Monday, January 26, 2015

Bennington, VT #13: "Eternally punished, he is."

Dear Family,

I'm becoming one of those missionaries who writes awful, short letters and I'm sorry! "Eternally punished, he is." is Sister Gochnour when she turned into Yoda while we were having a deep discussion about Satan with Charlann. We're trying to get Char to understand that Satan's a bad dude, but he's not the source of all her problems.. she's been, like, yelling at Satan lately when something bad happens. No bueno. But other than that, she's doing great!

So, lots of tears were shed this week from both me and Sister Gochnour. But they weren't all sad! Lessons-wise we're doing better and better each week!! But... we've decided that all this success is making me a little number hungry so we're not going to focus on that so much anymore. Haha :) This week I laughed the hardest I have since being in the field, had my most embarrassing mission moment thus far and loved these people more than ever.

Cried: Woke up Tuesday morning with lots of texts from Brother B. I had become an aunt over night! I had also gotten that glorious package the night before. I got horchata and a niece all in one day!!! :)

Loved: We had what Brother B told us was the greatest Wednesday night FHE there ever was, and I believe it! We did the Gospel of Jesus Christ lesson because we had three kiddos from three different families who will soon be baptized and we lit things on fire, bleached some stuff, blindfolded some people and laughed a lot. Mom, I'll write you the whole lesson plan so you can use it sometime. SO fun and easy too! Also, we made pizza together and Brother B died the dough all different colors so we had some weird looking pizzas. He has addiction to food coloring everything. I absolutely loved it of course.

Cried some more: At the end of the night, after everyone had left, Brother B just talked to us for a while. He's part of the reason I've fasted myself almost to starvation these past two weeks. I won't tell you everything of course, but in a couple years, Brother B might end up being homeless because someone he has helped a lot financially in the past is suing him for a dumb reason. We all just stood there and cried together and I sobbed the whole way home because I've seen a lot of the other side of a lawsuit, but never really thought about what happens to the person who gets everything taken away from them eventually. I have such a strong testimony of fasting now though!! We fasted Sunday, he got $4,000 dollars in the mail Monday. I love him so much (obviously) and I feel like the rest of the fasting and prayers have helped him to truly rely on Christ to help make his burdens so much lighter. He feels that way now, and says he's closer to God than he ever has been before. That in itself is such a blessing so I'm so much happier about the whole situation. The people I love most here are all going through something so similar, so it's been kind of a heavy thing for me and Sister Gochnour but our prayers have become so much deeper and sincere. And our love for these people has grown more each day.

Laughed: We had dinner at Jessica and Kahlil's house on Thursday! Jessica's daughter Leah is getting baptized on Valentines day :) Her kids are Tye, Leah and Isaiah. SO cute! We taught them the Word of Wisdom and Tye was telling us about D.A.R.E. at school. He told us it stands for "Decide, Asses (like the swear word), Respond, Evaluate.". He could NOT figure out why we all were crying laughing when he said what A stood for and was so frustrated! That night was just amazing. Kahlil is just the coolest in all ways :)

Embarrassing moment: Sunday, we went to President Finnegan's house randomly for lunch. Their daughter Jessie was looking through my camera (awful awful idea) and suddenly freaked out. She had gotten to a picture I took of my super hairy leg :) I tried to save the whole thing, but nope. Somehow within that minute they all knew that I hadn't shaved since Octoberish, that I basically do this all the time and Sister Finnegan had seen the picture and everything. I pretty much just wanted to melt away right then. Just transfer me now! Unfortunately, I probably wasn't embarrassed enough cuz I basically plan to do that same thing next winter :)

Awesome moment: The Zone Leaders called us last night to tell me that they just had a meeting with the Stake President and Pres. Wirthlin and randomly, a man walked in and said "Sister Hallsted is amazing!!" I was pretty shocked when the ZLs told us that & kind of assumed they were joking. I guess Pres. Wirthlin said "Oh, I have a package for Sister Hallsted!" and gave it to the man to give to me. We're not sure who it was, but someone in the stake council thing. But I really needed to hear that at that exact moment, because sometimes I'm really hard on my self and it hurts my work effectiveness and the way I teach too. It felt SO great to know that, even though members here don't tell us they appreciate us, they do! Or at least that man does :)

It looks like ending your mission is a hard, hard thing to do and sometimes things are a little rough for Sister Gochnour. I love her a lot, but I may be the worst comforter ever, so pray for her and pray for me to be able to know how to comfort her during these next six weeks. Also, watch the weather reports because apparently there's supposed to be one of the biggest snow storms to ever hit the east coast coming. I don't believe it, but the stores were packed today and everybody's going crazy. Guys, I love all of you so much and, as much as I would love to be there with baby Quinn, I absolutely LOVE being a missionary here in Vermont. I can feel it stronger and stronger each day that this is where I am supposed to be.

