I feel it's been so long since I've emailed. I was so sad to leave the
MTC and all my new friends, but I knew I had to go to Kentucky
sometime. It was hard the first couple days. I'm serving in Somerset,
KY. It's about 3 hours south of Louisville. It's so far south it
almost touches the Nashville Tennessee mission. It's a cute little
town. All the stereotypes about Kentucky are absolutely true. Everyone
is very nice and friendly, but they are very deep in their own
religion. It's a very Southern Baptist town and there's a Baptist
church on every corner. Now I know what it's like to be a non-Mormon
My trainer, Sister France, is 20 and she is from St George. She's
going home in 3 months so I'm her last companion. She's nice. She can
get a little quiet and distant sometimes, but we still get along.
She's a very good missionary and has taught me so much. We have a car
too! Sister France does not currently have any driving privileges, so
I do all the driving. It's very rare for a greenie to drive, so I'm
lucky! We live in a nice apartment downtown. It has a washer and dryer
but no wifi!
The Somerset Branch has about 60 active members. The members are all
very nice. The branch president and his wife are from Utah as well as
some other members. There are quite a few older, single men in the
branch which surprised me. Two of them, Brother Johnson and Brother
Earl, help out the missionaries a lot. Brother Johnson comes with us
to lessons and is so funny. We just need to find a woman to come with
us so we can go out with them and not break mission rules. The women
are nice too. We watched the Women's Broadcast with the Relief Society
and they were all so funny. There are only 2 young men in the branch
and 1 young woman. When her family moves this summer, there will be no
young women! There are lots of primary kids.
As for our investigators.... They have all led very sad and suffering
lives. There's lots of abuse going on. There's also lots of illness.
One of our investigators with a baptismal date called us today in a
panic. His best friend was murdered last night and he witnessed the
entire thing. There are just situations the MTC could never prepare
I'm so grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Atonement. Only
Jesus knows exactly what these people are going through. He suffered
on the cross and in the Garden so he would know our suffering. We can
only be truly healed through God and Jesus Christ. When I feel like I
don't know how to help these people, I just remember that Heavenly
Father is aware of them and their sorrows. The greatest thing we can
hope for is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
I love and miss you all!
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Time has flown by! They have a saying in the MTC that days feel like years, but weeks go by like seconds. Don't worry about me. I am still happy and healthy and having a great time in the MTC.
Now Leanna wanted to know more about the MTC, the schedule, the dorms, etc. I'll answer those questions.
The MTC: I enjoy the MTC. Everyone is super nice and says hi to everyone. Elders always open the door for sisters, etc. It feels more like you're living away at boarding school than at college though because they don't treat you like an adult. They're super strict about what you're wearing, the curfew, etc. However, the rules are there for a reason and giving up some of your independence is part of it.
Typical schedule: Leanna wanted to know more about our daily routine. The days are always different but here is our Monday schedule:
6:30 am wake up
7:00 am The district meets in the classroom for morning song and prayer
7:10 breakfast in cafeteria
7:10-10:50 class with our teacher Sister Mackley. We also teach one of our investigators during this time block.
11: 00 gym
1:10-4:10 afternoon class with our other teacher Brother Chappell.
4:30 teach our second investigator
5: 30 pm dinner
6:15-9:15 pm personal and companion study
9:30 pm we can head back to the residence hall
So there's our schedule in a nutshell. Tuesdays are p-days and Thursdays we do a service project in the morning. Last Thursday Sister Brennan and I cleaned the showers in another sister missionary dorm building. These were the really old dorms where like the original sister missionaries lived. I'm glad we live in the newer dorm.
The food: The food in the MTC is surprisingly good. It's operated by BYU Dining and sadly their food is better than the Marketplace at USU. Aggie ice cream, however, blows BYU Creamery out of the water.
The dorms: The dorms are pretty nice. I do not like the communal showers, but it's fine. The beds and sheets are surprisingly nice and like I mentioned before, we live in the newer dorm.
