Monday, February 27, 2012

And then there was none.

This is it. The final one. The time where I have to wrap up all of my thoughts and feelings from this 18 month experience and try and express how it feels to do that. The time to prepare for the rest of my life. The time to reminisce about my mission. I love my mission. Every. Single. Minute. This is the time for me to realize what I have learned, and to decide how I am going to apply that education to my life. The time to realize that I won't be Sister Brinkerhoff in a couple of days, and to evaluate and decide how I will still incorporate Sister Brinkerhoff into plain ole' Bailee... I'm a little nervous to be Bailee again.

Saturday night we had dinner with Abuelo. A farewell dinner. He gave me a necklace, wrapped in an adorable little box with ribbon. I saved the card to read later in the night. We had a delightful time. He is sad I am leaving... and he was such a gentleman to us at dinner. He is the kindest man in the world. When we got home, I was kneeling down waiting for Sis O-Taquita to get out of the bathroom so we could pray and start our planning session. I read his card while I waited.... And then it happened. I just sobbed and sobbed. And sobbed some more. Sis O-Taquita didn't know what to do so she just gave me a hug... I don't want to leave these people.

But then I hear about my nieces Volleyball tournament that I get to go to this weekend and I remember that there are people who I love so much waiting for me... it makes it a little better.

We had a huge miracle this week. We felt prompted to have Abuelo come to the VC for a lesson. During the lesson, Sis O-Taquita and I looked at each other and we both knew we needed to invite him to be baptized for this weekend... just four days from then. Abuelo said he would think about it. And then he asked if I would be his Madrina. (It's a Catholic thing... look it up.... super sweet) So then we decided, after he had left, that we needed to fast for him. We just started right then and fasted that Abuelo would get his answer about being baptized. I mean it has been 7 months that he has been investigating and he is SO ready just doesn't think he has gotten an answer. SO... we ended our fast and Abuelo called that night and said "I had a dream last night that I told Sis Brinkerhoff I was ready to be baptized, and I was so happy." He said he was ready. It was incredible! What a huge miracle! He got his answer. He said "I hope I can be a good member of the church. I can't believe this is happening... Me, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Abuelo will be getting baptized in a few weeks. It didn't quite work for this last weekend because we need some more preparation for him... But such a miracle that he is ready to be baptized.

Last night was the "Departing Missionary Fireside". It was incredible. So many people there who I just love so much. Those people have changed me... investigators, members, recent converts, friends I met at the VC.... so many memories and experiences and so much love. I just sat up on the stand looking around catching RWLJ's eyes, Quadra blowing kisses at me, Abuelo giving me a big smile. The miracle of Kasey... Anastasia came too. People from all of my wards and areas. So many people that I just love. Singing "Savior Redeemer" was pretty hard. The hardest it's ever been... My voice got a bit wobbly if you know what I mean. All of us sang "Abide with Me tis Eventide" in Spanish and "How great thou art". We all bore testimony too. Of course, my luck would have me bearing my testimony right after my song so I was kind of awkward and said, after the song ended, "Well... I guess I'm not going anywhere. I'm gonna bear my testimony now. Thanks, Assistants!" I felt so much joy as I bore my testimony of the Savior, of the plan God has for us, of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and for the opportunity I have had to be a servant of God and preach His gospel. I was able to talk with all of these people afterwards, although with not at all enough time to spend the time I wanted with each of them, and I was so happy. People that I will remember forever... They are all a part of me now.

To express my feelings.... I am stealing an idea from my person.

From Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 and from the brain of Sister Brinkerhoff:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, and a time to die...

Ahhh... Mission lingo. I am "dying" as it goes in the mission field. I was "born" in Santa Monica a year and a half ago, October 2010, and I am "dying" in Brentwood Feb 2012. I came with a serious case of pride, and an attitude that I was going to baptize the whole world. All. By. Myself. Little did I know that I would have a serious slap of humility and that I would soon realize I needed some serious help from my Father in Heaven to do His work. And this is HIS work. Not mine. I know that I can't do anything at all by myself, that I need His help in every aspect of my life. I will never forget the first day I tracted with my trainer, Sis Browning. We talked to some very interesting people and I thought "You have got to be kidding me". I will never forget inviting Daniel to be baptized and him saying yes. Meeting Jae. Teaching RWLJ and being able to see him throughout my mission. What a blessing! I will never forget the lessons I have learned from the Santa Monica 1st, UCLA, Westwood 1st and Santa Monica 2nd wards. My whole mission was within 5 miles. Pretty crazy and very rare. I also spent my whole mission half of the day at the Visitors Center. Something I did NOT want to do in the beginning. I learned very quickly that this is a place of miracles, a place I wanted to be. Most of the other sisters have served" off site" and I never did. I'm not sure why... but I am sure that that is what God wanted for me. I might have a different picture of my mission than others, but it is my picture and I like it. I spoke all types of people.... from every part of the world. Every day at least one from another country. I told people who Jesus Christ was. People who had no idea who this man was because they came from a country where He is not very well-known. I realized really quickly that the person I was needed to change and realize what the most important things were. It's a work in progress, but I am closer nonetheless. I have realized how blessed I have been. What a wonderful family I have. What wonderful parents I have. And I realized that Heavenly Father is a real being, that He loves me and knows me perfectly. I would be fulfilling the mission HE wanted me to do. Not the mission I thought I should do.