Sure love ya,
Sister Brynnie Hallsted

"Ice cream is NOT worth our lives." -Sister Gochnour
"We can't have the baby be born on the same day as a black person!" -Sister Gochnour
"Decide, Asses, Respond, Evaluate." -Tye
"Mary Lou Morning Star Spirit Woman." -Mary Lou told us her middle name.

1. Had a b-day party for Quinn!!
2. Isaiah and Leah (Isaiah's kind of flipping us off when he's holding up his mustache) :)
3. Leah :)
4. Me and Michiko 


Monday, January 19, 2015

Bennington, VT #12 "Oh baby"

(Amanda's labor was in full swing as Brynn was writing this letter!)

Freakin' out...

Dearest Family,
It's hard to write a letter as my sister is having a baby :) If nobody even reads this weekly email because there's too much excitement, that's totally fine!! This niece is going to be the death of me. I have had an absolute roller coaster of a week, but my how much I love every single person here in Vermont. The whole branch knows I am freaking out about this baby and they've been so wonderful to me. Especially my companion! I have had more baby/birthing talk than I ever think I wanted and... I am now probably ready to birth a child myself.

This has been the longest week of my mission so far. But once I changed my attitude, we got some miracles! It felt like a super rough week but we somehow taught more lessons this week than ever! 31 lessons, almost reaching our obnoxious goals we always set for ourselves, but way surpassing our mission standards. I still don't know how... this transfer has been named #miracletransfer and I have this incredible feeling when I wake up in the morning that some big things are gonna happen this transfer!

So, yeah, we're staying together! President called us to tell us we're still Sister Training Leaders (woot woot) so we already knew when the Zone Leaders called us. Speaking of Zone Leaders, I guess there's a ridiculous tradition that the Bennington Sisters make them brownies week 5 for District Meeting and they give us icecream. So we wrote them a poem about how great we are and wrapped each line in tin foil and baked them in the brownies :) They called us later... apparently we're "baller". Yesss. 

On Wednesday, before we had district meeting, we had my 2nd Transfer Training which was amazing and spirit-filled, but I still don't really understand why they have those. I slipped on ice and biffed it on the way in :) On the way home, we tried eating the ice cream while we were driving.... stupid idea. We almost got in a crash. We ended the night wonderfully at the Behunin's house, as always. I think those Wednesday nights get better and better each time. I've told Brother B that I have to be here for Dylan's baptism because I love him more than any other sister ever has, but he has to finish some Catholic classes first before his mom will sign. I am praying SO hard for him to hurry and finish!

Saturday was our miracle day! We pretended The miracle was finding a former named Pat. The most beautiful old lady I've ever seen. She said the only reason she wasn't a Mormon was because she doesn't believe that coffee is bad. I said the prayer before we left, but had forgotten her name, which was super awkward cuz she asked me to pray for her. Haha We'll be back to see her soon!

Sunday was amazing because everyone we invited to church came! Also, Brother Behunin came and I just love him. It was the primary program which was hilarious. I loved seeing half the primary be children of our investigators :) Brother B is in charge of telling me when Amanda has her baby, and he got up in the middle of the program with his phone in his hand and walked over to sit by me. That gave me a heart attack! She wasn't born yet, just a text from mom :)

Last night I found out how much I love these people. We were at Jessica's house (recent convert) when we got the text from our branch president saying that her sons Sean and Jacen (our investigator) can't get baptized on the 31st unless both parents sign. Her ex-husband refuses to sign and is being awful about it. Jacen went and told Sean in the other room and you could hear him crying and yelling. It absolutely broke me when he came in and said "Why does my daddy hate me?" and started to sob. Then I started to cry, which was sort of embarrassing, because it was the kind of crying where I was like gasping for air. My heart literally hurt for these boys and Jess. I am so so grateful to have parents who love the church and support me. I totally take that for granted. We fasted for a lot of kind of personal things that are going on with our friends here, but we're going to fast again for the boys dad to change his mind and agree to let them be baptized. Please pray for them.

