Monday, September 21, 2015

Until We Meet Again‏

One last time... Malo e lelei and alooooo-ha!


This week has been so hard, and wonderful at the same time. Saying goodbye to the members, the investigators, the ward, the missionaries, all of whom I have come to love so dearly. Leaving them behind is so scary for me at this moment. Then, on the other hand, starting my life up again, going to college, seeing my friends and family, building stronger bonds with my loved ones, watching films and listening to music. I am excited for all of these things!

Saying goodbye to the members has been top priority this week, and updating the area book. Sister Mitchell is being transferred, and Elders will be coming into the Palehua area. We teach a lot of single sisters, so naturally we are worried. We know the Lord knows the plan, though! Just have to have faith. 

Yesterday in church, it was ward conference. Our bishop spoke, Emilene (our recent convert) bore her testimony, and then SURPRISE Bishop Aken called me up to bear my testimony one last time. It was on the spot, but I felt the Spirit in me. I didn't cry! 

In Hawaii, there's a tradition. Whenever a family, member or missionary is leaving the ward, they sing a beautiful Hawaiian song called "Aloha 'Oe". They had me come up to the stand, the entire congregation stood, and sung to me these words:

Ha'aheo ka ua i naa pali
Ke nihi aʻela i ka nahele
E uhai ana paha i ka liko
Pua 'ahihi lehua o uka

Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au
Until we meet again

I may have teared up, but I didn't cry either! Weird, huh?

Our time is so limited on this Earth. My time has been so limited on my mission, in Hawaii, but it has influenced me more than anything in my life. The culture, the Aloha spirit, the members and missionaries. Everyone and everything has taught me something about myself and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Now more than ever, I am 100% sure this is the TRUE gospel. That this is Christ's church upon the Earth. 

I may have only had 1 year to wear the official badge, but I forever will have my name tag engraved in my heart. I want to continue my spiritual journey, this is not the end. I have been sent here to Hawaii for many reasons, but something my mission president taught me is that our number 1 investigator on our mission is ourselves. I have been truly converted. It didn't happen when I was baptized, it has happened the past 2 years in the church. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the biggest blessing, and has saved my life in more ways than one. I am grateful for those who have supported me during my trials, and have supported me in all things. I hope I have made you proud. More than anything though, I hope I have made my Heavenly Father proud.

I love my Savior. I have learned more about Him than I could have ever imagined I would know. He truly died for our sins, so that we could have that opportunity to have eternal life. Christ has paid the price for our salvation. We must come unto Him, though, and partake of His salvation. His hand is forever outstretched to us. It is our choice whether we grab His hand, though! 

I have learned so much my 12 months here in Hawaii, but mostly I've learned about the LOVE that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. He places us exactly where we need to be, with the people we need. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and will provide blessings for us to have the best life possible. We, in turn, must choose to follow Him and His son, Jesus Christ, to achieve all the blessings we are promised.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ's true church upon the Earth. God called his servant, Joseph Smith, to restore the priesthood authority that was taken so long ago. I know that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ, in the sacred grove, and that he was called to restore the everlasting gospel. The Book of Mormon, along with the Old and New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price contain the everlasting gospel. All are the word of God, and we are so blessed in this day and age to have all of them. I know that He loves us, and wants us to come to Him for anything and everything. We are never to unworthy to feel His love. 

I love my Father in Heaven, my older brother Jesus Christ, and all of you who have been with me every step of the way. I am so excited to see all of you again, and to be able to show you all in person how much I love my Savior. Bless you all, for the time you've put into writing emails, letters, cards, and sometimes even packages! I have appreciated every single word you've sent. Know that I love you, and that when I come home I want to continue to serve. If anyone needs ANYTHING, I hope you don't hesitate to call me.

The gospel is true, the book is blue, and Jesus is the Christ. (:

Until we meet again, toko's!