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal: a time to break down and a time to build up...

Now these verses have quite a lot of meaning for me. I planted seeds every single day. I hope. There were times where I was frustrated, wanting to eat the fruit from the tree that I had planted, but sometimes I had to trust that someone else needed to be the one to teach that person. There were times I was able to pluck delicious fruit! Wonderful people who accepted the Gospel. There were times where I cried and cried, wondering what we were doing wrong and why no one wanted to listen to us. Wondering why people wouldn't change. I was healed on many occasions by the Savior. I was healed through others, I was healed through Priesthood Blessings, I was healed through prayer. I was healed by reading the Book of Mormon. Participating in the Lord's harvest is a remarkable thing. He can see his WHOLE field, while we can only see the 2 feet in front of us. But we have to trust that the field that He see's is beautiful and perfect. That every part of the field is being harvested as well and that eventually we will all be able to enjoy the harvest together. I think of Susan and how we were there for each other to help heal each other. I think of Skeema who I wanted SO badly to heal, but she wasn't ready for it yet, wasn't ready to not be hurting. I think of My lovely Goldie... Who I just prayed and prayed for.... And oh the things I learned from her. I think of how the Lord had to break me down several times to build me up again, hopefully getting more strong with each build. I have learned that God will always heal us and will always give us an opportunity to grow...

a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance

Oh the weeping. And oh the laughing! There was some dancing too.... Remember "Bye bye bye" with the WW 1st ward boys. Or moon walking in the front of the VC and getting the evil eye and a "Sister Brinkerhoff...." from E. Macdonald. Or teaching Sis Browning "Say yes" and laughing and laughing and laughing. Oh the laughs with the sisters... and the tears in special moments. Tears with people I barely met. Tears for people who I wanted to just save, and then tears knowing that they had to choose for themselves, there was nothing I could do. I will never forget singing for Mike.... and then him deciding to be baptized and asking me if I would sing the song that had inspired him to be baptized at his baptism. I will never forget singing for Sis Woods in the nursing home and her saying "I think about you all the time... how you used to sing for me...." with half-opened eyes while she struggled to stay awake. I remember singing with Sis Bodily in church, at meetings, and at the VC. I remember singing with different elders for different occasions. I remember crying for joy when I would hear about miracles happening at home. Growing closer to my Mom with every e-mail. And closer to my Dad with every prayer. I know he is proud of me. Both of my Dads... both somewhere far away, but oh so close.

A time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep, and a time to cast away

The first thing I thought of when I saw this one was that this was a time of "getting" and now at home it will be a time for "losing". I'm talking about weight. Wow. The food. Always food. Always treats. Always gifts with chocolate everything... The kitchen at the VC was my biggest nightmare and best friend all at the same time. There was always something there to get me in trouble. And the times we sisters just wanted to pig out because we could. We couldn't go shopping or even go watch a movie, so instead we would pig out. Nice. It is a time to "cast away".... For sure. I think of trying to make Sis Henry get rid of things, and rejoicing when she would say yes. I also think of those who weren't quite ready to receive the Gospel. Their time for "keeping" will come. I am definitely coming home with a much more trust in Heavenly Fathers plan than ever before. I know the getting, losing, keeping and casting away is all a part of it. In every sense of the words...

What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? I have seen the travail, which god hath given to the sons of men to be excersized in it. He hath made everything beautiful in his time.

I want to thank you all for being with me on this journey. Thank you for your prayers, love, support, jokes, and even some visits :) I hope you all know that I have a testimony of my Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives and loves us. I am so grateful to have been a missionary and to be able to serve these people. I love them. I will forever remember my mission in LA... Thanks for joining me.

See you soon :)

Sista Brink

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Speaking of cookies.... there have been too many in my life these days. That's all about to change in a couple weeks. Or maybe it will just get worse.... Yeah, probably worse. Mom, careful with the cookies. I've had enough for the last 18 months to last a lifetime. All I want is a yummy sugar cookie that first day back.... Mmmm....

And then it was week 6...