I can't remember everything in this crazy week, except that Leah is most likely going to be baptized Valentines Day!! That will be so cute. And we got extra brave and told Chad and Mary Beth that having their wedding on Valentines Day would be the cutest thing. Now they've switched and MB wants to do it, but Chad doesn't. He thinks it's too soon to tell his mom. MB basically bore testimony to him that she feels like Heavenly Father will help them with the mess that they're in right now if they just do it, because she knows that's what He wants for them right now. That made us so happy to hear her say that! Also, our investigator Brianna's mom randomly showed up at church yesterday too. Maybe as her mom starts coming, she'll want Brianna to be baptized :) Also, our old investigator Maggie came back from Boston today randomly and she's been wanting to get baptized for a while! If we can get her to stop smoking like Charlann did, she will be baptized. I love her, so that'd be amazing to see!

This has been a super wild for me and we counted it up and concluded that I've cried more this week than I have my whole mission. I have been so so worried about this baby, especially with her being so late (and sad that I'm missing her being born...), but having Brother B texting you guys has helped me an unbelievable amount! I am so happy she's finally coming!!! We are constantly praying for Manda and her baby here in Vermont! I sure love you all so much!


Sister Hallsted

"Did you already marry Jesus?!" -Charlann to me :)
"I find the fact that you don't know how to order your eggs refreshing." -Brother B
"I could be a great country singer, but I'd rather just stay home and take care of my cat. I give him free concerts." -Mary Lou
"Do you want a boyfriend?" "I would LOVE one!" -Michiko
"I often fall asleep on the toilet for so long that my legs cramp up... then I can't get off of the toilet!" -Char
"The Holy Ghost is haunting me." -Hannah Grace (Yes! That's her name too!)
"Yeah, I'm poopin'!" -Sister Thao yells from the bathroom. "Good to know!" -Me

1. Charlann fell asleep during our lesson so we had a photo shoot around her for like 20 minutes. Haha!
2. Our poem to the Zone Leaders :)
3. Eating our ice cream sandwiches.
4. Our usual walk through the cemetery but in the pouring rain. I LOVED it!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bennington, VT #11: TOGA TOGA TOGA

Dearest Family,
This week has been super crazy, but I have grown TONS! This subject line is what we chant with the Zone Leaders. Our zone is the first Saratoga Zone that's ever been created so the ZLs call us the "Toga Originals". They're super silly, but we're all really proud of it.

FIRST EXCHANGES AS A STL!!! We packed them all in one week because they couldn't fit anywhere else and we will never ever do that again. Me and Sister Gochnour missed each other terribly and we were just exhausted by the end.

Glens Falls exchanges started Tuesday with SISTER NORTH! When we met, she was crying because she didn't want to go..... That made me kind of nervous, but I was still pretty sure she'd love it and she did!! We basically had just too much fun and saw some "mircles mircles" with OYMing which was cool for her.

We exchanged back at Zone Training Meeting on Wednesday. We decided I'd better not drive all the way to Saratoga because of the stress it caused me just on exchanges just around Bennington. Haha! I'm scared to see my Senior companion days. This ZTM was beyond incredible, guys. It seemed to be a turning point for SO many in our zone. It was about the role of the Spirit in conversion, but seriously everyone got out of it something totally different.. exactly what they were needing. The Spirit was SO strong and you could feel that each missionary was overcome with their own spiritual experiences. 

Sister Gochnour and I gave a small portion of the training. We all went around to each room and talked about how each part of growing up in the church has played a role in our conversion. I did primary. I couldn't tell if I was more nervous or just really overcome with the Spirit. I basically abandoned my plans for what I was going to say at the last second and I was pretty emotional. I am soooo grateful for all of the things that my wonderful primary kiddos taught me when I was their teacher. I had dreams about them a few times this week :) What the Spirit wanted me to learn the most from ZTM was that Christ doesn't need a flawless, stylish, beautiful sister in Bennington, He needs a disciple. And He needs me to be that for Him forever. Lately I've been wondering why missionary work doesn't feel as foreign as I thought it would and I think I've realized that missionary work is truly no different than being the members we're supposed to be. We all promised to represent Jesus Christ all the time when we were baptized and each week we make that same covenant during the sacrament. 