~Sister Alexis Michelle Noriega

Monday, September 14, 2015

The A.L.O.HA Mission

Aloha everyone! (:

First off, I'd like to express my gratitude for the outpouring of love and support this week. I don't feel as scared or anxious to come home as I previously did. I have so many thoughts and emotions running through me right now, I honestly don't know what to email home about. I want to take some time to reflect on my mission.

I am grateful to be in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, the A.L.O.HA Mission!

Atonement of Jesus Christ is my message.

Love of God and others is my motivation.

Obedience to the commandments and mission rules is my strength.

By spreading the gospel to others I can give them the HA, the breath of life, even eternal life.

How true this mission motto is. On my mission, I've learned a lot. How to serve, how to turn outward rather than inward, to study, work diligently and use time wisely. Most of all, though, I have learned the love our Savior has for each of us. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is my message, and will forever continue to be my message. I finished the Book of Mormon for the 4th time this week, and never has my testimony been so strong. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Jesus Christ is God's only begotten Son, who was sent here to die for us. To take upon Himself the sins of the world so that we could return to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again. Through faith in Him, we are able to repent of our wrongdoings, and move forward in our lives. No unclean thing can dwell with God, and because Christ overcame all trials and tribulations, we can repent sincerely and be forgiven. I love my Savior and Redeemer (:

My love for God and my fellow man has also increased over these last 11 1/2 months. It truly has motivated me through my mission. Through the hard times and challenging times, I remember the love my Father in Heaven has for me, and I am instantly pumped to serve. 

Obedience is a large part of all these things, though. Keeping all of God's commandments in exactness is a blessing in itself to me. The mission rules though, that is something I had to learn. To truly pray about. They are rules set by the apostles, and some by our mission president, for our protection and benefit. Have a had a 100% perfect obedient mission? Honestly, no. But I have seen the blessings from keeping them, and learned from others the consequences of breaking them. Men called of God have set these rules for us, and I know that keeping them all has blessed and furthered the missionary work here.

I love being a missionary. Putting on my name tag everyday, with my name right next to Jesus Christ's name. What an honor it is, to be a set-apart servant of the Lord. As I go into my final week, I intend to work the hardest I've ever worked in my life. To make every moment count.

I love the gospel. I love my companion, Sister Mitchell, and all she has done for me. I love the Palehua ward, where I've been for 6 months now and seen the gospel and more specifically the Atonement change the lives of the members here. This Sunday is my final Sunday, and I already know when they sing "Aloha 'Oe" to me this Sunday.... well. The tears will be drippin'. 

I love you all. I will be writing this Monday for the last time as Sister Noriega... AHH so bittersweet. I know that the Lord needs me home for a bigger purpose than I can see. I pray I will continue to keep the Spirit close to me in all that I do, and will continue to be a faithful servant, even after I take off the black badge. I love you all, mahalo nui loa!

~Sister Nori

Hiking this morning

Another view from our hike this morning

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Not Mine, but Thine.‏

Malo e lelei and alooooo-ha! (:

This week. How can I begin to describe this week? It has been the absolute hardest week of my mission to date. 

On Wednesday, I had a very weird feeling about my body. I felt like something was off, but I didn't really want to acknowledge it out of fear. I am blessed with Sister Mitchell, though, she semi-forced me into calling our mission nurse. It was time for me to get my blood work done, and Mitchell knew that. So I caved, called, and my appointment was set for Thursday morning. 
Driving to Honolulu that morning, there was something in me that knew that something was wrong. I couldn't pinpoint it, but there was no part of me that wanted to go to this doctors appointment. I do my usual blood work, vitals, wait for a room to be open, and eventually I met with the doctor to go over my blood work. I don't want to go into details, but I will say that the results weren't positive.
The doctor told me that I've done everything that I can, but that my blood sugars aren't under control whatsoever. That my health is declining while I am out here, especially with the Polynesian diet we eat daily. The doctor told me I could stay out, but just shoot more insulin. Something was telling me that wouldn't be enough.

As I left the doctors office, I realized very slowly that I had a choice to make. 