Every transfer is broken down by weeks in our planner. So it's always like "wow... it's all ready week 4!" etc. Week 6 came all to quickly this time. My planner ends in 7 days, and they aren't going to give me a new one to decorate and get all bent and dirty by the end of the transfer. I will move on to other planners, that don't say "missionary daily planner" on it. I do have a fantastic array of planners... it's fun to look at all of them and remember what I was doing a year ago. I do have to say (Thats mine and Sis O-Taquita's favorite phrase right now) that I really have gained a testimony of the importance of planning on my mission. I think I was a pretty good planner before, but now, I am a HUGE planner... I think it's a good thing. Maybe a little too intense sometimes, but honestly, what can you expect from me. Anyways, the bottom line is, I'm sad that I don't get any more missionary daily planners. I guess now I will have to have a life planner. Ahhgfkjlsk, scary.

I think this transfer has gone by faster than any other one. And it's the one I DIDNT want to go by fast! Thats just the way the cookie crumbles... ah... cookies again...
It was a great week! The Lord is really blessing us in Brentwood. We did go back to see the family we found, but the kids and husband weren't there. But we set a for sure appointment for this week! Hooray! She( Mom) was really excited about it, too. She is going to read the "Family a Proclamation..." before then, and she seemed really interested to see what it was all about. I really do feel that the Lord led us right to her that day. What a miracle! I have prayed to find a family my entire mission. The Lord answers prayers. Definitely in his own time and own way, because I would have LOVED to find a family a year ago that I could actually see get baptized... but this will work too :)

We had a great lesson with Abuelo this week. It was definitely the best so far... The ward is working on getting him hometeachers, so hopefully that will happen soon and help him along towards baptism. We can't continue to teach him often if he doesn't set a date, but he still comes to church, etc, so if he has hometeachers, they will be able to help him progress spiritually instead of us. BUT hopefully he will be baptized in the end of March. When I told him I was leaving, he started crying a little. He said "Can I fit n your suitcase?". That was the first time it really hit me that I am leaving. I am leaving these people that I have just absolutely fallen in love with. He came to the concert at the Visitors Center and I cried a little knowing that that was the last time I would sit with an investigator at a concert and just enjoy whatever we were watching, because the spirit was strong. It has never mattered if the people were super fantastically talented or if their performance was just superb, what has mattered is if our people felt the spirit. And they always did, and they always will. A very sweet member from the ward who is a very special man, one of those people you know will go straight to the Celestial Kingdom,  came too and he said "Sister Brinkerhoff... I'm really gonna miss you, you know that." And then he walked away. And then the tears really came. I went outside to look at the temple and just thought "I don't want to leave... I can't leave..." and the tears flowed a bit.

Do you remember me telling you about the woman who I called for months and months and then she finally met with us my last week in Bel Air? She is getting baptized in March. She came to the concert, too. She pulled me aside a couple weeks ago and just said "Thank you for stalking me. My life is changed...". Haha, kinda funny, but true, I did stalk her. I really can look back and see that I was prompted by the spirit to keep trying. I didn't get to teach her but one time, but even just to be a little part of her conversion is an amazing feeling. I really love her a lot. The changes she has made in her life are absolutely inspiring, you have no idea.

Polly came to our ward finally yesterday! It was such a surprise. I was sitting there, kind of sad that she didn't come, but then during sacrament she came and sat by us! It was such a blessing! I was soooo happy to see her. She stayed all 3 hours and I think she really enjoyed it. Everyone was super kind to her and she is going to a relief society event this week. Hooooooray! We had dinner with her and her friend Friday and it was super fun, too. Really authentic Italian in a TOTAL "Brentwood" scene. Seriously... you have to experience it to understand.

Last Wednesday we had our "Departing Training" and all of us departing missionaries and Pres and Sister Baker went to the temple. It was so great. The training was all about what to do when you go home, etc. It was sort of overwhelming to think about. It was mostly about how our pattern as a missionary is completely set, without any doing on our part. Now, going home, we have to set a new pattern. I definitely knew how to set my own patterns before, so maybe that will be an advantage, but it's a totally different ball game after having had this kind of a pattern. It will take some adjusting to. Just the way the cookie crumbles... Ah! The Cookie! The temple was amazing. I love going to the temple. I know it is a House of God. Attending the temple will definitely be a part of my pattern. Hold me accountable!

Little Visitors Center tender mercy... a girl who I talked with and taught a year ago here came back and told me she was baptized on Valentines Day. Ah! So cool. When I taught her, she was having such a hard time with things and was VERY unsure about the truthfulness of everything... when I saw her this week, she was completely different. Such a glow and a light. Soooo cool what the Gospel does for people! See attached picture.