And with Sister Gochnour leaving next transfer, I've thought about when I come home and what I want to be like. We like to say that missionaries shouldn't ever need to "adjust" back to normal life. Others should be adjusting to missionary life. Man, if every future missionary, especially, made a conscious effort to always represent Christ, there would really only be the physical adjustment to a missionary's life necessary.

During our interviews with President Wirthlin, he told us both that we were staying and that I should be ready to train after this transfer with Sister Gochnour (ahhhhhh!). He's just too cute not to tell us where we're all going, but I'm still nervous for Transfer Calls this Saturday because you never know what will happen. That would be the dream transfer for me and training the next would be a super awesome, stressful growing experience!

We exchanged with the Saratoga sisters after that and they are just super solid. I was with Sister Mason here in Bennington again and probably the greatest thing was just praising her. I think she's amazing and I let her know what everyone else says about her. She's felt really inadequate and now... I hope I didn't make her prideful :) We had a super powerful lesson with Chad and MB where, for the first time ever, we both felt prompted to boldly ask them when they're planning on getting married so they can get baptized already. They can't do it financially, but it's sooo close! I told them I have to be here to practice my wedding planning skills. So hopefully Chad will find a job soon!

The next exchange was with Albany. This was SOOO crazy. I went to Albany with Sister Thao. Downtown Albany (love it cuz it sounds like Downton Abbey) was basically terrifying that first night! Hahaha There were absolutely no white people and it basically just looked like a smaller Manhattan. Made me miss New York City pretty badly. So, these sisters just barely switched with the elders because a sex offender had just gotten out of prison and moved into their old apartment. The police came and told them and President said they had to move. So, they've just white washed for the second time in one transfer! The elders left them no investigators too... We tried really hard to find one, but it didn't happen. Got some potentials though!

I had a dream that night in Albany about a way to do OMYing. I am loving my dreams lately!!! So, we tried it the next morning and it was just awesome!! At the end of the exchange I decided I want to be in Albany sooo badly someday. 

For the OMYing opportunities and the amazing, adorable people I met! Here are some of the names on their board so you can get an idea: Gala Fobbs, Tirrell (met him. sups cool.), Dushon, Norboto Rivera, Janero, Thakyi Kyaw, Sayblu (my favorite), Arabia, Rhamati and the Yarleque Family. I can't even describe how much of a culture shock it was to be there in Albany, but I fell in love with it so fast. It's ghetto enough that Sister Thao almost had me convinced that President made them wear bullet proof vest when they walk in this one area. I wish I had time to explain all of our adventures in Albany and the drive there and back with this senior couple that may or may not want to kill us right now... We left our cell phones in the other person's car both times we exchanged and the Senior couple had to drive all over to try to catch us... it was so so bad and Sister Gochnour was stressed out of her mind. I thought it was hilarious! We gave them cake... so it was okay :)

All of our exchanges got pretty shafted just because we're sooo far away from everyone. But we made the most of it and used driving time for all of the interviews, except Albany's. Apparently Vermont is really different than New York, but I won't believe it till I see it :)

Sorry this is sooo long! I am loving being a missionary, especially this week with exchanges!!! Thank you everyone for all you have done for me, especially the help I've received to get me on this mission!

