Sunday, April 10, 2016

Two Years

On this day two years ago, I boarded a train that took me away from Donetsk. In hindsight, I’m glad that I had no idea how significant that day was. I had no idea that I was about to start a trial that would still affect me two years later. But I did and it does.

I think the main reason leaving Donetsk was so heartbreaking for me was how long and hard I had worked to love it in the first place. Donetsk required every ounce of effort and love that I could produce. I didn’t grow to love it until I gave it everything I had. So when we left, it felt like I was leaving the most important parts of myself behind.

It took me a long time to recognize that it was a blessing and privilege to love Ukraine so much that it hurt. Sometimes it still doesn’t feel like much of a blessing to me. But I can say without a doubt that the Lord has been with me through every step of this confusing and painful and lonely journey. I can now testify of the miraculous healing power of the Atonement. I am so much more whole than I was two years ago. And I hope that two years from now I will be even more whole. In my journal I found a folded up piece of paper with my feelings from two years ago. I can’t believe how far I’ve come. This is what it says:

“I will attempt to tell you what is in my heart. I am not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me but I know that you would rather know the truth and I know that I will want to remember this someday.

The first emotion was anger. Frustration really, I guess. It is simply not fair. Which, I know life is not fair, but still. Our mission was doing better than ever before. Our numbers were up 400%. We were so dang obedient it’s not even funny. We were doing everything. And then it was taken away.

Next came sadness. This one lasted for awhile and is still mostly there. I have never had my heart broken before but I’m pretty sure this is it. We miss Donetsk. We miss our people, the Lochheads, the members, the investigators, the random people on the street who laugh at my name, everyone. We don’t know if we will see them again. Our hearts are just sad.

Also fear. We are all so afraid. They always say that trials now are preparing you for something else. We are terrified of what is coming next. Sister Nash and I jump at loud noises and quick movements. We are afraid to put our hearts and souls into Kiev because it could get ripped away from us at any second. I think we have seen too much. It got to us.

We feel helpless. The worst part is that it is literally 100% out of our control. There is nothing we can do about this. We are just waiting and seeing. The same thing we’ve been doing since November and it’s not healthy. We can’t focus. We are trying to work and that helps to take our minds off it, but it’s always there still.

Lastly, we are lonely. Our district was our family and now we are all separated and not allowed to talk to each other. We miss them, and we worry about them so much. We miss our people in Donetsk. We worry about them. At least we have each other.”

These words feel so dramatic now, but I can remember how strongly I felt them as I wrote them. I still feel sad or frustrated or helpless occasionally, but reading my words from two years ago has helped me to see how far I have come. I recognize that over the past two years I have gradually been able to hand this burden over to my Savior and He has helped me heal. Maybe I will never know exactly why I was given this particular trial but I know what the result was. I can now testify without a doubt that the Lord does not abandon us in our time of need. He was right there with me on the train to Kiev and the plane to America and even now. I don’t know if I’m to the point yet where I can honestly say I’m grateful that this happened, but I am grateful that I came to know my Savior and trust in Him.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. I am so grateful to speak to you today. With Thanksgiving coming up this week, it is only fitting for me to speak on gratitude. I can still remember a lesson I had in Young Womens when I was probably about 14 years old. The teacher asked us each to write down a list of every single thing we were grateful for. I was quite proud of myself for coming up with such a long list in just a few minutes. Then she had us go back and put a check mark next to all of the blessings we had thanked our Heavenly Father for in prayer recently. I was pretty disappointed in myself when I realized that I had very few check marks on my paper. While I was grateful for many things, I had neglected to actually give thanks for the blessings I had been given. That day I learned about the important difference between gratitude and thanksgiving. If we want to follow the example of our Savior Jesus Chris, we must not only have gratitude in our hearts, but we must give thanks for all that we have been given.
But why is this so important to God? Why does He want us to be thankful? I’m sure that there are lots of reasons, but I came up with 3.
First, we know that He wants us to be happy. I know for myself, I am definitely happier when I am grateful for what I have been given and when I express that gratitude.
Second, our Heavenly Father wants to bless us. We read in Doctrine and Covenants 59:7 “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” This is a commandment. Just like any other commandment, when we obey, it gives our Heavenly Father an opportunity to bless us even more abundantly. If we choose not to be grateful for that which we already have, Heavenly Father is not very likely to give us even more.
The third reason I believe that we are commanded to express thanks to our Heavenly Father is that it helps us avoid pride. Gratitude gives us the perspective that we need to remember that all that we have is not really ours. If we are constantly giving thanks for all that we have, we will be much less inclined to become prideful about what we have been given. King Benjamin is a perfect example. In Mosiah chapter 2, we read how he teaches his people to give thanks and serve God with their whole souls.
“And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.”

Now it seems a little bit troubling that even if we do our very best, we will be unprofitable servants. But it is helpful to remember that a profit is not what Christ is looking for. He doesn’t need a profit. If we continue reading in verse 22, we learn what He really wants from us.

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.”