Have to tell you about... We will call him... King. King came into the VC a whilllllle ago to argue about the church. He was homeless, and was once a member of the church. We all talked to him. (now that I'm writing about this I think I have all ready told you about him... anyways...) Flash forward to the picture I attached. He got a job. He knows the Book of Mormon is true and he is changing his life compltely around. AMAZING. He came to say bye before he left for his new job. None of us recognized him without his beard and lonng hair. So cool.

RWLJ played his final piece for us! It was AMAZING! Zephir in A: Journey to the Light, a Valentines Card for the missionaries. It was so sweet. I am so grateful that God let me and RWLJ become friends. He is such a huge blessing in my mission and my life! I cried when I thought I won't see him every Tuesday anymore. I will be back, though, and I promised him he can give me a "squeeze" that is so hard that all of my "Brinkerfluff" will go everywhere and we will have to put me back together. RWLJ, you are the best. Thank you.

I look forward to another week as a missionary. What an experience... I will hold these memories and experiences in my heart forever. Thank you all for your love and support! You are all the best.

Sista Brink

Court: your letter today made me cry a lot. I am totally going to steal your idea.... so stay tuned for next weeks e-mail. It will be the last one, hopefully a good one....

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Season of Love

Happy Valentines Day everyone! I wonder when that day will actually have significance in my life.... It definitely doesn't mean anything as a missionary other than the fact that it is impossible to set appointments with people which is REALLY annoying. And if you've ever tracted on a holiday, you know that people don't exactly love it when we knock on their doors these kinds of days.... BUT it's good because we can find people at home! So, there are lots of good things about it too... But to all those who have a reason to celebrate Valentines Day, HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

Twas a good week! My time is ticking, which gets sadder and sadder especially because it seems like there are all of these great things happening right now right when I'm about to leave.

I have been able to call people from my old places and wards and invite them to my Departing Fireside. It's super fun because I haven't talked to some of them in a year! I realized, in making these lists of people that I wanted to call, that there are so many people, members, investigators, converts, people I met at the Visitors Center, that I absolutely LOVE and know I was supposed to meet them here. It's a neat thing to experience, meeting someone who you really know you promised you would meet and help and be helped by. Heavenly Father is amazing.

We had a good week. One experience stands out. We dropped an investigator, Princess, because we realized her intentions really weren't with "real intent". Although she was doing what we asked, she didn't really have any desire to really change in order to return to God. So, it was difficult, but we had a good conversation with her... and then the next day, when we should have been meeting with her according to our plans, we went tracting. We decided to tract in a wealthier area and just got rejection after rejection. It didn't help that I was seriously drugged up because I had a super bad chest cold, so I was literally concentrating on keeping my eyes open. We even got "shoo-ed" by a woman from inside her window. We kept waving, and she kept shoo-ing. It was pretty hilarious. And then, right when we were about ready to leave back to the Visitors Center, a woman was moving stuff from her car to her house. We went to help, she let us help and invited us in. She is a young Mom, though her husband and 2 boys weren't there. She said we could come back! What a miracle! We are excited to teach them about Family Home Evening first and then invite to learning more about the Restoration. I thought it was really amazing because we felt that the Spirit wanted us to let Michelle go for a while, and because we followed the Spirit, we really were in the right place at the right time to meet this lovely woman. Miracle! Blessing! We are very excited. God is so good.

Polly is progressing well, we love her....

Abuelo is darling. But we didn't get to meet with him this week.... We just did lots and lots of tracting this week which was really fun. It's so fun to talk to all sorts of people and hear about their lives and what not. There are a lot of people out there, not sure if you knew that. It's a big world. (I think that's a quote from Toy Story by big Al....)

A guy on the street told us Whitney Houston died. It's funny how we seriously have no idea whats going on in the world. Pretty sad, she was such a talent!

SO EXCITED FOR ROB GARDNER! Oh my gosh. And I am one of his FRIENDS. Can't believe it. What a huge blessing!! CONGRATS ROB!

I love the Book of Mormon. But you all ready knew  that, right? I think that my mind gets filled more and more every time I read it.

I want to make a list of the things that I love right now. To honor the holiday. I don't have to celebrate but I can honor it. And it doesn't have to be about romance anyway.

I LOVE the Book of Mormon
I LOVE my Savior
I LOVE the Gospel
(OK these are all inevitable....)
I LOVE Pink Berry
I LOVE my bag from Sis Saiz's Grandma. It's adorable.
I LOVE running
I LOVE seeing people change
I LOVE to change
I LOVE to teach the Gospel
I LOVE Stephanie Nielsens Mormon message
I LOVE all of my friends here and at home
I LOVE my companion. Taquita.... she's the best.
I LOVE the Santa Monica 2nd ward.
I LOVE smoothies
I LOVE my new skirt from Leah. So comfortable.
I LOVE shopping.
I LOVE our investigators and members.

