Monday, September 23, 2013

Hello from Montrose!

I seriously just laughed so hard at your email!  You're such a creep!!!  But I love it!  And you're right, I am in the country.  We actually are the only sisters in the mission with a truck because we have to have one!  :)  So yeah, I'm getting a kick out of how I guessed I'd end up rural and here I am, rural PA!  ;)P  But I absolutely love it here!  The Branch is absolutely fantastic!  They actually have a calendar for the missionaries where the members have a night each month to feed us and then they come out with us for a lesson or two.  So when most missions are having problems with having too many investigators and not enough members, we have the exact opposite problem, we have plenty of members that are eager to come out and help us, but we don't have enough investigators to teach with them...  :/  And because of that, we're our focus in the branch, in our area, and even in our entire mission right now is member missionary work.  But I'll come back to that later...

I wrote you a short letter on our way back from Philadelphia on Wed, but we didn't get it sent until later, so I don't think you would have gotten it yet...  And I thought about not sending it and just having you read the email, but I think you'll get a kick out of it...  Anyway, I see that you already have my address (and that is the same address for packages too.  We have a porch so we can get packages plus we're never in Broomall unless there's a transfer, which I shouldn't be getting transferred until around Christmas), and our apartment is really big!  There's only myself and my companion, Sister Oveson, living there but I have an entire room for my closet!  :)  We also have a decent kitchen, but I haven't really used it since we get fed so much!  ;)  Anyway, Sister Oveson is from Nephi, UT and also loves music (YAY) but is also really into sports.  So its interesting...  We listen to a lot of music and we get a long really well.  She just finished being a Golden (that's what they call Greenies in the mission-I'm not a greenie, I'm a golden) so she gets a little nervous and self conscious sometimes...  She also doubts herself occasionally, but I love how well we work together!  She's an extremely hard worker and knows her stuff.  :)  So I'm learning a lot!  But she likes to tease me and ask how I can be learning so much when I came to the field so prepared.  ;)

Also in our area, there's a senior couple, the Crumps, who are from Bluffdale, UT and they are the nicest sweetest people!  We've seen them a lot this last week with the goings-ons of the Branch, and I just love spending time with them!  They also like to poke fun and tease me, so they feel like family!  ;)

As I said earlier, we don't have a lot of investigators...  We actually only have five right now, and we're thinking that one of them is dropping off...  :(  But!  We taught the first lesson to a new-ish investigator this week (they had met with him before and left him a Book of Mormon) and before we even started teaching him about the Restoration, he committed to being baptized on Oct. 27!!  Sis Oveson says that Goldens bring miracles, and that is one of them.  But he is so excited about learning as much as he can; its wonderful!!!!!  He actually went down to the stake center with us(and the Crumps) for a special fireside last night and so on our way back, we asked him about what he thought about the meeting and what questions he had.  I expected him to be confused since the fireside ended up being directed more at the members (and I'll get to that later...) but Jake said that he loved the meeting, that he didn't have any questions, and that it just 'seems right to him.'  Elder Crump then asked him about his baptismal date and Jake said that he was SO excited to be baptized!  O_o  And wait, there's more!  We ended up talking about his Book of Mormon reading and he told us that he's reading about 12-25 pages a day!!  Now you have to understand, Jake dropped out of high school and is not the reading type, but he's reading every day and he's generally reading 12-25 pages!!  When he said that, I was so excited I felt like I was going to jump right out of my skin!!!

However, its not all been so fantastic...  As I said, we have an investigator who we think is going to drop, we also gained a new investigator this week, but she didn't come to church and doesn't seem super interested in the Gospel.  We also went tracting for a while this week, and that was quite the experience...  So as I said, I really am learning an awful lot about myself and I'm learning a lot about teaching.  And although it isn't always easy, I really am loving every single minute of it!