I called my mission president a few hours later, after talking with Sister Mitchell. I told him that I think that I need to go home, and take care of myself. President Warner told me that if his daughter called him and told him what was happening with me, that he'd tell her to come home right away. After much fasting and praying, I have made the decision to come home. 

I thought I cried a lot in my life, but never have I truly felt so heart broken. I do NOT want to come home. I want to finish my mission, and come home in April. Yes, that is what I want and planned on doing. That isn't what the Lord had in store for me, though. It's funny, I keep praying, almost hoping the answer will change. That maybe the Lord will provide a way for me to magically be healed, and to be able to serve my final 6 months. Something I've learned through my own experiences and watching the lives of others unfold, though, is that the Lord has a far better plan for us than we can begin to imagine. 

I will be flying home the night of September 23, and arriving home sometime the morning of the 24th. I have about 2 weeks left, and I plan on making them count. I have such a love and testimony of this gospel. 3 years ago, I was a different person. A person who had nothing going for them, a person who had no hope for the future. I felt worthless. Then I found the gospel. The gospel brought hope, faith and love back into my life in a way I never had anticipated. I was baptized 2 years ago, as of September 7th. These 2 years in the church have been full of trials, but also of faith building experiences and moments filled with the Spirit. 

I am struggling right now, accepting that I am really coming home. Hawaii is a place like any other, with a beautiful aloha spirit you will never find anywhere else. I know I was meant to be here, but I guess I wasn't meant to be here for 18 months. The Lord did bless me with 1 year out in the mission field, and for that I will forever be grateful. I have never had to rely on the Lord as much as I am right now. Having faith in HIS plan and HIS timing. 
"Not mine, but Thine"

I love you all so much. I do feel like I've failed, in a way, but I know that is the adversary. I desperately wish I could stay, but there is something waiting for me at home. Something far greater than I can imagine. I will have an honorable medical release, and I need to accept the Lord's will. Thank you, for all the love and support. I still have a few weeks left, and I plan on working til I'm 'dead'. (: 

Until next time!

~Sister Nori

Friday, September 4, 2015

Perfect Love Casteth Out All Fears‏

Aloha everyone! 

This past week has been full of fun, disappointing, and down-right rainy moments! Quite a few of my emails today were concerned people asking if the hurricanes are affecting the Makakilo zone. To answer your questions, yes, they are! It's been pretty crazy. Sister Mitchell and I have gotten 100% soaked twice this week, and we've had to go home and change. Today, our mission president relayed a message through our zone leaders that we are to stay away from the coast lines today, due to the large waves. It's funny because we didn't find out about the 2 hurricanes that will be hitting tomorrow until sacrament meeting yesterday. Yep, that's missionary life for ya! I do know, though, that the Lord protects His missionaries. I already know we'll be fine! Mom, have faith, I promise you personally that we'll be okay and safe (:

On Tuesday, we had district meeting! As usual, it was a very spiritual time! That is when the rains really started. We had to drive the sisters to Honolulu, and we got stuck in that Hi-Hon traffic! 2 1/2 drive. It was great. Why, do you ask? Because I'm a horrible companion and slept the entire time... #oops. 

Wednesday, we were super busy! All of our appointments went really well. Remember me talking about Walking Wednesday? Yeah, we did that... and we got soaked. 100%. We were like "YES maybe people will pity us and listen to our message!". Yeah nobody answered their doors. It's okay though, we had fun! Thursday and Friday weren't very eventful, but had little miracles of course. Friday night we went and met with the Scott family. Only 2 out of the 7 kids were there, it was a great opportunity to talk to the oldest girl about baptism. Recently, as we know, the Dad passed away, and now her Uncle passed away both from Cancer. This Uncle was supposed to be the man to baptize them, since their Dad passed. The oldest Scott girl is feeling guilty, about not being baptized before they passed. That maybe her loved ones will be angry with her for being baptized NOT by those 2. We had a very spiritual discussion about eternal families. I was able to bear testimony that families CAN be together forever. She does believe that, but someone recently told her she wouldn't ever see her Dad again because they weren't all sealed in the temple. That made me ponder about God's plan for us.