 Anyways. Gotta go, LOVE YOU ALL!

Sista Brink

Monday, February 6, 2012

Zone Conference, Princesses and Living Legends

Last Monday seems like it was years ago.

Hey guess what?! It's February 6th. That is CA-RAZY. That means it's.... 8 days until .........Valentines Day! Hahaha... one of those days that means absolutely nothing to me at this time. Maybe someday. Although I do have a great Valentine, my little Taquita.

This week was really great. Ups and downs like any other week, but great.

I did learn a very valuable lesson. I can't buy Nutella. Just can't do it. Not now, not ever. I bought it last Monday and have given it away all ready. Me and Nutella= unhealthy relationship.

My last Zone Conference... Oh my goodness, it was amazing. I cried through the whole last hymn... I will never ever be in that setting as a full time missionary (besides Senior missionaries.... it's still not the same....) again. Ever. The Spirit and the insights and revelations that I have received at these conferences over the last 18 months have truly been sacred and miraculous. It is amazing how the Lord works through His servants. President Baker always says exactly what my crazy brain needs to hear. He talked a lot about our willingness to do the Lords will.... We might DO it, but are we doing it willingly? Definitely something that I looked at further and tried to see where my heart is. And I think it can't ALWAYS be willing, but I think the goal is to have it be more and more willing, with a less doing-it-because-I-have-to-and-I-know-I'm-supposed-to attitude. It really is about where our heart is... where our motivation lies, what we really want.... Heavenly Father knows. We have to be willing to do what he asks because we love Him more than anything else. More than the thing that we might be doing instead of the thing that Heavenly Father wants us to be doing. A little more willing everyday, and always using the Atonement in between. There were other trainings, of course, about preparation, planning, a GREAT talk about the Apostasy by Sis Baker (she is a master scriptorian)... It was just great.

The Living Legends came to the Visitors Center! I got to see the Young Ambassadors and the Living Legends while on my mission. Kinda crazy! It was really great. It was so fun to see my old friend Janielle again. She is just a lovely woman. I have always looked up to her. She is the director of Living Legends but does a lot for the YA camps in the Summers, so I have known her ever since I was a Jr. in High School. The Fireside was so powerful. Abuelo was there and he loved it. It is very interesting to be on this end of that situation. I was in their shoes, talking to the missionaries' investigators, trying to help them, for 2 years. And it was great! But now I have been on the other end, enjoying the music and the spirit from the audience, sitting next to my investigator, appreciating the words that the performers said to him afterwards. They both are great.... I am grateful I have had the opportunity to see my Investigators' lives blessed by both the Young Ambassadors and the Living Legends. I hope they realize how powerful what they are doing is. Their songs and words and testimonies truly can change lives. I have witnessed that on many levels.

Abuelo is still not setting a baptismal date. But he did say that he will choose a day in March, but he hasn't told us what it will be yet. PRAYYYYYYY for Abuelo!

We are teaching a new investigator... we are going to call her Princess... She was a former investigator, and was taught by a lot of missionaries. We thought we would just visit her, but then she wanted to learn more again and agreed to read and pray. She went to church yesterday, and she said it was good. It's a huge deal that she went because she did NOT want to tell her Jehovah's Witness friends that she was going to our church. But she did! And she is reading and praying. She needs to understand how much God loves her SOOOOO bad. She is just crying for that kind of love. We love her a lot, but there has to be a point where you realize that no love is like Gods love. She really is hilarious... oh my goodness. Someday if you want to hear Princess stories, ASK. They are the best.

Polly was unable to meet with us this week. Not much to update there.
We have been able to be very successful in finding new investigators with tracting around appointments! It's been great! We have really seen some great miracles. Saturday, we tracted around a missed appt and found a new investigator.We have found a few who said to come back without setting a time. It's great!
The other day we went to see a media referral, miraculously got into the apt complex, and couldn't figure out which apt he lived in because it wasn't with the referral text. We couldn't figure it out so we decided to knock some doors. The first we went to was a young man who said "Ah, LDS. I used to be Mormon". Come to find out, he was never baptized because his parents got divorced before he was 8 and he went with his mother who then left the church. He didn't really want to talk much, but I thought it was a huge miracle that we found him and that now he can be in the book and eventually he will be ready. God definitely led us there.

I have to say... Sometimes people try and tell us that we are crazy because of what we believe. Sometimes they think they are saving us from our beliefs by telling us how wrong we are.... And alls I'm sayin is we have the truth. We really really do. It is true because the Book of Mormon is true. It is true because God still speaks to a prophet. It is true because we have the Spirit that tells us it is true. We are so blessed to know what we know.

