that we saw that we needed. Guess what they ended up giving us? BIKES! They gave us two cute bikes with baskets and all! We won't use them, but we're probably going to give them to the Zone Leaders. It was so sweet of them. But when we were asking them if they wanted to learn more, they said - "No, you Mormons have too many rules." Haha, I guess they don't understand that the "rules" are for our salvation. Haha

Oh Jaclyn, this is for you - Last monday night we had an appointment with this lady named Vanessa. She doesn't want to learn more, BUT guess what her 5 month old daughters name was! Neveah! I thought you would love that:) I told her that my sister is going to name her first girl that, and she just smiled. :)

Saturday was another hot day of knocking doors. We knocked SO many doors and NO ONE wanted anything to do with us. It was seriously so frustrating. It was probably over 100 degrees plus humidity and I was so tired. We went to get drinks at the gas station, and people in the gas station didn't even want to talk to us. I started to wonder if I was stinky or something. Seriously, there was absolutely no success that day. We were just about to head to our dinner appointment and we started talking to this guy on the street. Turns out he is very familiar with the Mormon religion. He didn't want to meet with us, but he gave us so much encouragement. His name was Danny and he explained to us how amazing it is that we are doing that we're doing. We talked for about 15 minutes, and we came to find out he is in the Army and had been to Afghanistan more than once. After talking to him, I gained some hope back, haha. I never lost hope, but the faith was definitely shaken. It's hard going forever knocking on doors in the blistering heat and having no luck. But it's okay because Saturday night was amazing. We had dinner with the Sharma's (cutest family ever) and they brought friends! The Pintos. Faith Pinto is a less active and her husband, Ryner is a non-member. They have two adorable kids. They have met with missionaries a bunch of times in the past. We clearly told him that we didn't care that he had met with missionaries in the past - this time was going to be different. It was such a powerful lesson. The Spirit was so strong. He committed for Baptism for August 4th. The wife, Faith, was just crying the whole time. It was so powerful. They live in a different area though, so other missionaries will take it from here, except they'll be coming to our ward. It's confusing, but it will all work out!

You're probably wondering about some of the other investigators that I haven't mentioned in awhile. Well, Angela will be an eternal investigator unless she begins ACTING on her answers. Jasani is so busy, and so hard to get a hold of. Xania decided to work in a different city throughout the week and go out of town every weekend. Syed decided to go out of town for a month. It's tough, but I have faith that things will work out the way they are meant to. They always have, they always will. God has a plan for each of His children. My plan isn't His plan. It's all about faith. 

I just have one last request for everyone - go watch the Mormon Message - "Moments that Matter Most". It will give you a lot of perspective on life. Please please please go watch it! We watched it last night with a family in the ward and I was in tears yet again. This life is beautiful. We are so blessed, and when we look around and notice the little things, the blessings are almost overwhelming. I encourage all of us to remember the moments that matter the most. (I just realized that I think I've talked about this in one of my emails before - Oh well, sorry!)

I would also like to say that to anyone who is reading this email, and who is struggling with anything, think about this - When we cannot take anymore and we are hurting so badly, let the Savior pick you up. Let Him help you because He knows exactly how you feel. He knows how to help you. But, He can only help you if you LET HIM IN. Jaclyn was so sweet to remind me of that about a month ago and I think about it often. We have a Savior who died to every single one of us. We have been given the greatest gift of the Atonement. USE IT. It's not just for repenting, but it's for any trial or struggle you can possibly think of. When I feel at my absolute loneliest, I know that someone understands. That someone is my Savior, and your Savior

The knowledge that we have of the Gospel is incredible. We have the Gospel, and the tools needed to get back to our Heavenly Home. Let's make sure we strive to get our brothers and sisters back there with us. Share it! I love you all so much! Have a great safe week! Just know that Canada is treating me well:) 

"Have Faith, Have Hope, Live Like His Son, Help Other's On Their Way"

Sister Hardcastle

Ignore the awkwardness of this picture, it was on a self-timer :) haha

Monday, July 8, 2013

Happy Two Months!