What He requires is really quite simple: to keep His commandments.
So understanding the need for gratitude is one thing, but how do we actually do it? I’d like to share a few ideas that have helped me recently.
The first is quite simple but actually really hard: don’t complain. Ever. You can decide today that you are going to be a person that doesn’t complain. It’s completely possible. I started my mission with the goal to never complain and I am so grateful that I did. At first it was really hard, I would complain in my mind sometimes, but I didn’t allow myself to say it out loud. Eventually the negative thoughts just stopped coming altogether and I have become happier than I have ever been. It takes a lot of self-discipline, and definitely some trial and error, but I promise you it is a habit worth developing. During a hard part of my mission, my brother sent me a note. It had a quote from Elder Holland that I just love. It says “No problem is so big that complaining about it won’t make it worse.” Underneath the quote it simply said “Summer in Ukraine! Suck it up.” As soon as I read that, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and just be happy. And you know what, it actually worked. So that is my second piece of advice, just choose to be happy. Count your blessings. Look on the bright side of things. Find opportunities to serve. Read your scriptures. Listen to uplifting music. Talk to family members or friends. There are a million things that we can do to raise our spirits. We know what they are but sometimes I feel like we get so caught up in life that we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves. Gratitude and happiness are interesting because they feed into each other. The happier you are, the easier it is to be grateful and give thanks. The more grateful you are, the easier it is to be happy.
My third piece of advice is to not get caught up in fairness. I remember as a kid countless times complaining to my mom “but it’s not fair!!!!” She would always respond the same way, “Life isn’t fair, Katie.” That always upset me. It’s not fair that there are bad people who live happy lives and very good people who live sad lives. It’s not fair when cancer strikes or when jobs are lost or when war breaks out. The fact of the matter is that while this life may not be perfectly fair, the next one will be. We have to trust in the promises we have been given and believe in our Savior. When life’s challenges seem too much to bear, I cling on to one sentence from Preach My Gospel that says “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” Try not to worry about what’s not fair right now. I know it’s hard. But the more you strengthen your faith in your Savior, the more you will be able to rely on this promise. I can bear testimony that He is the only way that all the wrongs of the world can be made right. If we believe in Him, we will have the strength to be grateful in times of unfairness.
Going along with that, my last piece of advice is to rely on the Savior. Developing gratitude is really about changing hearts. The natural man is not a grateful person. The only way that we can overcome that is with the Savior’s help. In Ezekiel there is a beautiful promise in chapter 11, verses 19 and 20. This is a promise for all of us.

“And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”

With the Savior’s help, we can have new hearts. We can become exactly who He wants us to be.
I remember last year around thanksgiving I found a scripture that really struck me. It is in Doctrine and Covenants section 78, verses 18 and 19.
 “And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.”

I love the line that “he who receives all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.” It’s so true. When I think about the most wonderful people I know, you know those people who you just like to be around, they live their lives with a grateful attitude. There is something special about people who choose to be grateful. As I have studied and thought about gratitude this week, I have come to realize that it’s all about 2 things: attitude and perspective.
Like everything else in this life, gratitude is a choice. And it’s one we have to make pretty much every day. Once my friend told me once that life is just a pile of good things and a pile of bad things. Some days it might seem like the good pile is really really small and the bad pile is really really big, but that good pile is always there. And when we choose to focus on the good, we will be not only happier, but more prepared to overcome the bad.
Now each of us has a different looking good pile, but I know that we all have a Savior. He is our foundation. We can always be grateful for Him and His sacrifice. I remember a time when I did not feel very grateful for anything. I was going through the hardest trial I had ever faced and I knew that this trial came at no fault of my own: it was just something that had happened. It all just seemed so unfair and honestly, I was sick of people telling me to “stay positive” and “look on the bright side.” I was convinced that in this case, there was no bright side. Right in the middle of this trial was general conference, and there was a particular talk that I am positive was given for me. Most of you probably remember it, it was from President Uchtdorf and it is titled “Grateful in any Circumstances.” What I loved about this talk is that President Uchtdorf didn’t demand that I be grateful for my trial, He explained that we can be grateful during our trials.
Once a trial is over and we have some time to heal and little bit of perspective, we can be grateful for our trials. We can look back and see how they have strengthened us and prepared us for the future. But right in the middle of a trial it’s pretty difficult to be grateful for the trial itself, but we can be grateful for other things. I remember as I was watching this talk, my companion slipped a note to me that said “We don’t have to be grateful that this is happening to us. We just have to be grateful that we have a Savior.” Suddenly it became clear and I thought to myself, “okay, I can do that. I am grateful for my Savior. I will always be grateful for Him. If that is enough for a first step, I can do that.” And slowly things started to get easier. President Uchtdorf stated, “When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.” I know that this is true, because it was my own personal experience. In times of trial, the best thing that we can do is rely on prayer. Talk to your Heavenly Father, be completely open and honest with Him, and never stop giving thanks for the blessings that you do have.
            I want to close with a story from the scriptures. There is a great example of the blessings that come from gratitude in the New Testament. It is a story I’m sure we are all familiar with: the story of the 10 lepers. I have always been intrigued by this story. As we know, 10 men exercised faith and received a miracle, but only 1 chose to stop and give thanks for the blessing he received. All 10 of these men must have been righteous if they had sufficient faith to be healed. And all 10 of them received the same blessing, so what was the grateful man’s reward? How was his experience different from that of the nine?