I love you all muchoooooooo! Gracias por todo que hacen para mi!

Thank you for your support and prayers.

Sista Brink

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bye Bye January

MAN OH MAN! I can NOT believe that January is over. And then at the same time, Christmas seems like it was forever ago. I'm telling you, time as a missionary is soooo warped. I have this false thought that time actually stopped when I left back in 2010, that everything just stopped, and that everything will pick up when I get home again. So not true! Life has gone on! So weird... I mean, how could life go on without me? Alls I'm sayin.... :) (slightly kidding)

In all seriousness, time is an interesting thing. There never seems to be quite enough of it, and I think that's why the Brethren counsel us to use it with much care and wisdom. What we do with our time is a huge reflection of our character, I think. So that being said, I'm super excited to spend all of my time Mario Kart and Guitar Hero when I get home. Only kidding... I think that one of the things Heavenly Father really wants us to learn and understand is the principle of time, that we need to really think about the things that are the most important and prioritize our day according to those most important things. Being a missionary has definitely helped me understand priorities and planning around those priorities. I wish I could say that all of my priorities are now just in tip-top-perfect-shape, but they aren't. Just improved. Greatly improved.

Twas a good week.

Ok have a great week! Love you all!

PSYCHE. I don't know why I thought that was funny because you can see that I still wrote more. Whatevs... just go with it. I'm in a weird mood. Taquita (Sis Orellana) and I have been hard core runners lately. Even waking up early, which is hard to do. Especially for me because lets be honest, I LOVE SLEEP. Anyways, we run around and around and up hills and its HARD. Especially because Taquita is an all star runner. Anyways, we ran 5 miles today! It felt so great! I haven't done that in a reallyllllylllllyly long time. But I think I'm a little loopy because of it. But we are gonna do it again tomorrow. Haha. We are nuts, I know. But it has felt really good to get back running again. I have been running my whole mission but on a very pathetic and slow 1.5-2 miles a day around a parking lot level. I really love to run. My body hates it while I'm doing it. Today we were running up a particularly long hill and it was gruesome! Seriously so hard! But then we reached the top, and we turned left and had to go up an even steeper climb for a sec until finally we hit the down hill. And it was so refreshing and I was so grateful to be able to relax and run downhill for a while. BUT, we are still running, so it is still work. we don't just stop working or trying. I think thats how our lives are sometimes.... we have to really go through some hard things, and then even harder things at the climax of the hard thing, before we can finally make a turn and have some refreshment for a while. It's the way God keeps us humble, but also lets us know that he will never ever ever let it be too hard, or that he will never ever ever leave us continually going uphill, with no redemption, never able to feel the release. He will always come and let us run down hill for a while.

I actually feel like most of my mission has been that way. Very up and down. But the ups, in this case, have been the hard part. The parts where I was just going on pure faith, with hardly any strength. The parts where I was really wondering if I would ever make it to the top or feel that I was able to accomplish anything. The parts where Satan got in my mind and told me I can't do this, that I will never ever change, and that I might as well quit. But the down parts are where you finally get what you needed to learn, and then God is there and he helps you have a break for a second. And it makes all of the climbing worth it. Every single pain and frustration and heartache becomes worth it because of how good the down hill run feels. Because of how good the redeeming power of the Savior Jesus Christ feels in our lives.

I had one of these experiences this week. I was pretty frustrated.... "pretty" is an understatement major. I was on the brink.... and I needed to talk to my President. So I did, and it was really hard. I don't think I have actually ever felt so vulnerable in my life as I did that day. Just that really and completely, I need God every single day and I need to realize how much he loves me. Every single day. And it was definitely a hard climb... I actually feel like that day was the part of the run where the climb got a little steeper and really hard. And then the downhill came and I really feel that the Atonement of Jesus Christ came and helped me. And will continue to help me. I definitely will have another climb and another extra-climb at the climax, but I have hope that the release from the downhill will come. That if I just keep running, it will be an easier path to run. But I still have to keep on keepin on. I think that is what Christ is talking about when he says he will take our yoke upon him and make our burdens light. We still have to experience carrying the yoke, because if we didn't, we wouldn't learn a thing, BUT he will take it when we can't take it anymore. I love my Savior and I am so grateful for His atonement.

That was a really long saga. But I hope it made sense. It did to me, but then again, I'm a little crazy, so....