Our teaching: Sister Brennan and I got new investigators this week. One of the greatest things I've learned when it comes to teaching the Gospel is to teach people, not lessons. Sister Brennan and I have been teaching a 19 year old young man from Tonga for the past 2 weeks. He's been really angry at his father for abandoning their family and abusing his mother and siblings. Sister Brennan and I talked a lot about the Atonement and forgiveness with him. We discussed that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, he can be wiped clean from his anger and forgive his father and become a new person. He then accepted our invitation to be baptized! It was such a powerful moment and reminded me that that is what missionary work is all about.
My testimony has been strengthened so much these past two weeks. Our classes focus solely on inviting others to come unto Christ through Faith in Jesus Christ and the Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. Brother Chappell had us write a letter to Jesus Christ our second day in the MTC and he challenged us to write another letter to him at the end of our missions and see how it changed. I have truly learned that by coming unto Christ and following his example, we will truly be healed from all of our afflictions and become the people we're supposed to be. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly what the Book of Mormon and being a Latter-Day Saint is all about.
We watched a talk that Elder Holland gave at the MTC on Sunday night. He talked about how if we put in the proper work, we will always have at least one convert on our missions. He said that the greatest convert on our missions is ourselves.
Nothing much else to report on. Send me more DearElders. I'm already sick of all of my clothes. Mom, please just send me entirely new clothes to the Kentucky mission office lol.
I love you all and I'll see you in Kentucky!
Posted by Leanna at 12:57 PM
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
I'm alive! Now as you guys can tell, my p-day is on Tuesdays! I hope you all are doing well. Don't worry about me. I am happy and healthy and having a great time in the MTC. No homesickness has set in yet. Now I have a lot to say so I'll make this letter more organized. My companion, Sister Brennan will be emailing me some pictures, so I will send those in next week's email.
So I'm the new Online Training Coordinator for our zone so I will be training all the new missionaries in our zone on how to do their online training courses. My district also joined the MTC Choir and we are doing a musical number together for sacrament meeting.
DearElder: So you guys can send me letters and packages for free through DearElder.com. I will get the letters and packages the very next day. I'm the only missionary in my district who hasn't gotten any letters or packages from home yet, so I would love to get some letters!
My District: I love my district! They have become my new family as we spend 16+ hours of the day together. There are 5 Elders and 4 Sisters. We spend about 6 hours a day in class, 2 hours teaching our investigators, 1 hour to exercise, and 3 hours to study. My district is always saying I'm the sweetest missionary in the district, so they haven't seen my sassy side yet. Now onto the members of my district:
The Sisters: Now I really spend 24/7 with these girls as we share a dorm room too.
Sister Brennan (my companion): She is from Orange, CA, 19, and is going to Kentucky too! She went to BYU for a semester before coming on her mission. She is so nice and we work so well together. I cannot think of a single time she's irritated me though we have to do everything together including going to the bathroom. She is drop dead gorgeous. We are still learning how to be good teachers, but it is all good and our lessons have gone pretty well. Her Grandpa died on Friday and she has been so strong and hasn't let it distract her from concentrating on our missionary work.
Sister Glad: She is 19, from Riverton, WY and is going to Kentucky. She is way nice and a little quiet. She is a great teacher and tells a lot of stories.
Sister O'Keefe: She is a firecracker. She is 21 and is from Alabama. She is also going to Kentucky. She was a missionary for 3 months in Mississippi before coming to the MTC. She is already engaged to a missionary in Brazil and talks about her boyfriend all the time.
The Elders: The Elders are all awesome and they have become like brothers to me. They are all gentlemen and are all really tall. I have to crane my neck whenever I talk to them.
Elder Clawson: He is 18, turning 19 in a few weeks, from Fruit Heights, UT, and is going to Omaha, NE for his mission. He is about 6'4". He is way funny and he is one of the new zone leaders. He was a swimming teacher and wants to be a psychologist or an electrical engineer.
Elder Kane: He is 19, from Gilbert, AZ, and is going to Omaha, NE. He is hilarious and does awesome Spongebob and Randy Newman impressions. Hopefully he doesn't mess up our musical number. He is 6'7", a football player, and was a cook at Brio. He wanted
to be the Online Training Coordinator, but I got that calling and now he's a zone leader.