“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

The answer is pretty simple: he had a personal experience with the Savior. Choosing to not only feel gratitude, but to express it is one of the most powerful ways to draw closer to our Savior. President Monson said: “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love...My brothers and sisters, to express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”
            I have a testimony that expressing gratitude is one of the greatest ways we can show our love to our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even if we can only find it within ourselves to be a tiny bit grateful, they will rejoice. I know that life can be hard and discouraging at times, but when we choose to rely on our Savior, we can have the strength to keep a grateful attitude in our hearts always. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Principle of Invitation

Good morning, brothers and sisters. My name is Katie Schrecengost and I have recently returned home from serving a mission. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. I was very excited when I heard that my topic was going to be the principle of invitation, because that is basically what you do all day every day as a missionary.
            The very first thing that they teach you in the MTC is your missionary purpose. It is “to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” I remember that our teacher taught us took look at the verbs in that sentence. The verbs that apply to missionaries are “to invite” and “to help.” The verbs that apply to the people being taught by the missionaries are “to come” and to “receive.” Now we know that every member is a missionary, so this is not just a purpose for the missionaries to learn and internalize, it is for all of us. We all need to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel.  Today I would like to focus on inviting.
            One reason that we know invitation is so important is because it is what the Savior did throughout His entire ministry. The scriptures are full of accounts of Christ inviting others, whether it was inviting others to believe on His words, to follow Him, to repent, or to be healed, it was always an invitation. He never forced or pressured anyone to do anything. In Matthew 11: 28-30, Christ offers the most beautiful invitation.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the invitation that the missionaries extend around the world. And this is the invitation that we can share with our family and friends. In my experience, the more that I accept this invitation and rely on the Savior to ease my burdens, the stronger my own desire is to share the gospel and this wonderful gift that is offered to us. When I think about how much my Savior has done for me, it breaks my heart to know that there are people out there who don’t know Him. Who haven’t recognized His love and help in their lives. 

In 2 Nephi 26:33, we read,

“…And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

We know that Christ atoned for everyone, and therefore, this message of the gospel is intended for every human soul, but sometimes, inviting people to learn more can be scary.  It is titled, That We May Rejoice Together. It tells the story of two sister missionaries who were brand new to an area and were basically starting from scratch. They were really excited to go out and work, so they worked really hard and found 40 people to teach! That’s amazing. But, they soon realized that out of those 40 people, none of them were prepared to progress, or to change in order to grow closer to Christ. They eventually had to stop meeting with all 40 people and were right back where they started. They realized that they must be doing something wrong, and one day while studying together they came across John 4:35-37.

“Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.”

They realized that in missionary work, there are actually two jobs. The sowers and the reapers. We, as members, are the sowers. We are out building relationships with people, inviting them to things, being their friends, and the missionaries are the reapers. They are the ones who teach the gospel. So these two sister missionaries decided to teach the members in their ward short lessons from Preach My Gospel about how to do missionary work. As they began to work with the members, they saw many miracles.
When I was serving in Mesa, Arizona, my companion and I read this article, and decided to follow the example of these sisters. We made up a series of short lessons to teach to the members to help them with their own missionary work. We first shared this article with them and explained that their most important job is to “invite.” If you want to help the missionaries, the best thing that you can do is simply invite. And there are lots of things that you can invite your friends to. It doesn’t have to be a sit-down lesson with the missionaries, it can be to mutual or family home evening, or even just dinner at your home. When the members and missionaries truly work together, that is when miracles occur. And, like the title of the article, that is when we all will rejoice together. We promised the members that we would see miracles in the ward if they would do their part and invite. The very week that we started teaching these lessons to the members we had 3 new investigators, all who were invited by their friends to meet with the missionaries!  I can testify of the miracles and joy that missionary work brings. There is no greater feeling than helping a soul come unto Christ. It is both our privilege and responsibility to do so.
Sometimes, however, we let our concerns hold us back from doing missionary work. I’d like to quickly go over a few things that sometimes stop us from doing missionary work.
            The first thing that can hold us back from doing missionary work is simply not knowing how. Have you ever had a friend and you thought “oh she’s such a good person, the gospel we be so great for her” but you had absolutely no idea how to bring it up? I have two suggestions for you, first I will quote a title from a talk given by Elder Nelson, “Ask the Missionaries, They Can Help!” The full-time missionaries in your ward have been specially trained to teach you a lesson about inviting your friends to learn more about the gospel. I can promise that there’s nothing they would love more than to help you share the gospel with your friends. My second suggestion is to read Preach My Gospel. It is an amazing resource that our church leaders have encouraged us to study daily along with our scriptures. I have seen a power and spirit come into the lives of members who study Preach My Gospel.
            The second concern that we often have about missionary work is that I have no time. I know that we are all busy. It’s a valid concern, but we don’t need to schedule a 3-hour block of time each week to go and knock doors. The majority of missionary work that we do is during our daily activities. It is in the grocery stores and at band practice and in our neighborhoods that we will find opportunities to invite, if we are truly seeking them.
            A third concern is a fear of rejection. This is very understandable. No one likes being rejected. And if you want to do missionary work, you are going to be rejected a time or two, that’s just the way it is. But, I have always found comfort in John chapter 15:18-21, where the Savior explains to His apostles that He has been rejected and persecuted as well.