It really was a great week. We are teaching wonderful people. Abuelo and Polly are both progressing! Greatly! They are both thinking and praying about their baptismal dates which is wonderful. I really love them a whole lot. Polly is a little tender mercy for the end of my mission.... Pray that I will get to see her baptized. Either now, or in the future, doesn't matter. When the time is right. But.... just sayin.... it would be really nice if it was before the end of February... so... maybe keep that in your prayers..... :)

We got to speak in church yesterday. I spoke about the Book of Mormon and it really lit my fire for how important that book is again! Do we really realize what we are claiming? That because this book is true, our church is the only true church in the world. It's a pretty bold claim. BUT IT IS TRUE! Thats the amazing thing. We don't even have to try and prove it, the book is it's own proof (not my words, Ezra taft Bensons words). I really hope that we really understand how important this book is and how important it is that we share it with others! SO SHARE IT! Seriously, I would invite every one of you to really pray for an opportunity to share this book with someone the Lord will place in your path this year. Will you do it?! Good.

Allright, my time is up because I spent a really long time on my running analogy. Oh well.....

You are all the best. I really have the best friends in the world. Thank you all.

COURT- Thank you for the recorder! I all ready listened to it and it made me cry. Thank you. See you across the ocean!

Love you
Sista Brink

Monday, January 23, 2012

Transfer Fate

My transfer fate was actually really wonderful. Sis Orellana is my new companion and it was one of those "Ah, it would be great to be companions with her but that will NEVER happen because we are too good of friends and too much alike...." BUT it did happen! She is young in the mission, I am only her 2nd companion, but we are the same age and we love all the same things mostly. We run around the neighborhoods every morning and we cook all of our food together. It's quite adorable actually. She is awesome. I really feel like she is my little blessing for the end of my mission. We can really relate about a lot of things and we have a lot of fun. AND we work reallylllllllyllllyyyy hard which is great too.

A tribute to my lovely:
You know who you are.... I love you so much! I am so grateful I could serve with you and for the friendship that we developed. You taught me so much, but you know that. I hope everything is going well and that you are getting all taken care of. I can't wait to see you again and give you a big squeeze. You are incredible and I miss you, but I know that everything is going to be OK! You are an incredible person, friend, example, etc etc etc. I hope you know that. XOXOX

The week was great. Saying goodbye to my Moon Bear was sad, BUT she is right next door! So she comes-a-knockin every day just about and we see each other all the time. She rights me little notes and they ALL go in my journal because they are hilarious. My favorite part about Sis Moon is when she tells people that she is from Korea she always says "It's in Asia". hahaha. Adorable... (Court... your comment about it made me laugh so hard). Sis Moon was an incredible companion and I learned so much from her! I am so grateful I was able to serve with her for 6 weeks. The morning of transfers I woke up to Sis Moon shuffling around all nervously. She couldn't sleep so she had woke up and packed EVERYTHING to move. Hahaha. She was pretty nervous about moving over to Westwood but she is doing great and she will continue to do great things.

Sis Orellana is from Guadalajara Mexico (Cool, Mom, right?!) but she has lived in the states for 5 years so her English is great. And she is helping me con mi espanol. I was really excited to find out she was my companion. I had actually totally called it, but no one believed me. Maybe they should from now on....

I have to be honest, I'm pretty happy I never have to have a transfer drama night again. It's so stressful for everyone to wait and find out where they are going and who they're companion is. All of us sisters were actually in the same room when we found out, which was pretty funny because no one could hide their emotions about who they were going to be with, and their new companion was right there. Haha. Everyone seemed pretty happy though. It's always interesting to move areas and companions (I mean I wouldn't know much about the area part as I am only in my 3rd area. Hahah) Oh yeah, I stayed in Brentwood... if you didn't gather that...

E. Fillerup: We are working on that list. THANK YOU! We are actually going to see the Fred (you finish it) fam tomorrow and we are so excited. They let us come back after we said you sent us and they said they LOOOOOVE you. You are the best!

We have a new investigator who is amazing! We shall call her.... Polly. She is so great. And so humble... she has been through a lot and has a strong desire to know truth. I really love her a lot. We taught her yesterday after Stake Conference and it was really great. Stay tuned!

Yesterday our Stake Conference was a regional conference broadcast from Salt Lake. L. Tom Perry spoke, along with Barbara Thompson (MY FAVORITE), Steven R. Snow and Clay Johnson. It was really great! Abuelo was there and he liked it, as well as Polly. Our other people have kind of drifted off, they aren't super interested anymore, but that is ok. We are looking for God's elect and trusting that those people will definitely be taken care of.

OH MY GOSH! I MET PRESIDENT UCHTDORF! I'm not sure how it took my whole e-mail to bring that up. He just walked into the Visitors Center this week and went to the bathroom. Sis Orellana and I were eating and Sis Pintobean came back to get our new director E. Shakespeare (he was sitting with us) and she, very calmly, said "Elder Shakespear, Sister Shakespear needs you.... President Uchtdorf is here." Sis O and I looked at eachother in shock and then stood up so fast. He was so kind! See attached picture. (Yes, we were touching elbows) He was really funny and his wife is so great! I felt a strong presence while he was in the center. He really is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I know that for sure.