One last thing...  Over the last two weeks, there has been a major focus on member missionary work.  In the MTC, we had a Elder Martino of the Seventy come and speak to us and his entire talk was about finding members to be our Amulek.  He talked about how much time Alma spent with Amulek to teach him and his family, and then they went out together sharing the Gospel.  And since coming out to the field, I found out that there is a new number goal that missionaries are to report daily and weekly for the church to keep track of...  Its called IBM, Individuals Brought by Members.  So up here in Montrose, we're challenging our members to invite friends to our dinner appointments or to invite them to come get a tour of the meeting house from the missionaries and various other activities we have.  And then last night, we had a special fireside by Pres. and Sis Andersen down at the Scranton stake center.  One of my favorite one-liners from them was that "You may be active in church, but you're less active in the Gospel if you're not doing what has been asked of us - to share the Gospel!"  And it is so true!  I'm finding over and over that there's only so much we can do as missionaries if the members don't do their part.  So as a full time missionary, I invite all of you to read Jacob 4:12-13 and do as it says.  Open your mouths.  Share you're testimonies!  I know its awkward and I know that its hard, but as you do it more and more, it gets easier.  Remember, every single person is a child of God and if you're not sharing the Gospel with everyone around you because of this or that, you're depriving them of the opportunity to know of Christ's Atonement, to use that in their lives, and essentially, you're not allowing them to come back to their Heavenly Father.  So seriously, I challenge you this week to read Jacob 4:12-13, think about someone who you know at least fairly well who is not a member or who is inactive, and find some way of sharing something with them and then invite them to act upon whatever it is you 'teach.'  You don't have to sit down and have a full on missionary discussion with them, but invite them to check out  Invite them to learn more about family history.  Invite them to come closer to Christ.

I love you all so much!  Thank you for all your wonderful support, I truly feel your prayers and know you're thoughts are with me!!

Sister Cottam  <3

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Alanna's first area is in Montrose, PA.  She is in a branch in the Scranton Stake.  We got an email from her mission office to let us know her address and a photo of her with President and Sister Anderson. 

Her new address is:

Sister Alanna Cottam  (always use the missionary's first name)
42 South Main Street
Montrose, PA  18801

When she was in the MTC she informed me that missionaries only anticipate having 30 minutes on their P-Day to be on the computer.  With that being the case, she asked that, if at all possible, please send her "SNAIL MAIL" letters.  Although she would love emails, with such a short time available she wants to spend the time writing and not reading and then digesting the information from all of her friends and family.  Made sense to me, even though in today's electronic age, it will definitely be more difficult.  Please take the time to send our wonderful missionary your love and supporting words through the snail mail.

We haven't yet heard from Alanna (we hope to get an email on Monday which I will post), on the map Montrose is in the farthest most part of her mission.  It looks like only the Susquehana branch is further away from the mission home.  Montrose is considered a borough and located in Susquehana County, PA.  It will be interesting to hear what, if any, church history is nearby.  The population is not quite 2,000.  Which means - Alanna is in the COUNTRY!  

Below are some pictures so you can see some Google pictures of her area.  From what I can tell, some of these may be 4+ years old, but it at least gives us an idea before I can actually post pictures from her.

Although not a picture of her mission, per se, it gives a sense of where she is in relation to Philly.

This is Alanna's home in Montrose.

Fracking Montrose, PA, This is downtown Montrose.

Lake Montrose

On the way from Montrose to the Church building on Route 706. 

OK, so it feels kind of creeper-ish to be checking out all the photos, but it's good to have some idea of the area.

She is seriously out in the country - fields of corn, barns, farm houses, lots of lakes, lots of trees...
And it should be absolutely BEAUTIFUL within the next few weeks.  She will be so excited to spend fall in New England!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alanna is obviously loving life at the MTC.  A couple of things to pass on...
Mom sent a box with a couple of coats for her to try on (there is a place that delivers any size letter/package to the MTC for $2 and the missionary can "send" anything out for free as long as it's picked up at the place within 48 hours).  As mom knew that she could easily try on said coats and return them based on fit and whether she liked them, the one she deemed best will be sent to her in Philly when the weather cools.  Also, Sister Jenkins who is going to Eugene Oregon that she mentions is the daughter of one of Mom's best friends from college.  Wicked weird just what a sense of humor, irony, and love our Heavenly Father has when he puts two sisters who have been raised in the theatre together in a zone and their parents are great friends.  