 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”

While rejection isn’t fun, you can learn to not take it personally. It is hard when something so important to you doesn’t turn out to be very important to someone else. But we have to remember that all we can do is invite, and the rest is out of our control. When we know that we have done our part, we can have inner peace and feel good about ourselves, regardless of the outcome. My absolute favorite section of Preach My Gospel is titled “No Effort is Wasted.” In that section we read, “When people do not accept the gospel, do not be discouraged…Disciples of Christ feel sorrow when people choose not to repent, but they maintain a vision of who they are and what they are doing. They continue to diligently move forward.” In chapter 1 of preach my gospel, it also says “When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself. You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.” I can strongly testify of this principle. I have been rejected countless times, but I can promise you that in missionary work, the positive always outweighs the negative. The blessings always outweigh the sacrifice, and the joy always outweighs the sorrow.
            The last concern I want to address is not wanting to offend others. I once saw a bishop come in to teach sharing time in primary. He sat down in front of all of the kids and said “I’m so happy to be here with you today, there’s just something I need to do first before we start.” He then pulled out a big package of chips ahoy cookies and started to eat a cookie. He commented on how delicious the cookie was and decided that he would eat another. At first, the kids were amused, but they became quickly upset that the Bishop wasn’t sharing his cookies with them. Eventually he stopped and said, “oh, I’m sorry! Did you want a cookie?” The kids all answered “yes! Of course!” He said, “Oh, I thought it might be awkward if I offered these cookies to you. I didn’t know if you would want any, and I didn’t want to offend you by offering. Would you be offended if I offered you a cookie?” The kids said “No! That’s silly!” This bishop then went on to explain that even though we love the gospel as much as that chips ahoy cookie, we are afraid to offer it to our friends, because we don’t want to upset them. The truth is, if our motivating factor is love, we will never offend someone by extending an invitation. Even if the person rejects the invitation, they will know that you invited them out of love, and they will be grateful.
            I can testify that love is the most powerful motivator there is. On my mission I used to try to imagine the people as members of my family. If I loved the woman walking down the street as much as I love my little sister, how willing would I be to share the gospel with her? That kind of love doesn’t always come right away, especially for strangers. But it can come, with God’s help. I know that our Heavenly Father can and will help us to love those around us if we truly desire it. And I testify that the best way to increase your desire to do missionary work is to increase your love for those around you.
            I would like to close with a story that illustrate how a simple invitation can change a person’s life. This story is about a woman named Melody. One day my companion and I knocked on Melody’s door. It was a door that we had knocked on many times and had never received an answer. We knew that Melody was a member of the church and that she had not been to church for quite some time. Well, on this particular day she answered the door and was surprisingly very kind and invited us to come back and see her the next day. So the next day we returned and taught her a lesson about prayer. The lesson was nothing extraordinary, but the Spirit was there, and I believe that she felt God’s love for her through us, and her heart was softened. We invited her to come to church that Sunday. She began to cry and she explained to us that she knew the church was true and that she needed to come back to church but that she was afraid. She didn’t know anyone in the ward and she was afraid to go alone. Well, we promised her that she would not be alone and that would we be saving a seat for her in sacrament meeting that Sunday. To our great surprise, she came to church that Sunday, and as far as I am aware, she has come to church every Sunday since that day. She has accepted a calling and is preparing to go back to the temple. All because of a simple invitation.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Homecoming Talk