Love you all,

Sister Brynn Hallsted

  1. Me and Sister G being super cold :)
  2. With Sister North at ZTM! (Cute little Elder Kelly being held up by our District Leader, Elder Holt in the background)
  3. Super fun picture of me and Sister North
  4. eating pizza just like being in NYC!
  5. Posing on a random gross couch in Albany.
  6. I freaking love Sister Thao
  7. On the bus in Albany.
  8. Definition of Sister Thao. Her desk :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bennington, VT #10 "heavenward"

Dear Family,
There is so much that happened this week. We cannot believe how long ago it feels like we emailed. And I forgot my planner at home so I can't quite remember everything. But, this subject title comes from New Years Eve. Sister Gochnour and I have been on a roller coaster of emotions this week, but I've grown a lot! On New Years Eve, we tried to stop by Tina's but her son said she was in the hospital :( Super depressing for us. Sister Gochnour was kind of sad all day because 2014 was ending and along with it, her mission. I was just thrilled to start my year of missionary work, so it was hard for me to relate and help her. We stopped at a gas station and sat in the car summing up 2014 to help her. We bonded tons from it. We also decided our word for the year. As a substitute for New Years Resolutions that never get done, Sister Gochnour's family each chooses a word each year that stands for what they hope to work on for the next year. I LOVE that and will do that forever. So, my word is "heavenward". I want my thoughts, words and actions to always point towards heaven and as I do so, align my will completely with Heavenly Father's. I want me and heaven to be one :) 
We then went to the Behunin's and had dinner and made gingerbread houses with a lot of people! Best new years I've ever had! Charlann was there, a super crazy rcla couple named Chuck and Barb and Mary Lou (the cat lady). So, it was a party full of swear words, no teeth and non stop talking about cats.

Thursday afternoon we left for MLC!!! It was basically the funnest thing ever. We slept on the bunk beds with Sister Sigleer from the MTC and her companion. She missed my sleep talking. I missed her laugh so much. I taught the Restoration in my sleep just last night! I feel like MLC made me feel really small, but also excited for the potential that I have to someday become like these old, incredible missionaries. I've been working on having more charity towards other missionaries, especially elders, and I learned tons at MLC of how to have that more! I actually contributed to the meeting and Sister Gochnour quoted my theme of "zoom out and refocus" and they put it on the MLC notes to give out to everyone :) I made lots of friends there, and people told me they were shocked that I had only been out for a couple months. Made me feel a lot better! President Wirthlin was really emotional that day. He cried every time he spoke. At the very beginning he said he felt inspired to tell us who the new mission president would be. I guess he had just gotten the email but he told us not to tell. I'm excited to have two mission presidents to learn from, but I'm kind of sad to think of President Wirthlin ever leaving. Apparently he's one of the oldest mission presidents and the strictest! I like all of the rules, so it will be strange if the new president changes anything in July.

We got back late Friday night and then got to work on Saturday! We stopped by so many people and picked up an awesome new investigator Charlie. He's a Mexican man in his 20s that just got out of jail. He was a headquarter referral from forever ago I guess and he just randomly texted us and told us he wanted to meet! He seemed super promising to Sister Gochnour. He's the first totally sane person I've taught so I was kind of scared! Haha! There were huge snow storm alerts in Utica so the APs and Zone Leaders were calling us a lot asking us how it was here. It really wasn't bad so we continued with our plans to go to the Branch Mission Leader's house and go teach the Less Actives in his area like we do every Saturday. The rule is to pull over and stop driving if it's snowing, but we decided to just be super careful. We were almost there when the Zone Leaders called us and told us President wants everyone to cancel their lessons and be in their apartments as soon as we can. We had already driven 45 minutes and weren't turning around so the ZLs said they'd kill us if we got in a crash. Well, it ended up being a waste anyways because our Mission leader guy didn't want to go out because of the storm and forgot to call and tell us. We made it home safely and since all missionaries were inside, we had a conference call with the ZLs and the district leaders in our district. Which basically meant me and Sister Gochnour painted our nails while we listened to them :) It was weird to have to say a prayer over the phone to everyone. 

We didn't get to see all the people we wanted to this week because of meetings, planning and the snow storm. We still met our standards of excellence for the mission, but not the goals we set... but I hope next week will be amazing with exchanges and Zone Training Meeting. I'm a little bit nervous because I have to give a small part of the training, but the rest of it sounds like it's going to be amazing. Every single week brings something totally new that I've never done before, but it seems that's what a mission is all about. Thanks so much for your prayers and letters and love :) I am SO grateful for the family and friends that I have. My mission has stretched my heart more than I ever thought and increased my love even more for all of you!
See you next week!
Love, Sister H

1. Accidentally crossed mission borders into Massachusetts (little sign in the back). Tell no one!
2. Gingerbread Bennington temple that we made on New Years Eve.