Heavenly Father sent us here in families. Why? So we could learn. So we could grow up with a built-in support system that loves us and will teach us. Are any of our families perfect? NO. Life happens. The Adversary is very real in this world, and Satan is trying to tear families apart. That doesn't mean, though, that our Lord isn't understanding and merciful. The Lord loves us, and knows we love our families. I KNOW that even if I am not sealed to my family here, that I will see them again. That hope isn't lost, through the Atonement of Christ. I will be able to see my family again, and be able to be sealed to them. Life is rough, and our relationships with our families will never be perfect. But God loves us, and because of that love we have the Plan of Salvation. We have a way prepared for us to be together forever.

This week has been rough, I won't lie. BUT it was for my better. To learn to rely more on the Lord, and not on my own abilities. I must trust in the Lord, and HIS timing, not my own. To develop a perfect love, a perfect love that will not leave my with the feeling of fear, but of trust and faith. Humbleness is a very important attribute I've recently learned about, along with faith and hope. I love my savior, and I am grateful for His love. This week, I challenge all of you to serve your family. Whether it's a small or large act of love, serve them. Tell them and show them how much you love them. I can promise you as you do this you will feel our Heavenly Father's love and Christ's love for each of us, and you will find yourselves happier than before.

I love you all very much. Stay safe, stay cherry, and ofa atu (:

~Sister Nori

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride

Malo e lelei and alooooo-ha! :D

This week has definitely had its ups and downs. Not the best week, but definitely not the worst! 

On Tuesday, we had interviews with our mission president. It never ceases to amaze me how much he and his wife truly love and care about each of us missionaries as individuals. I was able to receive some advice from President Warner on how I can personally better myself as a missionary. I love speaking with him, he reminds me how much I've grown in the past (nearly) 11 months. I also confirmed that this will be my last transfer in Makakilo. Gotta make the most of it!

We have Wednesday in our missions set apart as "Walking Wednesday". As missionaries, we are encouraged to walk around as much as possible, and not use our car. It helps us to not only exersize more (which we all need here in the 40 pound mission), but it also gives us more opportunities to talk to people. Sister Mitchell and I prayed specifically to have the Lord put people in our path, and guide us as we walked to visit. So, 10am, 95 degrees in the humidity and sweat already dripping, we were off! The first person, Kimberly, wasn't home unfortunately, or the Cruz family. Gosh the weather has been awful here, so I was pretty done walking after 15 minutes, but we were determined to keep moving forward!
Next thing we know, we are having a really great visit with the Ma'auga family. They are very less active, and the wife works 12 hour shifts at the post office. Nearly impossible to catch them home. We didn't plan on seeing them, but as we were walking away from our 2 appointments that fell through, we spotted them! 
Afterwards, we went to meet with a part-member family that the sisters had taught about a year ago. Various issues came up, so they had to take a break from teaching. We felt that the time was ready for them though. As we knocked on the door, the son's girlfriend of the man we were coming to see answered the door. Very kind, her name is Herolyn, from Saipen. She greeted us, gave us water (which was much needed) and talked story. She is Sister Mitchell and I's age, and really has a desire to learn more about the gospel! We have an appointment with her this Wednesday (: 
We were able to continue contacting former investigators throughout the day, and boy do we have a busy week this week! Super pumped about it, our planners are full :D

Thursday was really cool for Sister Mitchell and I, we week planned and set goals for the transfer. What we want to accomplish as individuals, as a companionship, and how we can better the work here in Palehua. 

On Friday, we had our first district meeting. Not only was it our first district meeting, but it was also ALOHA FRIDAY. SO against Mitchell's wishes and pleads, I made us wear our MUMU'S! I'll attach a picture of course (:

So that was our week! We worked hard, and were able to see miracles. Our weekend proselyting was cut short, we had to travel to Waipahu, to Makaha, to Kapolei, back to Makaha, then BACK TO MAKAKILO because the sisters car broke down. 