Hi, my name is Katie Schrecengost. I have recently returned home from my mission and I am so grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. In August a general authority came to visit our mission and he taught us a lesson that changed how I viewed missionary work completely. He asked us what we thought was the most important thing that missionaries teach. Of course we all had different answers: the Book of Mormon, the Plan of Salvation, a living prophet on the earth today, eternal families, restoration of the priesthood, Jesus Christ as our Savior, etc. But we were all wrong. Elder Corbridge taught us that the most important thing we can teach people is how to access God’s power in their life and ultimately qualify for eternal life. Another name for that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As members of the church, we think of the ‘gospel’ as an all-encompassing name for all that we learn and do in the church. But as missionaries, we define the gospel of Jesus Christ as 5 distinctive steps. Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and Enduring to the End. We have already heard about faith today, and I am grateful to be able to speak on steps 2 and 3: repentance and baptism.
What changed for me after this lesson from Elder Corbridge was that suddenly everything became very simple and clear. We have the opportunity to live with God and with our families forever. Once we understand and believe that that possibility exists, the natural question is, what am I willing to do to get there? The answer is pretty obvious for me: absolutely anything. I had a very unique mission experience and I was asked to do some things that were definitely not easy, but they were possible with that perspective in mind. When times get tough, I believe that the best thing we can do is ask ourselves “what am I doing this for?” and “is it worth it?” If our motivation is to live with God and with our families forever, I would say that any sacrifice, any heart break, any injustice or disappointment in this life will be so worth it in the end. And lots of times it’s hard to see that in the moment, it’s hard to imagine things working out and how in the world could this terrible thing be worth it, but that’s where faith kicks in. And that is why faith is by necessity the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith is what gives us the strength to live the rest of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    The second principle of the gospel is repentance. For some reason, repentance is a big and scary word to a lot of people. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that the vast majority of people hate two things: admitting that we were wrong about something, and change. But what we have to remember is that while repentance is a process that takes time and effort, it is always a positive change. The Bible dictionary explains that repentance is “a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined.” To me, repentance is hope. It means that who I am today, does not have to be who I am tomorrow. Repentance brings joy. We know from the story of Alma the Younger that no matter how far we may fall, Christ is always able and willing to help us come back. Alma describes his feelings throughout his repentance process in Alma 36:20-21. This was one of my favorite scriptures to share with investigators. They tell you as a missionary that you aren’t supposed to have any memorized phrases and that you are supposed to teach from the heart, but when you are first learning a language (especially one like Russian), short memorized phrases is about all you can do. Whenever we taught repentance, I had this one phrase that I always shared, and it was this: you can feel this joy today. It is so simple, yet powerful. This joy that Alma describes, we are inviting you to feel it today. Inviting someone to repent is scary and sometimes awkward, but inviting someone to feel joy? It is amazing. It feels right. It’s what the Savior did.
And of course, all of this is only possible because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and what He has done for us. One of the greatest blessings that I received while on my mission was a deeper understanding of the Atonement and how it can bless me personally. I had the opportunity for the first time in my life to rely completely on Him in all that I did. I can testify that there is no way that I could have done all that I did without my Savior’s help. And the reason that I qualified for His help, is that I practiced repentance. I did not say that I was perfect at repentance, but I practiced it. One of my mission presidents spoke in this past general conference, Elder Jorg Klebingat and he counseled us to “Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly. “ The way that we do that, is simply by practicing.
    Repentance is a very personal matter, it is between an individual and their Heavenly Father and on occasion, a priesthood leader, so we very rarely talk about helping others repent. But as missionaries, isn’t that what we do? It’s our entire purpose really. Every invitation that we give people is to help them repent and come closer to their Savior. So if missionaries strive to help those around them repent, how much more as members should we strive to help those around us repent? (Especially those in our families and those whom we serve in our callings.) Today I just want to list 3 things that we can do to help others find joy in repentance.
1.    Example. It always affects me very deeply when someone who I respect a lot has the courage and humility to admit a wrong and ask for forgiveness. Watching others use the Atonement in their lives to improve has helped me desire to do the same. By the same token, we cannot expect to help others repent if we are not practicing repentance ourselves. There is a sentence in Preach My Gospel that strikes fear in pretty much every missionary’s heart at some point. It says this: “you cannot convert people beyond your own conversion.” I believe that this principle also applies to repentance. If we want our loved ones to feel the joy that comes from repentance, the best thing that we can do is to lead the way by example.
2.    We can pray. We can always pray. I can strongly testify that prayer works. During a very tense part of my mission, it would have been easy to be afraid and most people don’t believe me that I wasn’t afraid, but I knew in my heart that I had some very faithful people back home praying for me, and I can honestly say that I wasn’t ever afraid for a moment. So thank you for your prayers, they were absolutely felt. The Savior of course, provides our perfect example in prayer for others. In John 17: 15, he prays “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Prayer is my greatest comfort in this life. Recently there have been people who I know and love that are struggling in very real ways and I have felt helpless to change their situation, but I have always been able to pray for them. As the Savior did, we don’t pray to take someone out of a situation, we pray for their protection and strength. I am so grateful for prayer, both for those prayers which have been offered on my behalf, and for the opportunity that I have to pray for those I love.
3.    We can love them. Love is the most powerful motivator there is. When we love others, they can feel the Savior’s love through us, beckoning them to return to Him. Some of the most rewarding experiences of my mission were helping people return to activity in the church. In every instance, the person just needed to feel loved and important. One day my companion and I knocked on a door. It was a door that we had knocked on many times and had never received an answer. We knew that a member of the church lived there and that she had not been to church for quite some time. Well, on this particular day she answered the door and was surprisingly very kind and invited us to come back and see her the next day. So the next day we returned and taught her a lesson about prayer. The lesson was nothing extraordinary, but the Spirit was there, and I believe that she felt God’s love for her through us, and her heart was softened. She began to cry and she explained to us that she new the church was true and that she needed to come back to church but that she was afraid. She didn’t know anyone in the ward and she was afraid to go alone. Well we promised her that she would not be alone and that would we be saving a seat for her in sacrament meeting that Sunday. Well to our great surprise, she came to church that Sunday, and as far as I am aware, she has come to church every Sunday since that day. She has accepted a calling and is preparing to go back to the temple. All because she felt loved and important. Most people wouldn’t view this story as an example of helping others repent, but if you think about it, that’s really what happened on that day. We helped this lady have the courage and strength to align her will with God’s and do what she knew to be right all along.

