Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hi All,
The rest of Christmas was good. Dinner at President Leavitt's house was good. The assistants and a few of the missionary couples were there. One of the couples is the Thatchers. Elder Thatcher lived in the Avenues for awhile. He said that he designed the organ in the chapel on Second Avenue, not the one that we attended, but the one farther east. I want to say it's near I Street, but I can't remember. Maybe you know him? He plays the piano, so he played some Christmas carols and we all sang along.
Something interesting about Canada is that they celebrate Boxing Day on December 26. Many people have work off that day, at least in Nova Scotia. We did a lot of contacting and walking around that day, but the city was pretty quiet all day.
I recently read through all of the General Conference talks from October. Those addresses are so powerful! I received many answers and direction from the Lord through those talks and I felt the Holy Ghost testify these are the words of the Lord, spoken by His servants on the earth today. I loved that so many of the talks focused on strengthening our testimonies and becoming truly converted to the Lord. I know that this is one of the reasons the Lord asked me to serve a full-time mission. I feel my testimony being strengthened each day as I study and pray and testify. As I continue to strengthen my testimony and act in faith, my heart will be changed and my conversion will deepen. I can feel it happening now and I am excited for the days ahead.
President Leavitt has extended a challenge to all of the missionaries to read the Book of Mormon in a month. We are starting on January 1. I am so excited to do this! I love the Book of Mormon. I finished it last week (finally! I started it before Oakcrest and was supposed to finish it before the end of the summer...better late than never, right?). I know that it is true! I learn so many things each time I read it. Particularly as a missionary, I have received so many answers to prayers through the Book of Mormon. It's amazing what we can learn when the Spirit is the one teaching us. I would like to extend the challenge to read the Book of Mormon to you and everyone in the family as well. :) I would love to hear the experiences you have as you read the Book of Mormon in a month.
Have a happy New Year! Love you!
Sister Maren Renda

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

This last week was booked and it was wonderful. We had a zone conference last week, lots of lessons with investigators now that finals are over, and two days of music in Greenwood and Truro. The concerts went really well. It is always incredible how they come together with so little rehearsal. One of my favorite pieces from the concerts was an arrangement of "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." Apparently this hymn was written during the Civil War. Verses 3 and 4 really hit me as we practiced and performed this number:
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth, I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
As a missionary, I am here to proclaim this very truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored! God is not silent and everything is "done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things" (2 Nephi 2:24). All will be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 
Merry Christmas! 
Sister Maren Renda

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

BIG Snowstorm!

We had a big snowstorm yesterday that resulted in church being cancelled. We stayed inside all day, planning and making appointments for the week, organizing, and what not. We didn't get much snow out of it, but the winds were really strong. Sister Laxton and I were both sad that they cancelled church because we had six investigators who said they would come to church yesterday. Oh well, the Lord knows the intents of our hearts, right? The different thing about the snow here is that it will snow, then the temperatures will rise and it turns to rain. In the morning there is a layer of ice on top of everything. Fun stuff, eh? :) I don't know what the plan is for calling home/skyping. I'm pretty positive Sister Laxton and I are planning to to Skype, but we don't know if we will do that at a member's house or at the church. What time would work best? I have to remember that we are three hours ahead of y'all. What if I try to contact you around 10 am your time?
This last week was different. All of the students we are teaching or that we have contacted didn't want to meet with us because of finals. We also had a flat tire on Wednesday that threw all of our plans off for that day. We discovered it pulling out of our apartment complex, luckily. Even more of a tender mercy was that one of our investigators (Ibrahim) and his friend happened to walk by and changed it for us! Amazing! We were so grateful. Both of them came to Institute on Friday. We also had another of our investigators come to Institute last week. Even though it was a rough week, good things still happened. 
That's exciting about Sierra Dodson! Peru!
Christmas concerts are this weekend. Friday will be at Greenwood and Saturday will be in Truro. We're playing some pieces from Handel's Messiah and doing a lot of choral Christmas hymns. Hopefully it goes well! Love you all!
Sister Maren Renda

Monday, December 9, 2013

Two Months!