Dearest family and friends, 

Can you believe it's been two months?! I can't believe it! Time is flying by. When we get home each night, I just can't believe how fast the day went. It's exhausting... but I love it:)

This will probably be a shorter email this week, but I don't have much time. This morning, we spent part of the p-day teaching Syed. His baptismal date was scheduled for next week, but he is going to be out of town for a month. Kind of a bummer, but we will be baptized - that I'm sure of. He is going through a really hard time in his life, and since the day we met him, you can physically see the change in him. He's happier. It's the Gospel. I love it!

The Fourth of July was great here in Canada! We decided to celebrate the holiday by going to that Imperial Buffet for lunch. I made a "Hardcastle" of myself and had LOTS of shrimp and Macaroons. :) I didn't feel so good for the rest of the day though... Luckily, the dinner we had that night at the Burnett's was very light :) I also was able to have 2% milk for the first time on my mission. Did I mention that the milk tastes better here? Well, it does. I love the Canadian milk! 

In District Meeting this week, we talked about diligence. Elder McMullin pointed out a lot of really good things. Diligence is something that I clearly didn't understand. I thought that diligence was just DOING the work. And doing the work is easy. I can go through the motions. I can knock on 100 doors a day. The work is easy. But, it's about LOVING the work. Loving those you meet, those you are blessed to teach, and the members. Love the hard times, rejoice in the good times. Love the work. Love getting up at 6:30 and going outside in the most humid air of all time and running. Love spending 3 hours each morning studying and training to be better missionaries. Love getting the door slammed in your face, because you know that something so much better is just around the corner. Love when appointments fall through, because God is going to lead you to someone else - and it always happens. Love getting home when the sun is down, and finding the energy to plan for the next day. Love updating the area book and writing in your journal. LOVE IT ALL. That is something that I'm really working on. Not just going through the motions, but being emotionally involved. 

This isn't an easy mission. We have to go out and find every single day. But I have faith and I KNOW that God has prepared people here in Ajax. Sister Stats and I have been SO blessed to be able to find and teach so many people. Not all of them will be baptized, but simply helping them increase their faith, or helping them know that God is there, is worth it. It's amazing to me how I can look at our plans for the day and be so overwhelmed and insure how I'm going to make it through. Yet, every single night I'm happy, because miracles happen each day and you see the hand of the Lord moving His work forward. It's amazing. 

Speaking about appointments falling through because better things are going to happen... COOLEST STORY. We were going to head up to Unbridge on Saturday night for dinner and to teach Alecia and Eric. Well, around 4 they texted us and cancelled. We had been tracting for 4 hours already that day. So, yeah we were super bummed. But we decided we would go to this restaurant we'd been wanting to go to for awhile now. It was sooo expensive (woops) but so worth it, you'll see why soon :) As we were walking out, these two men were behind us. Picture thing - tattoos, piercings, grungy clothes, big beards, etc. We handed them an invite to a Music in the Park thing we were having the following day. We didn't think much of it, and we went our separate ways. Well, attached to the invite was a card and the "Questions of the Soul" survey. About 20 minutes later, we got a call from one of the men. He ASKED us to meet with him. He CALLED us. We were in so much shock, that when I asked him if he wanted to learn more about our church and he said yes, I didn't say anything. Sister Stats and I just looked at each other with the widest eyes. I almost started to cry. We set up an appointment with him on the phone right there, and he committed to come to the park the following day. His name is Trevor, he is 29 years old, and he has been through a lot of things in his life. He had a friend in elementary school who was a Mormon, and so he kind of knew who we were. Last night at the music thing, he showed up and we were able to talk to him more. He. Is. So. Prepared. Sister Stats and I still cannot believe it. We have a church tour planned for him on Tuesday night and I'm just so excited. He is the biggest teddy bear of all time! He is such a miracle. What if we had gone to Uxbridge that night and hadn't gone to that restaurant? What if we hadn't given him a card as we were walking past? Man, God has a plan. 