The effect of true repentance is righteous living. If a person is truly repentant, it is evident in the way they live their life. Missionaries have the great opportunity to see people’s lives change completely. And that is the miracle of repentance. But the miracle of repentance is also in the little tiny changes that we go through every day. The most common type of repentance is the little tiny baby steps that we make daily to grow closer to our Savior. Those steps usually go unnoticed by those around us, but I assure you, they do not go unnoticed by our Father in Heaven. He is the one who knows our hearts, and He is the one to whom we should look for approval. He should be the source of our confidence, and He is the one who will give us the calming assurance that we have been forgiven of our sins.
So once we have that feeling of assurance from a loving Father in Heaven, we are ready to move to step number 3, or the first ordinance of the gospel: baptism.
One of my favorite things about the Book of Mormon is that it is so simple and clear. In 3 Nephi, the Savior Himself teaches us the proper mode of baptism.

Baptism is a covenant, or a two way promise between us and God. We promise to always remember Him, to keep His commandments, and to take upon ourselves His name. In return, He promises to bless us with His Spirit. Elder Mervyn B. Arnold spoke in General Conference of October 2010, and the title of his talk was “What Have You Done with My Name?” He said,  “Someday each one of us will have to account to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for what we have done with His name. The importance of having a good name is spoken of in Proverbs, where we read: “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold”   and “The [name] of the just is blessed.” Close quote

I spent some time this week thinking about my own name. Schrecengost is not an easy name. But it is a good one. I will forever be grateful to my parents for establishing a legacy of faith and obedience. The name of Jesus Christ is not an easy one either. Living as a true Christian in today’s world isn’t easy, but it is important. It was such a sacred privilege to wear His name on my chest for 18 months. Yes it was hard, oh it was very hard, but I knew then, and I know now why it was all worth it. Because Jesus Christ is my Savior, that’s why. Because if I do what I know to be right, I can live with my Heavenly Father and with my family forever. That is what this gospel is all about.

I would like to close my talk today with a story about the blessings that come when a person has the courage and strength to repent and be baptized.

I have a friend named Teela. Teela is a 29 year old single mother of 6 children. She loves her family and would do anything for them. Teela had made some poor decisions in her past, and eventually she came to a point where she knew that something in her life needed to change. She began to meet with the missionaries. She began to do what they asked: to read and to pray, and slowly her life began to change. This is when I met Teela. She believed that the message we had to share was good, and that it definitely helped her, but she resisted the idea that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was the only true church on the earth. What changed everything for Teela was a trip to the Visitors’ Center at the Mesa Temple. We went through a plan of salvation exhibit and explained that her family could be together forever. At the end of the exhibit, Teela just sat there and eventually said, ”This is what I want. This is what my family needs.” She was baptized 3 weeks later. One of the things that missionaries worry about the most is knowing if someone is prepared for baptism. This was a major concern for me with Teela because it seemed as though everything happened so fast. Well, two days before Teela’s baptism, we got a call from her saying that her father had passed away suddenly. I fully expected her to say that she wanted to cancel or postpone the baptism, but she said “sisters, now I wanted to be baptized even more because I need to do his temple work. I need to be sealed to him.” Teela’s faith and her understanding of the plan of salvation helped me to know that she was prepared for her baptism. She has that eternal perspective that we all need so desperately. She knows that she has the opportunity to live with God and with her family forever, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to get there.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Zone Conference, Transfers, Temple!

wow crazy week. we had a zone conference with president bennet which was so good. basically they told us that our mission is the most watched mission in the whole world right now and that not only did God call us to be here right now but we CHOSE to be here and for this to happen to us. although it has been crazy to try and combine two completely different mission cultures and all live 4 or 6 to an apartment, we know that this is God's will for us right now and that this is a huge opportunity to make a big difference in the kiev mission right now. the meeting was literally exactly what i needed to hear. i was maybe a little holding back before, not sure if it was worth it to put my heart into kiev if there is a chance that we will just be pulled out in a few weeks. but now i know that God wants me to be here and my heart and my mind will be completely here and nowhere else. 

one of my most favorite things about missionary work is teaching a lesson and having the person say that it was exactly the thing they needed to hear. we had that experience this week when we taught the primary president. when we were planning the night before we weren't sure what we should teach her, but i remembered president lochhead's biggest thing was that when you don't know what to do, you always bring up the temple and family history. so we talked to her about family history, and she told us that she new it was inspired of God that we chose to teach her about that because she had just decided that day that she wanted to do her own family history work but she was intimidated and didn't know where to start. she has been a member for 7 years and is super active and goes to the temple every week, but she has never done her own family history work. we read with her a talk from elder scott about what great blessings we receive when we do temple work for our own relatives. it was so cool to know that we were blessed to teach her exactly what she needed to hear that day. 

oh also this week was transfers!!! it was definitely the least complicated transfer ever. sister dryden and sister nash literally just switched beds haha. so my new companion is sister dryden and she is awesome. she is from virginia but grew up in korea and she's pretty legit. she has been out for almost a year and her russian is crazy good. she is teaching me! it's awesome. we already get along great and i love her. it's also awesome that sister nash is still in our apartment so i get to see her all the time. 