I have officially been a missionary for two months. Crazy! I feel like I have been a missionary forever and at the same time like I just got here. It's a weird feeling.
This week we had a branch Christmas party, complete with turkey dinner, Luke 2, Christmas music, and an appearance from Santa. I'm really grateful that I am still serving in the YSA branch for awhile longer. We're getting to know the members better, which makes life so much better! Things are moving along and I can't wait to see what happens over this next transfer.
We are doing two Christmas concerts next week in areas that didn't get to see the Orange Blossom Special concert series. Sister Laxton and I did a musical number in church yesterday, too. I never expected to have the opportunity to use music so much on my mission. It's such a tender mercy from the Lord.
I hope that you all have great week! Remember the reason for the season. Christ is the reason. I loved the Christmas devotional last night, especially President Monson's talk. He said the only way we will ever be happy is if we make other people happy. It's so true.

I love you all! Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mormon Missionaries on Campus- Halifax

Here are some pictures from the facebook page the missionaries use to publish events they are doing on campus.  It looks pretty cold!!
Elder Clark and Nzojibwami and Sister Renda and Laxton

Sister Renda (in the hat) and Sister Laxton on campus at Dalhousie University

Monday, December 2, 2013

Transfers? Not Me.

Sister Laxton at Peggy's Cove
Hello from the Great White North! (Although, there isn't much white here yet...)
This week is transfers. President Leavitt sends emails out the weekend before transfers to let us know our assignments for the next transfer. Sister Laxton and I are staying here in Halifax. Sister Lee is being transferred to Sackville to open the area for sister missionaries. Sister Jungheim is staying in the Halifax Family Ward and her new companion will be Sister Coleman. Transfers happen on Thursday. On Wednesday we are going to the Halifax temple! I am really excited as I haven't been to the temple here yet. The temple is in Dartmouth, on the other side of the harbor.

Last Monday we went to Peggy's Cove. I'm hoping to send some pictures if I have time.
The rocky shore at Peggy's Cove
Beautiful Peggy's Cove, 1 hour Southwest of Halifax on Saint Margaret's Bay
Peggy's Point Lighthouse built in 1915
Peggy's Point Lighthouse is the most photographed Lighthouse in Nova Scotia
This week was filled with adventures. We have a new branch president, President MacLennon. He and his wife just returned from serving as missionaries in our mission. They were home about a week and then called to serve in the YSA branch. I am really excited to work with them, especially since we haven't had a branch president since Sister Laxton and I got here. They invited us over on Thursday night for American Thanksgiving. Sister MacLennon told us that she had been looking for some Americans to invite over for American Thanksgiving. She made the whole feast, including turnips and squash, which are common dishes at Canadian Thanksgivings.
We had a free hot chocolate stand on the DalHousie campus on Friday with the Elders. We handed out over 100 cups of hot chocolate in an hour and talked to a lot of people. We are planning to do another one this week.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord places people in our path. This last week, Sister Laxton and I missed the bus to Dartmouth and were trying to figure out what we should do. As we were walking down the street, a woman that we had met briefly a couple weeks ago stopped us. We met her during street singing, during which we sing hymns for an hour or so each week as a district in downtown Halifax.  Had we not missed our bus on Thursday night, we wouldn't have run into her again. What looked like an unfortunate situation (missing the bus and not knowing how we were going to get to our dinner appointment) turned out to be the Lord guiding our steps. Whenever something bad happens in our lives, we always need to remember that the Lord is in charge. He sees the big picture and He knows where He wants us to be, but more importantly, who and what He wants us to be. I am grateful that the Lord trusts me to do His work. I have no doubt that the Lord wants me here to change ME. In the process of changing my heart as I yield it to Him, He can work through me to bless the lives of His children. It's up to each of us to decide to give our will and our hearts to Him.

I love you all and hope you are enjoying the first week of December wherever you are. Good luck with finals and wedding preparations and whatever else is happening in your lives!

Sister Maren Renda