Last night at the Music thing we also found a young man named Roy. He is 22, so we passed him off to the YSA elders. He's so prepared as well. We gave him a Book of Mormon and marked Alma 36 for him to read before he met with the Elders. He was so kind to us and thanked us so many times for talking to him. He was with a bunch of his friends who were smoking and drinking. We asked him if he wanted to stay with us, and he said yes, while the rest of his friends left him. The Music in the Park event last night produced the perfect environment for miracles to happen. It was a zone-wide event, and almost every single companionship found someone from it. So exciting! 

So some funny stories - 

#1 - We went tracting on Dent Street for about 30 minutes. We got rejected at EVERY single door. Which is normal, but these people were so mean. This one door in particular - he just opened it enough to stick his hand out, grab our card, then shut the door. I had just recently read the conference talk about "Come What May and Love It" and it talked about laughing about terrible situations. So that's what we did. We just had to laugh about. But we decided that Dent Street really put a dent in our hearts :( hahaha

#2 - We were tracting another street, and this man opened the door and the first thing he said was - "COME ON IN!" with this huge grin on his face. Two thoughts went through my head. Number one, he's a member and we just don't know it. Or two, he's completely psycho. Turns out, his wife was having lots of girls over, and he thought we were there for the party. It was so hilarious. But wait, it gets better, when we told him who we were - he shut the door. Crazy crazy people. 

Miracle Story - 

Yesterday the weather was SO terrible. We were all a little stressed out because we knew the Music in the Park event was that night. Everyone had gone through so much effort to prepare and let people know about it. When it rains here in Canada, it rains. The raindrops are HUGE and they just don't stop coming. We had fasted that day that the event would be a success.. and that all the hard work would pay off. Well, the event started at 7 and went until about 9. I'm not kidding you... It stopped raining for those two hours. The sun was out, and the weather was beautiful. When we got in our car to go home, it started to rain. I couldn't believe it. Fasting works. Prayer is real! I love being a missionary! Did I mention that Katrina performed last night? It's so fun to see her so involved in the church. She's amazing!

Oh, another quick story -

On Saturday, after we'd been tracting for a couple hours - we were so tired and so thirsty because it was SO hot. Well, we knocked on a door, he didn't want anything to do with us, but he gave us cold bottles of water. PRAYERS ANSWERED. Seriously though, it gave me the energy for tract for so many more hours. 

Did I mention that we have 12 return appointments from tracting on Saturday? We're REALLY excited for this week. We have a dinner at a member's house tomorrow night and they're bringing their non-member friend who just can't wait to join the church. Then we have zone training (those rock). Then we have appointment after appointment after appointment. It's excited. 

I'm so glad that everyone had such a great time at the cabin. For those of you who are still there - soak it up! I miss being up there. We're truly blessed with everything that we have. But as insane as it sounds for me to say - I'd rather be here than there. Being a missionary is an honor. It's incredible. It's a battle every single day. Every single day that I wake up, I have a battle with myself. I used to wake up and think of all of you. I also used to go to bed thinking of all of you. I'm training my brain, and it's working, to go to bed and wake up thinking about the work here in Ajax. So, I only think of you all when I email you (at least I try to only do that). Haha, helps me stay focused. I know that you are all going to be the same when I get back anyways ;) haha

I hope that everyone has an amazing week. I hope that things go well these next few weeks with all the changes going on. You are all in my prayers every single day. :) 

"Have Faith, Have Hope, Live Like His Son, Help Others on Their Way"

All my love, 

Sister Hardcastle

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Week 7 - No longer a "Greenie" :)

Hello Family and Friends,

A few things -

1. I'm no longer a greenie! I can't believe how quick that first transfer went. Wow.

2. I'm staying in AJAX! I'm so relieved. I did NOT want to leave. Looks like I'm needed for at least 6 more weeks in this amazing area. :)

3. Canada Day was on Monday, so they switched the P-day to today. Canada Day isn't as big of a deal as July 4th is in America. Everyone just sits outside, smokes and drinks. Haha, did I mention that everyone here smokes and drinks? Man, I love Canada.