oh this week we found out that we can go to the temple!!!!!!!! i am SO excited!!!! well we have to call and ask president klebingat for permission which is kinda scary but worth it. so our mission president is like pretty legit. he is a member of the first quorum of the seventy (don't worry his mission was supposed to be over in july and he will be released then and they already have called his replacement mom, no president lochhead is not coming), and he is fluent in english, german, and russian, so no big deal. he also says schrecengost the exact same way we do, so no worries we haven't been saying it wrong this whole time. 

okay i am sorry i have no time, there are a billion missionaries and like 4 working computers so i gotta go!!! but yes, 12:30 is perfect for skype! see you sunday!!!! love you!!!
Dnepr River

Monday, April 28, 2014

Babuski, Holladyetz, Culture Night

okay this week was crazy!!!! first of all, monday night we had a member lesson with two hilarious babushki margarita and larisa. they are super old and live together and best friends and argue constantly. i hope that i can live with my best friends when i am super old and just argue all the time. it's hilarious! anyways, we had this whole lesson planned about the plan of salvation but of course as all member lessons go all you have to do is announce the topic and they take it from there. we said that we wanted to talk about the plan of salvation, so margarita had us all go around and say what the plan of salvation means to us personally. then she finished it off with a nice 10 minute spiritual thought about who knows what, and then literally said "and that was my lesson in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." hahahaha then they fed us which is always an adventure. the mashed potatoes were fine, the fish patties smothered in mayonaisse were edible, but the holladyetz is what got me. i have been dreading the day that i have had to eat this my entire mission. they tell you about it in the mtc just to scare you. it is literally (100% true) PIG JELLO. jello made out of a pig. it is cold and slimy and somehow gray and see-through at the same time. there are chunks of meat and bone and random tendons and things in the middle and basically it is just the worst. i gagged multiple times, but i finished my plate out of sheer will power and also probably pride because i still want to be able to say that i have eaten everything put in front of me on my mission. turns out pride is a bad thing because i spent the entire next day laying in bed moaning wishing i would die. but now i'm fine so no worries.

the other biggest thing that happened this week was our culture night! it went so well!!! we were all so worried because as it usually goes with these types of things everything seemed to be falling apart an hour before it was supposed to start and then miraculously everything came together again just in time. sister nash and the sisters we live with represented asia because sister dryden's family currently live in korea (she is also my future companion by the way, i'll give her an official bio next week) so we pretended to know things about asia. sister nash and i learned how to make paper cranes from another sister in kiev and so we taught freaking origami in Russian! for this first time on my mission i was like, wow i speak russian. it was kinda cool. there was also a south america table, and they had a pinata so of course they were the favorites. america just had brownies and american flag stickers haha and italy had pizza dough that you could practice throwing and spinning. the members loved it!!! there were so many people there i was almost overwhelmed! i'm used to tiny branches where 20 people is a big turnout, not 100! anyways, it was awesome. the less active who we visited and crashed her birthday party came so that was the best part for sure.

okay so transfer news is that sister nash and i are staying in center kiev, in the same apartment, but we're just switching companions, so i'm with sister dryden, she's awesome and only 2 transfers younger than me and sister nash is with sister nikogosyan who is from russia and so legit! her english is so good that we make fun of her and tell her that she's from america haha. 

okay so i have compiled a list of observations about kiev so far, i'm sure i'll come up with more in the future but here are things that are different from donetsk in kiev (*disclaimer, i'm not saying that either donetsk or kiev is better, they are just different):
-everything is so fancy here. i can't even handle it. unfortunately i am towards the end of my mission, so by this point every article of clothing i own has either a rip or stain on it and most likely both, so i definitely do not fit in here as well as i did in donestk.
-along with that is fashion. in donestk it was about 10% of the people were super high fashion way classy and intimidating and the other 90% of people owned one outfit that without question either had a cat or sequins on it, but most likely both. here there numbers are about reversed. the vast majority of people are SUPER classy and there is a small population of hobos and missionaries who do not dress fancily haha.
-people here speak english. it is SO weird. not everyone obviously, but walking down the street you hear people speaking in english and it throws me off so bad! it's so weird!
-people hear also speak ukrainian. like instead of speaking russian. i feel like i'm in my first transfer again! everyone is like, you're fine, russian and ukrainian are super similar! well, yeah sure, but there still different languages!!! the good news is that by this point i know how people inflect their sentences, so i can at least differentiate between when people are saying nice things, mean things, or asking questions.
-there is american food. like beside mcdonald's. there's kfc, baskin robins, tgi friday, and bagels!!!! literally 3 weeks ago i told sister nash that i would cut off one of my fingers to eat a bagel....that may have been a rash statement now that i think about it haha.
-the parks here are crazy huge and beautiful and there are tons of people in them!!! it's awesome.

okay to be fair, when we left donestk it was kind of winter still and now it is definitely spring in kiev, so it feels more different than it is. also we are living in the very richest part of kiev, so that explains why it feels so different.