And now....Sister Cottam:

HELLO!!!!  :D
Its so crazy to think that I've been at the MTC for a whole week now!!!  O_o  But I'm having the time of my life!  I'm learning so much about missionary work, about myself, and just about life in general!  I'm also have a BLAST and a half!
So first off, THANK YOU for the package!  I am to send many, MANY thanks from the sisters in my zone for the doughnuts and I'm sure once the elders find out about them, they'll send many thanks too.  ;)  And I LOVE the bows!  Super cute!  So thanks a ton for those!  And I tried both the coats, the Jessica London was too big and I just didn't really like it...  So back it goes!  As for the other coat, SUPER cute!  Its a little small right now, but I'm pretty positive that it'll fit just right by the time winter roles around.  :)  So hold on to it for me please!  :)
And you're so right, the first few days of the MTC were super busy!  To the point where it was seriously INSANE!  I learned a lot but it was super rough.  But!  I made it to Sunday and Sunday at the MTC is the greatest thing ever!!  I was so uplifted and it just helped to calm me down so much!  Also on Sunday, I got the calling of Branch Music Coordinator.  (I know shock of all shocks right?)  And I'm the only one in our entire branch that plays the piano, so my calling includes picking the music, playing the music, going to choir, and encouraging the rest of my zone to come to choir.  Its so hard...  :P  Esp. since choir is SO wonderful!!  This week, we sang Where Can I Turn for Peace? and it was so incredible.  The director had us look at the song as a conversation between an investigator and a missionary, so I looked at it in an entirely different way!  And the Spirit was so strong as we sang, with all of us singing our testimonies!  :D  It was like being back with LDV again...  :)
As for teaching, when I say "investigators" it is a role-play but it doesn't feel like that to me.  These investigators are so real.  And my love and care for them is real too.  For instance, our Progressing Investigator, Selam, is my very favorite person!  I hate that we can't teach her today!  I mean, I'm excited for P-Day, but she's a sponge and just wants to grow closer to Christ, so I wish we could see her every single day!  I esp. hate that we can't meet with her today because yesterday we had the greatest lesson with her!  Sis. Hood and I were really unified yesterday and we had decided to teach Selam about the Plan of Salvation.  As we began our lesson it felt like the lessons we taught previously, where the Spirit was present and she was understanding what we were teaching, but as we began to talk about her purpose and the Atonement, and as we applied it directly to her and what she's currently going through, the Spirit seriously was SO strong!  And when I say that, I mean I don't think I've ever felt the Spirit so strongly before, EVER!  Including in the temple!  It was crazy!  And she felt it too!  And acknowledged it!!  :D  And because of that Spirit she committed to be baptized!!  So yeah, I can't wait to see her again tomorrow so we continue to guide her closer to Christ...  We also gained a new investigator yesterday which was...  Fun...  There was some mix ups in that our investigator was double booked with some other sister missionaries so I was kinda frustrated before we met with her, but we said another companion prayer before we entered like normal and specifically asked that I would be calm and that the Spirit would be with us.  Well as we began talking she said that she wasn't interested in our church and was being very negative...  We then asked if we could share a message of Jesus Christ with her, and she agreed to that.  As we began to talk, we found out that she had heard some rumors about the Mormons.  Specifically that she thought we didn't believe in Christ and that we worshiped Joseph Smith.  And since our plan was to teach the Restoration, we cleared that up right away!  