4. Happy 6 months to my favorite twins!!! I love you Brig and Beck. Your aunt Rinney sends kisses to you!

5. Happy 2 months to my sweet Eli today as well. You're growing up to fast E!

6. Happy Birthday to Naomi tomorrow. All the fireworks are for you Nai!!

7. Remember our goal for 60+ baptisms in the month of June here in the Canada Toronto Mission? Well, WE HAD 78!!! Such a miracle. It was such a great feeling to know that we were able to contribute to that with finding Katrina.

Last P-day we were able to go to the beach and play volleyball with the other missionaries in the zone. It was so much fun. I have pictures that I'll send to ya. :) We also stopped by Angela that night, and she braided our hair - it was so fun.

I have a lot to say and I'm not sure how to organize my thoughts (what else is new) haha. I must be turning into a Canadian.

Sister Stats has still been pretty sick. For a few days we thought she may have Mono, then she got the flu.. it's just been a whole bunch of craziness. Haha, so we did do a lot of "resting" these past few weeks. Well, she rests, and I study. I finished the Book of Mormon in just over 3 weeks. I had a very special experience with it actually. I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and I've known that for years. However, in PMG it says that we should continue to build our testimony of the Book of Mormon. So once I finished the sacred book, I kneeled down, and took Moroni's promise. I sincerely prayed to my Heavenly Father and asked Him if the Book of Mormon was true. I broke down in tears, the Spirit was so strong in my heart. I will be forever grateful for that experience that I shared with my Father in Heaven. Everyone, the Book of Mormon is true. Read it. Daily. Please! It will help you with ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you are going through. The Book of Mormon is the best medicine for the soul, that I am convinced of. Read read read the Book of Mormon.

Our Zone Leaders were able to come to one of our lessons with Angela to give her a blessing of strength to stop smoking. As of today, she's on day 3 of not smoking. :) We go over there every single day to check on her. She says she can't wait to be a "Mormon". Haha, it's so hard to get used to the culture here. You see so many steeples, but none of them are LDS chapels. No one that you see on the street is a member of the church. That's why there is SO much work to do here. I just simply need to remind myself that God is preparing people for the Gospel here in Ajax. Luckily, we have some amazing investigators that we are working with. However, we're trying really hard to find more people to teach right now. There has been SO much excitement about Member Missionary Work. Unfortunately, members aren't too thrilled to do that. Patience is key on a mission, that's for sure.

We're really excited about Jasani. He's really busy, so we only meet with him about once a week. This last visit that we had with him, we brought a member who has only been a member for about 10 years. She bore a very strong testimony about her baptism. By the end of the lesson, we were talking about "when" he would be baptized, not "if" he would be baptized. We are thrilled for him. He deserves the greatest blessings that come along with baptism. We look forward to hopefully teaching his wife. He brought up an article that he saw our church published about the huge increase of members in Jamaica. He was really excited about that, because he's from Jamaica.

This is a funny story. We went to visit a member, Sister Payne. She is 85 years old, and everyone else in her household are Anglicans. She is a sweet sweet lady, and she is so funny. She said, "Oh Father Girl" over 50 times (I counted) in her accent. It was hilarious. So now, Sister Stats and I say, "Oh Father Girl" all the time.

There is this family in our ward, the LaFrance's. They are the picture perfect family, and they had us over for dinner last week. It was so much fun. The dad is in the Stake Presidency and they have 5 kids. All of the kids are planning on serving missions. The little boy, Ryan (he's 5) wants to go to Brazil so bad. I told him how my brother went on his mission to Brazil and his eyes lit up. He got SO excited. He asked me so many questions about you, Landon. He asked, "Did he see lots of pretty birds?" Haha, I just said yes because I assumed that was the case. Anyways, we had a great dinner and the kids asked us questions about being on a mission, it was fun to talk with them. I was grateful to be in their home for just a short amount of time, the Spirit was so strong there. Makes me want to go find families!