somethings are the same though:
-the gospel. it never changes.
-people still stare at me.
-people still laugh at my name.
-full grown adults still walk around eating ice cream cones here. it's actually strange if you see an adult walking down the street who is not eating ice cream. dad would love it here.
-missionary work is still missionary work.

okay that's it for this week! i love you and miss you tons! oh also they decided to send home the lochheads and senior couples this week, so that is super sad. i don't think we're going back to donestk :( i am just grateful to be in ukraine still. pray for ukraine! the elections are coming up and whatever happens there will decide if we get to stay in ukraine or not. alright i gotta go, i love you and miss you all!!! be good and have a great week!!!
Babushki Lesson

Botanical Garden

Asian Sister Shrek

Culture Night

Kiev Street Scene

MTC district reunited

PiƱata Fun

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter, Cinnabon, Crashing Birthday Parties

okay so a spelling lesson first (don't worry i just figured this out myself): it is Kiev if you are spelling it the russian way or Kyiv if you are spelling it the ukrainian way. for the record, i prefer russian, so i will call it kiev. yes, i am SO happy that i am with sister nash still, although transfers are in a week and a half and we are pretty positive that they will split us up because they are trying to integrate us into the mission. yeah we haven't gotten any new missionaries for awhile, and none of the missions in ukraine are getting any new ones, so i bet the kid from colorado will get reassigned to russia or the baltics. yes 10 elders from our mission (5 of whom i have served around) are going home a transfer early and 7 i think from the kiev mission. now there are only 2 groups older than me left in the mission, so if they keep sending people home who knows what will happen. we still don't know what will happen with the lochheads and the senior couples. the sisters would totally share their investigators with us if they could, but they only have one to begin with so sister nash and i are doing our own finding. we actually already found one investigator and she is awesome!!!! she was a former investigator awhile ago and she is about our age. her name is oksana and we were worried that she was just interested in english, but when we had our lesson with her she told us that she wanted to meet with us because when she was meeting with the sisters awhile ago she was much happier and she is looking to find that happiness again. she is so great. she is one of those people when you meet them you can just tell that they are a good person. she already knows how to pray and has received answers to prayer before, so basically she is SO prepared. she almost agreed to be baptized, but she is going to l'viv for the weekend (that's where she's from) and she wants to meet with us again when she gets back later this week. pray for her to get her answer that the book of mormon is true! it has helped me so much to know that there are people here i am meant to help. even though i miss donetsk like crazy, i know i'm supposed to be here right now. 

this week i got to be with sister rohrbaugh and willerth for a day!!!!!!! it was literally the best. so the sisters from kiev that we live were going on exchanges with the sisters that sister willerth and rohrbaugh live with and there wasn't enough room for all of them in one apartment, so sister rohrbaugh and willerth came to us!!! it was so much fun. we took them to KFC and Cinnabon and their lives were complete. oh yeah ps we literally live in the center of kiev AKA our area is the richest area in all of kiev which i'm pretty sure it means is the richest area in all of ukraine. yep. we were in culture shock for the first few days. the malls here are fancier than the ones in america! so weird. anyways, the bishop called us and asked us to visit a less-active because it was her birthday, so we just showed up at her house with flowers and of course she invited us in and we accidentally crashed her birthday party! for the first time in kiev i felt like i was back in donetsk because the apartment was tiny and dirty and smelled bad and it felt like home. of course there was a crazy guy there (there's always one) he was wearing a super fancy suit and he had this paper that he showed us and said that whenever he meets someone from another world he has them sign his paper hahahaha. then he was showing sister rohrbaugh pictures of rocket ships and saying all sorts of crazy stuff. gotta love ukrainian crazies. anyways, we got 3 referrals from the birthday party and a new investigator, so i'd say it was worth the NASTY cake. let's just say it was 95% whipped cream, there was all sorts of random fruit on top and around the edges were i kid you not CORN FLAKES. yummo. 

ok so easter in ukraine: i didn't hear a ton about the traditions, but this is what i gathered. people walk around with baskets pretty much like in america, just plain brown wicker baskets, and they have specific easter cakes (i'll send you a picture) which actually look a lot better than they taste, and they all go visit the graves of their family members to clean up the graves, so it's actually more of like a memorial day type holiday. for sacrament meeting they had all the new missionaries from donetsk (8 of us, 4 sisters, 4 elders) bear our testimonies which i was kind of skeptical because it was easter i thought shouldn't they have like real talks or something, but the members loved it.

other than that this week has mostly been inviting all of the members (active and not) to our ward activity on friday. we're having a culture night that the missionaries here have been planning for so long. i feel bad we kinda just showed up in time for the party and didn't really do anything to prepare for it, but it should be way fun. i'll let you know how it goes next week. 

okay that's all i have time for this week. i want you to know that i am happy and safe in kiev but praying for donetsk every day because it is still home to me. i am just grateful to still be a missionary and still be in ukraine. i love you and miss you all!!!!!
Easter Cakes

Working on the Rapunzel braid

Donetsk District


Pillow Pet

Spotted Cinnabon!

With the Lochheads