Sunday was great though! We were asked to bear our testimonies in primary :D We sang my personal favorite, Jesus wants me for a sun...BEAM! I was so homesick for the Apache Park Primary, I miss them so much! It was such a spiritual Sunday though. The Lord has truly blessed me, and I look forward to the miracles of this week. I love my Savior, and for the opportunity I have to teach others about God's perfect love for each of us. I love you all very much! Have an amazing week, and mahalo nui loa for all that you do!

'Ofa atu,
Sister Noriega

Aloha Friday!

Our dinner Wednesday night showed this to us. IT ISN'T EVEN US IT'S THE J-DUBS BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE US I COULDN'T STOP LAUGHING

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I Will Go, I Will Do‏

Malo e lelei and aloooo-ha!

This week has been really... exhausting. Tiring. Crazy. Blessed. (:

On Tuesday, we had our first after baptism lesson with Kelliann. It was sad, though, the Dad (who is against the church and is a less active member) changed work shifts again. With Kelli starting school, and the schedule change, we will not be able to see Kelli often. Her Mom is not very happy about it, because she is really set on Kelli growing her testimony. We know they are faithful, though, and that as they exersize their faith the Lord will provide. Sister Mitchell and I keep reminding them of that! Crossing our fingers!

Wednesday was a crazy emotional day. It was transfer day, and Sister Mitchell and I had to drive a car to Honolulu, meaning we were able to say goodbye to many of our friends, including Sister Harris (may she rest in peace). After our goodbyes, and meeting a few of the new missionaries in the zone, we had a lesson with Emilene. We spoke on the importance of baptism! Just a reminder on Emilene's story: She was supposedly baptized in high school in Samoa. Funny thing is, nobody has any record that it happened. She needed to be re-baptized! So we talked to her about how our Savior, Jesus Christ, the most perfect man that ever walked the Earth, set the example for us. That WE have more need than HE to be immersed in water, and to take on the covenant to always remember Him and to keep His commandments. Emilene's testimony has strengthened, and she was definitely ready for her baptism (:

On Thursday, we had a pretty normal day of tracting and making visits. It was Sister Mitchell's year mark, so shout-out to her for that milestone! :D We did service for about 4 hours at a man named Brother Greenwood's house, and boy can that man talk! He told us of his many adventures around the world with his wife, and how we as youngin's need to explore. He said "How can you change the world if you don't go out and see it?" I have a lot of traveling to do after my mission! (:
That night, we went out with our Bishop, Bishop Aken, to make visits to a family who just started investigating not too long ago. They're the Haro family, they have 2 daughters, have lived everywhere due to military assignments, and have welcomed us in since the beginning. We took Bishop to see them, and we were hesitant. We hadn't been able to make contact with them for 2-3 weeks, and weren't sure how they would react to us bring Bishop Aken with us. We went around 6:30pm, and as we rang the doorbell we were met by 2 excited Haro girls saying "I KNEW it would be you 2!". We were invited in, and they made us a big old plate of spagetti and welcomed all three of us in (: As we talked with them, Bishop clicked with each one of them immediately. They all have family in the military, know a lot of the same people, ect. It was a true miracle, and the Spirit was there from the start. About 45 minutes later, Bishop asked them if we could share a message. They quickly agreed, and Sister Mitchell and I both knew it was resto time! We went right into it, and the Spirit grew stronger. We taught of prophets, God's love for us, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. We challenged them at the end of the lesson to pray for themselves, to know if these things were true. They agreed, and Cassandra looked at us and said "You know, I've been getting a lot of weird feelings lately. I've been thinking about death, and what happens after this life." Both Mitchell and I looked at each other, grinning, and told her we would come over this week and teach her the plan that God has for each of us, the plan of salvation, the ultimate plan of happiness. It was music to our ears! It was a great lesson, and it truly strengthened my testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost!