So this past Saturday, we tracted for 8 hours. You think I'm kidding? No, I'm not kidding. We needed new investigators badly. We have picked up this new form of tracting though and it's GOLDEN! We use the Questions of the Soul Survey, and it really get's people talking. I had a really special experience doing this actually. We have been advised by President Scott to tract in newer areas every Saturday. He has promised us that we will find more families to teach. So we went to this super nice new area, and we found Chinese couple on their porch with a baby. Turns out the baby was their granddaughter, and they didn't speak any English. So they got their daughter, who was probably 25, and spoke really great english. After talking for awhile, we found out that she had gone to visit Salt Lake and Temple Square not too long ago. I was able to get in a deep conversation with her by bringing up how I had gone to China about 4 years ago. It was so much fun to be able to talk about my experiences in China and really connect with her. Long story short, she is going to read the Book of Mormon, and she is now investigating the church. We are also going to teach her parents English. We'll see how that goes... hahaha

These past 6 weeks have been a roller coaster. I can't believe my first transfer has come and gone. When I look back and think about who I was when I first got on my mission, I just smile. I've come SO far. I have the Lord to thank for that. Every single day, He helps me get through the day. The more I'm out on my mission, the more I realize that this isn't just for 18 months. This is how we should live the rest of out lives. We should always be sharing the gospel and standing as a Witness of Christ. I don't want to come home and just be a "Returned Missionary" but I was to be a "Forever Missionary". I'm grateful for all of the hard times I've had so far. They have made me stronger, made me be a better missionary, made me realize my purpose. I didn't come out on my mission for myself, but I came on my mission to serve others. Along the way, however, the Lord is helping me so much. This whole experience is priceless and I LOVE being a missionary. It's incredible the deep amount of love you gain for God's people here in Canada. The investigators that we have been blessed to teach have such a big place in my heart.

Canada Day was pretty good. Sister Stats had the flu, so we didn't do much. We did teach Angela and I had time to decorate my new planner. Did I mention how much I love the missionary planners? I would die without it. I'll probably use a planner for the rest of my life now hahah. Did I mention how our neighbors are like our best friends? Well, they invited us over for a BBQ with them. So, naturally we went because free food rocks. They were all drinking and smoking, while we talked to them about the church. I'm not kidding, we talked about the gospel for well over an hour. It was so amazing. One of the guys there has some really good friends that are LDS. He told us that the Mormon people are the nicest and most sincere people he's ever met. It was one of the biggest compliments I've heard about us so far being out here.

We were able to be with Katrina for a couple hours yesterday. She came teaching with us. We were able to talk with her more about her conversion. We asked her why she listened to us when we first knocked on her door. Her response gives me chills. She said, "I'm not sure why I kept listening, but something inside me told me to just listen." She is now such an amazing member of the YSA ward. She is bringing so many friends into contact with the missionaries and she's just thriving.  :)

Being on a mission is the HARDEST thing I've ever LOVED to do. No doubt. I love it. Every single day is hard. Every single day my faith is tried. Yet, every single day WORKS OUT. Thank you so much for the prayers. I feel them. I feel all of you here with me. I love you all so much. As much as I miss you all, being here is worth every single second. This journey that I'm on with God and the people in Canada is truly remarkable.

Happy 4th of July to everyone tomorrow! America is the greatest country ever! Be safe!

D & C 33: 8-10

8 - "Open your mouths..."

9 - "Yea, open your mouths..."

10 - "Yea, open your mouths..."

Get the point? :) Open your mouths and declare this perfect Gospel. Make it great week! I love you all!

"Have Faith, Have Hope, Live Like His Son, Help Others on Their Way"

Sister Hardcastle

Beautiful Beach!

Sister Stats and me :)

Angela - after she braided our hair  :)

Most of our district

The other Elders in our ward