Elder Mota: He is 18 and from Portugal. He was going to serve his mission in Japan, but he had trouble learning Japanese, so he joined our district and is getting reassigned. He is in unrequited love with a 26 year old woman in Portugal. He is way sweet and comforted me while I was suffering from my terrible side pains I always get yesterday.
Elder Mcomber: He is 19, from Seattle, WA, and is going to New Jersey. He is also a football player. He is way nice and is our district leader. He does a great job taking care of all of us. Our district says we're long lost brother and sister because we have such similar personalities.
Elder Graham: He is 19, from Las Vegas, and is going to New Jersey. He is very quiet and doesn't say much. However, he has a crazy side to him as he was a DJ and a singer in a metal band.
Kensey: She is a student at BYU but isn't a member of the church. She is on the track and field team. She has a read the Book of Mormon several times and Sister Brennan and I are helping her learn how to find answers to her questions in the Book of Mormon. She is way sweet.
Florian: He is our other investigator. He is 20 and from France. He doesn't speak English very well and is in Utah for a semester exchange. He hit Sister Brennan and I with all the hard questions. He asked us about women and the priesthood, the Word of Wisdom, and why did God command Nephi to kill Laban. He does, however, have a seed of faith, so Sister Brennan and I read Alma 32:28 with him and are trying to help him find answers to his prayers.
I have learned so much in the past 6 days. I had such a surface level understanding of the Gospel before I entered the MTC. I have really started thing about Jesus Christ and the Atonement while I have been here. I have really been pondering why Jesus Christ did what he did. I know he died on the cross to atone for our sins, but I'm really trying to come to my own understanding of why. I think that is a question that I'll be pondering not only for the rest of my mission, but for the rest of my life. I only have 18 months to wear his Name on my chest.
I love all you guys. Keep me updated on your lives!
Posted by Leanna at 12:07 PM
Sunday, February 28, 2016
* The talk posted has been slightly shortened and does not include the testimony I gave at the end.
Good morning brothers and sisters, my name is Jessie Cressall. I’m soon to be Sister Cressall as I am entering the Provo MTC in 3 days to go serve in the Kentucky Louisville Mission. I grew up in this ward, but I’ve been away for a few years either living away at college.
Now if you would’ve asked me 3 years ago if I planned on serving a mission, I would have told you a strong and clear “no.” I did not grow up thinking I would ever serve a mission. It was never part of the plan that I had set up for myself. But I heard recently that if you want to make Heavenly Father laugh, tell him your plans. I remember just a week after my 19th birthday, it was General Conference and President Monson announced that young women could serve missions at 19 instead of 21. I remember everyone was all excited and I did not go a single day without hearing of another one of my friends or peers who were starting their mission papers because I was in the age group of the first younger missionaries. I was really excited for them and all, but still never considered serving one.
The reason behind that was because at the age of 19, my testimony was not nearly as strong as it should have or could have been. I am so grateful for the experiences and the work that I have done the past 3 years. I have matured and my testimony has been strengthened in immeasurable ways. I know that I could not have made the life-changing decision to serve a mission unless I was fully converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not easy an easy path, but one that changed my life and has made me so grateful that I did the work that I did to become fully converted and taught by the power of the Holy Ghost.
My testimony only continued to strengthen as I studied the Book of Mormon and the rest of the Standard Works. I know that my gospel knowledge grows the most when I was taught by the Holy Ghost. My testimony was strengthened as I allowed the Holy Ghost to bring knowledge and conviction into my life that not only blessed my life but allowed me to bless the lives of others as well.
For about 5 months in the fall of 2014 I lived in Thailand and I was an English teacher at a private school there. I taught there with 5 other girls. On Sundays we would get up at 5:00 in the morning in order to bike over to the train station at catch the 6:20 train to make it to church by 9:00. We attended a tiny branch in a bigger city about an hour train ride away. I was always amazed by the friendliness and love that the branch members showed us there. We would sit in the back during church meetings and the full-time missionaries would attempt to translate what the members were saying into English for us, but Thai is a really hard language so most often we missed most of what they were saying. Although we could not understand them a lot of the time, the Spirit was always so strong in those meetings. I could feel the strong testimonies of the members there and I learned so much from them.