We talked with her about Christ, but she seemed very disinterested and very put-off...  She actually painted her nails as we talked with her.  (yeah, that was frustrating.  :P)  But as I began to testify of Joseph Smith and share the experience of the First Vision, she stopped what she was doing and really paid attention!  Like, she was making and holding eye contact with me, and she was just very engaged.  And I don't boast of my own abilities.  Because in that moment, the Spirit was again SO strong!  Not as strong as it was with Selam, but it was very powerful!  And she did agree to meet with us again tomorrow, so it wasn't too bad!  :)  I just love being able to share my testimony all the time!  :D  I LOVE THE MTC!!!!!
Speaking of loving the MTC, I truly love my district and my zone SO much!!!!  Our entire district is going to Philly and there are only three missionaries in our entire zone that aren't going to Philly!  :D  However, today we get a new district added to our zone which is going to the Oregon, Eugene mission (and yes, Sister Jenkins is going to be in my zone as of later today!).  In our district there are 4 companionships, two elders and two sisters.  Out of our district we have the district leader and his companion, our new zone leaders, our new sister training leaders, and then I'm the branch music coordinator, so yeah, we're a busy district...  But we seriously have SO much fun together!  And as for living quarters, there actually are only four of us in a room, so we fit really well!  :)  And when we first got here, we were really good at getting to bed on time and getting up on time.  However, we're getting worse as time goes on just because we stay up talking with each other, like last night we stayed up past 11 just talking about random things.  :)  But the nights we stay up, although I'm tired the next morning, I feel like its so worth it because we are so close as sisters!  I truly feel like we're a family and I felt that way last week!  So yeah, our district is kind of the best!  :D  And honestly, our zone is just an extension of our district!  Its SO much fun!  Also!  Small world moment!  Sister Partridge is in my zone, and I know that doesn't mean anything to you, but her two older siblings were in LDV with me so its super fun to talk about Logan with her!  :)  Oh!  So I have a funny story from yesterday!  Its kind of a, you know you're a full time missionary when, kind of stories...  So, Elder Readhead, Elder Issertell, Sis. Hood, and I were going into the next classroom over to start a role-play and just to preface this, Sis Hood has lost her voice and Elder Issertell is one of the worst missionaries about making sure he can see his companion, anyway, on with the story!  So Elder Issertell and I are talking and going into the next classroom, and last I saw, Sis Hood was RIGHT behind me, but apparently she said she was going to grab some tissues.  Well I didn't hear her and Elder Readhead was stuck talking to the teacher for a minute but Elder Issertell and I didn't realize that...  so we just kept walking and talking and as soon as we got into the classroom, Elder Issertell turned around and I looked around and we both realized at the same time that we were alone in the room.  Yeah, BIG no-no, so we both freak out and start running out of the classroom looking for our companions and both our companions just laughed at us because we were so upset over being alone in the room together for half a second...  so yeah, you know you're a full time missionary when you're in a room for literally .5 seconds with someone of the opposite sex alone and you freak out about it.  Yeah, that happened.  :)
Thanks for your continued love and support!  I truly do feel your prayers, and I hope you know that you're in my prayers too!
Love you tons!  Muah!
Sister Cottam  :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First email from the MTC to the fam:

I've already sent a letter that talks about my first day of the MTC but you probably haven't received it yet...  :P  Anyway...  So far I am absolutely LOVING everything!!  My companion is the absolute best and I have absolutely fallen in love with my district and zone!  I seriously have some of the very best elders ever!  Our district leader, Elder Readhead is from England and has a super awesome accent!  And today he even told me that my accent is one of the best he's heard from an American thus far!  Haha!  :D  His companion, Elder Issertell (who is from Baker's Field, CA) is also super hilarious!  And yet, they both are both some of the spiritually strongest people I've ever met!  In my zone, I actually have Sister Partridge from Logan (I know her older siblings from LDV so its super fun!), and I absolutely LOVE our zone leaders!  The elders are a hoot and a half and the sister leaders and super sweet and fun while also being super obedient and intense about the work.  :D  I've also run into a bunch of friends (including Elder Bybee) and one of the sisters I keep running with is Sister Glancy (the other angel from the LDV Christmas Show) so its super fun!  I also am learning SOO much!  And I'm not just learning about the Gospel, but I'm learning a lot about myself and about life in general!  And I've only been here two and a half days!!  Its so insane!!!!!!!!!!!!

As for the schedule of the MTC, its super busy!  And the saying that a day feels like a week and a week feels like a day is absolutely true!  I've spent more time studying in the last two days than almost ever before!  However, its really helping me to prepare for getting out into the field since which is so great because I am leaving Sept. 17, so yeah, only 11 more days until I will be Philadelphia...  Kinda crazy...  Anyway, I do get one P-day while I'm here!  ;)  My P-Day is next Wed, so you may get another letter by then, but I can't email again until then...  Which means you should definitely send me something before then so I can read something before I head off, please!  

So now its time for specific experiences that have happened since my letter (which you probably/hopefully should be getting tomorrow):
1.  I wrote about my companion, who I have decided really is a combination between Jessica and Brittany, which is so wonderful!  We get along quite well, but because she's really quiet, its hard to teach with her because I tend to be a little overpowering...  She's also very unsure of her own abilities and so sometimes its hard to study and prepare and its been kind of a concern.  However, today we taught our very first one-on-one lesson with an investigator and to be perfectly honest, it was a mess!  Looking back on it, its funny to think about and there's so much that I'm already learning from it.  But the greatest thing that came out of it was that after we finished teaching, we had a very serious companionship inventory.  Now to preface this, we've had a ton of "companionship inventories" already because we're both very open about what we want to change and how we want to grow and also just in getting to know one another, but this inventory was different.  I feel like we finally made a real breakthrough!  I felt that way right after we finished talking, but it was solidified after we role-played with another companionship in our district and we taught an absolutely FANTASTIC lesson!  And to top it all off, we then sat down and tried to determine what it was that changed so that we can try to replicate that tomorrow for our second lesson with our investigator...  I just love how much the Spirit can change us and how quickly it can change us too as long as we're open and willing to change.  :)
2.  Another thing that happened today was during a district study...  We were reading 3 Ne. 11 (go read it!), and were discussing the Doctrine of Christ, which we do all the time, but specifically how it applies to our purpose as missionaries and how we can apply the Doctrine of Christ to our teaching.  As we were reading, I kept finding more and more insight that I'd never thought of before and then while we were reading Christ's invitation to come unto Him, to feel His hands and feet and to thrust our hands into His side the Spirit was incredible.  Just thinking about it makes me feel overcome with the Spirit!  But for whatever reason, I applied it so literally into my own life.  I pictured Christ inviting me to truly come unto Him and to know Him.  Earlier on in the chapter it talks about how when the people remembered the teachings of the prophets and recognized Christ they fell to the ground and I had already thought about my experience with Oct. conference and my experience to know that I was going to serve a mission.  And so the scriptures just became so real!  And not only that, I recognized truly why I am here serving!  Since arriving, I think I've been asked a million and one times why I decided to serve.  And generally we all give a similar answer that's great but very superficial.  But I recognized today that I am personally here to serve because I promised long ago that I would go out and serve Him.  I promised that this was how I could best repay the debt that I owe my Savior.  I promised that I would be an extension of His arm.  That is why I am here.

Thank you for the support, thoughts, and prayers.  I can feel them and I truly love you SO much!

Much love!
Sister Cottam  <3

P.S.  You may want to look into to send me emails/letters...  We were told about it in branch meeting and were told that its super cool because they convert your text into an actual letter so I can spend more of my time on P-Day actual writing rather than reading, and I also will get it faster through them than through USPS alone...  I know for some missions, once we're out of the MTC it costs money, but if its free, it might be a nice alternative...  So just something to look into/think about...  <3