Friday we had a brief zone meeting, where we made transfer goals as a district and as a zone. We got to know each other better, and bond as a zone for the first time. We have 3 greenies in our zone, and many new faces, it was a much needed meeting. The rest of the day was pretty normal, but stressful, preparing for the baptism!

On Saturday, we were able to witness Emilene's baptism! She didn't want many people there, just a simple baptism service. There was only a handful of people there (a majority of them being missionaries) but the Spirit was strong. Small but mighty (: Emilene was radiating with the light of Christ as she entered the font, and once Brother McMoore brought her out of the water, she had the biggest grin on her face and gave him a big hug. It was so beautiful to see!

Sunday was a spiritual day, as usual. We had the unexpected but welcomed opportunity to teach gospel principles 2nd hour of church. It was on sacrifice! We talked a lot about how much we sacrifice as disciples of Christ. Whether it's 18 months to serve a mission, many hours of the week to fulfill a calling, or a few moments to help someone with their family history work, we sacrifice daily. Really, though, Christ and Heavenly Father has made the biggest sacrifice for US. Christ gave His life. Heavenly Father gave us His son. I know that because of this marvelous act of love that was performed, we are able to live with our families forever. Heavenly Father, He has everything we can give Him. But, as we sacrifice things to serve, as we turn it all over to the will of our Father, He will bless us immensely. I know this church is true, and that this is God's work upon the Earth. I am blessed to have been given this chance to sacrifice so little time to serve for such a large cause. 

I love you all so much, and thank you for everything. Have a great week! (:

~Sister Nori

Emilene and Xavier

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Round 4!‏

Aloha everyone! :D

First, I'll start off with transfer news: Sister Mitchell and I will both be staying here in the Palehua ward! This will make transfer number 4 for me, and I'll be here for at least 6 months. The Lord has a need for me here, and I hope that I continue discovering my purpose (:

Our week wasn't very exciting, to be honest. We had service at Pearl Harbor, which is always a fun treat for us! It was a fun time, bonding with the Makakilo zone. Especially since nearly every companionship is changing. It's crazy how attached you become to certain missionaries. I love my mission for many reasons, one of the biggest being the life-long friendships I've made. (:

(Elder Neil, this is his first transfer out, and he thinks New Mexico is cooler than AZ :P)

We also had a lot of work today, though. We had do to a lot of tracting this week, so we can try to increase our teaching pool. Sister Mitchell and I have decided this transfer to come into it with fresh eyes, and put it into our minds that we're new and white-washing into the area. This tiny area has so much potential! With the Lord's help, we know we can continue to see miracles!

Funny story: We were tracting up one of the hills, and we came to a super shady house. We walked up, and saw 2 parrots. They were completely silent. Now I love animals, so naturally I was like "Hello!" and I hear a super deep voice reply "HELLO" and it started to laugh. Mitchell and I took off running, before realizing it was literally the bird. Fo' real though, we died a little!

Our week was full of disappointing, cancelled appointments, slammed doors, and some personal hardships. Sister Mitchell and I came up with a motivating quote:

As we strive to do our best, Christ will make up the rest.

I know that the Lord is testing our faith, and that yet again, there are miracles to be realized. We must be patient, and endure all things well. I know this church is true, and that we can see the Lord's hand in our lives each day. We just need to pay attention, and realize how loved we are (:
We also need to realize something else: Conversion is a process, not an event. We must nuture our testimony daily, and rediscover the truthfulness of the gospel every single day. Our tesimony will not stay as strong if we don't continually progress in this gospel. I hope and pray that I will continue to do this everyday, not just on my mission, but also when I come home. I love my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I know He died for my sins, and that through Him I can live with my family forever. 

I love you all so much. I am grateful for all the love and support I feel. Have a wonderful week!

~Sister Nori

Nessy and Nori, prepared for the Nerf war (I love P-day)