I remember one Sunday at church in particular. There were only two of us at church because the rest of the girls we lived with did not want to get up early that day. A little old lady came up to us after sacrament meeting. She assumed we were missionaries because they were usually the only Americans attending this tiny branch in the small town. She grabbed our hands and starting talking to us. She spoke to us for quite a while in Thai. We of course did not understand her, but we smiled and nodded as she spoke. When I saw the tears start to well up in her eyes, I finally got an idea as to what she was talking about. She pulled a small photograph out of her purse. It was a picture of 2 Elders with their arms around her. It was then that I realized the impact these missionaries brought into her life and how they changed her. It was in that moment that I realized the great work missionaries did and this woman even assumed I was one. However, I still did not feel worthy of such a calling, but I thought it would be a truly amazing thing to help change a person’s life like that. That experience made me appreciate the great work the missionaries did in converting people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It got me thinking about the Thai members. Most of them had grown up in the Buddhist religion. A striking aspect of the Buddhist view is that there is no soul, as it is understood in Christian traditions. That is, there is no permanent substance or essence which endures after death. When many new members would bear their testimonies after their baptisms, many would testify of the great joy that was brought into their lives when they learned that life did not end after death and that their souls would live on and that they were able to live with their families eternally.
This experience got me thinking about the importance of the Plan of Salvation in missionary work. It got me thinking about whether people feel peace in their lives. We live in a tumultuous world and even I admit that I often spend more time worrying than feeling at peace. I have to refer back to my testimony about the Plan of Salvation. I have to remember that Heavenly Father has a plan and purpose for my life. When I focus on my ultimate purpose in this life, I finally feel at peace. This is when all the little struggles of everyday life slowly disappear as I remember my ultimate purpose in this life and strive toward accomplishing His purpose.
I of course am not the only one who does not feel peace. Many people have the same worries and ask the same questions. There are the typical questions: “Where did I come from?” What happens when I die?” or even “What will make me happy?” The Plan of Salvation answers all of these questions. God has a plan and a purpose for each and every one of us.
Teaching the Plan of Salvation is an integral and extremely necessary part of missionary work. I know that as a missionary, true conversion cannot occur until my investigators have a sure and strong testimony of their plan to endure to the end and return to live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know it is my purpose as a missionary to share the Plan of Salvation to others and through their own agency will gain their own testimonies and accept God’s plan for them. Only then can we all find true peace and happiness in our lives.
Elaine S. Dalton has said: “In these latter days, there are no small decisions. The choices you are making right now are of critical importance. Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. It is part of the plan of happiness you and I chose and defended in our premortal existence. Live your lives in such a way that you can listen to and hear the Holy Ghost, and He will help you make correct decisions. In fact, He will tell you ‘all things what ye should do. ”
Michaelene P. Grassli, former Primary General President has also taught: “Every good thing you do in your life is following God’s plan. Every time you are kind to another person, each time you have courage to do something difficult, each time you do a thoughtful act without being asked, each time you say your prayers, each time you read the scriptures, each time you go to church, each time you help a friend—you are following God’s plan for you.”
What a thought. I often forget that performing such small simple acts is doing God’s work. I know that as a full-time missionary sometimes the greatest work I can do is the small, simple acts. Not all missionary work is measured by baptisms. I’m sure there a many people in Kentucky are lonely or otherwise afflicted and who could use some simple acts of kindness or a friendly face in their lives. Missionary work is a great opportunity to serve others and show them just how much God loves them. It’s also work that should start before the mission and continue long after the mission.
Posted by Leanna at 9:27 PM
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
I accept my call as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I'm very honored to be called upon by you and Heavenly Father to serve in the Kentucky Louisville Mission. I will do my best to serve the people of the Kentucky Mission and help bring them unto Christ. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach others who may be spiritually struggling the Gospel and help lead them on the path to eternal life. I know this mission will bless my life in immeasurable ways whether through trials or successes.
Sister Jessie Cressall
Posted by Leanna at 8:30 AM