Anyways.... not much else to report on. I am so grateful to be a missionary. I love it so very much! It's weird to think that I won't be Sister Brinkerhoff anymore very soon... Very sad. I love the service that we about and I really do believe that it is the absolute most important thing in the world to prepare to live with our father in heaven and to help others do the same. I love this.

Thank you all for everything! I have the best friends and family in the world.

Sista Brink

Me and Sis> O
Sisters and E. Uchtdorf!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Final Countdown... (I hope you are singing that song in your head...or outloud. Preferably out loud.)

Hello all!!!

Yep, it is my final and last transfer as a missionary. Well actually, no.... it's the final and last transfer as a set apart missionary. I really hope I continue to be a missionary in all that I do! Missionary work takes many forms, thats for sure. There were some really great things that happened this week. Actually, thinking that last monday was just a week ago is kind of ridiculous. It's been a lonnng week.

We find out about transfers on Tuesday even though technically the 6 week period started today. I'm actually so calm and not really worried. I hope Korea stays with me... but I actually doubt it. But we will see! It's my last "transfer drama". It really is always so dramatic... everyone whispering about what is going to happen and blah blah blah. I don't do drama but I've realized something... drama seems to follow me wherever I go. It's a curse, I think.

We met with a new investigator this week. I think I will call him Prince. He was great! Our member was PERFECT and she added such a great testimony. He knows a lot about our religion, including the things that people try and hold against us... but he has an open heart. He has read the entire Book of Mormon and says "It is definitely spiritual, but I'm not sure it is scripture." I wish there was an easy way to help people understand that if it is anything good and inspiring, then it has to be from God.... we did talk about that, and he agreed to meet with us again. Good news!

Another small little miracle I would like to share with you. When I was in Bel Air, there was a woman in the area book that I called every single week (or texted) to try and see because I felt so drawn to her name. She would sometimes text back but would always say she was busy. So I kept on trying, almost out of frustration. But moreso, I just felt that I needed to be persistant with her. SO flash forward 8 months and she finally called us and said "Why do you keep calling me." I simply said "Because I know you need what we have..." and then I just bore a bold testimony, something I try to do but am sometimes a little fearful. She set an appt with Sis Green and I and we taught her once and then I was transferred.... so then flash forward again to yesterday when we went to take the Sacrament and there she was. AT CHURCH! We sat by them for the Sacrament, and then she visisted at the Visitors Center. It was just such a tender mercy to see that even though for 8 months she never called back or would meet with us, that it was totally worth it. Miracle.

Last night was the "Departing Missionary Fireside". I have only been to one other one on my mission... I was able to play the piano for some of the songs and it was really great to hear the testimonies of the departing missionaries. It's an awesome event. All of the missionaries' investigators, new converts, members from their areas come and support the departing missionary. It's a pretty miraculous thing that happens... a bunch of young men and women leaving home to come and wear skirts and suits for a long time to talk to people about Jesus Christ, and they change. They completely change. And the people they taught see these missionaries literally as angels. They love their missionaries. And we love our people. So much. The Spirit was very strong at the fireside. Abuelo came with us.... He was crying during the final hymn. He knows this is true. Everyone pray for Abuelo!

I got a message yesterday on my call center phone from a girl I taught with her missionaries here at the Visitors Center. She said "Hi Sister Brinkerhoff.. I was hoping you can come to my baptism today!". It was a sweet moment. I couldn't go, unfortunately, but she said "You will be here in spirit!". I felt so special that she wanted to include me on her special day. I love this.

The Macdonalds left. It was very sad. I cried a lot actually! I love them so much and am so grateful for everything they did for me and for the other sisters. They are absolutel incredible.

I have had some great experiences in the call center lately. Also a miraculous thing that happens. Someone is inspired at the VC to have us call their friend. We call. They become our friend. We talk about very important and spiritual things... Its so great. Right now I have an investigator via the phone who is 16 and awesome. He is so smart and wants to know truth. Well, my friend, this is where you can find it!

The Book of Mormon is TRUE. I promise. I love it so much. I am grateful for all of you and for being my friend.

Sista Brink

COURT: I hope my Mom told you YES! IM IN! Of course! Just work it out with her. IM SO EXCITED!

Sean:   대단하지만 가끔씩 이상할때가 있어, 인터뷰 잘 되기를 바래 ( 행운을 빌어 ) 넌 잘 할수 있을거야
편지 보내기를 바래
Goodbye Macdonalds :(
Abuelo, RWLJ and Korea at the Departing Fireside 
Goodbye Sis Decker!