Monday, December 28, 2015

Pictures Unforgettable Christmas

Maddy & Brother Austin

Oh Happy Day! Maddy's Baptism!

I love this girl!

She had such great support at the baptism!

Sister Meili came back for a visit!

Best friends for life..and forever!

Helping with Christmas morning breakfast at Bishop's home!

Love the Brady family!'s true.

Sweet Sister Plomgren!! love her!

Christmas Eve!

We got our pj's! xoxo

Unforgettable Christmas

Hello everyone!!!

I hope you Christmas was Merry and Bright! I can't believe this year
is nearly over! It is 2016! Where did all the time go? My first
Christmas away from home will most definitely never be forgotten! What
a special week it has been! Wednesday was Easily the BEST DAY of my
mission. Maddy was baptized and it was such an unforgettable
experience. We spent all afternoon decorating and making special for
her. The turnout was amazing...There were over 100+ people there to
support her-- the ward, the stake presidency, president Woodbury, and
so many of her friends! The whole chapel was full, it felt like
sacrament meeting! Sadly, her parents wouldn't come... But there were
so many people there to support. I have never seen Maddy so happy, the
spirit was so strong. I know that the Lord was so pleased and proud of
Maddys decision to be baptized, and the spirit was so strong. For all
that she sacrificed to choose the right and be brave, pressing forward
with faith. The program was wonderful, Connor gave a talk on baptism,
Connors mom and sister sang beautifully while I accompanied them to a
special comprised version of "I know that my redeemer lives." Then I
gave a talk on the Holy Ghost. Afterwards, Maddy got up in front of
EVERYONE and bore her testimony. I bawled like a baby the whole time.
That was one of the most tender sweet experiences I have ever had in
my whole life and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the whole world.
I am so grateful for Maddy, I am so thankful the Lord blessed me with
the opportunity to teach her and have her  forever become a part of my
life. The lord knows Maddys divine potential and I know he has a work
for her to do. She is such an incredible girl and I am so proud of
her. What an amazing gift to give the Savior for Christmas. And what a
wonderful gift to receive from God. Maddy was confirmed on Sunday by
brother O'Brien. Words cannot express how much I love Maddy and the
people in this ward! It's moments like these that make being a
missionary the most rewarding experience. I am grateful to be a
missionary, I testify that the greatest joy you can feel in this life
is helping others come closer to the Savior. This was definitely a
Christmas I will never forget.

This week I have been pondering and studying about the power of the
atonement. Sister Plomgren and I are studying Romans with one of our
recent converts and the apostle Paul teaches a lot about the doctrine
of Christ the the grace of the Saviors atonement. I don't think that
we can fully comprehend the power of the atonement. I have come to
gain a greater understanding of Jesus Christ's atonement since the
time I have been out of my mission. I rely on the healing and the
strengthening power of the atonement each day as I strive daily to
become a better follower of Jesus Christ. I have a testimony that the
Lord takes weak things and makes them strong. There is no way that we
could make it through this life without a savior. Jesus Christ gives
us the strength to endure whatever challenges that we have to face. We
are sent to this earth to be tested and tried, and challenges are part
of this life, and also part of gods plan. However, because God loved
us so much he sent he son Jesus Christ to be a savior, and I find
peace in knowing there is not any trial or hardship that the savior
cannot heal. EVERYONE can be strengthened through Christ's atonement.

There is a good quote in January's ensign about the Atonement by Elder
Gerrit W. Gong: "Fully accepting our Savior’s Atonement can increase
our faith and give us courage to let go of constraining expectations
that we are somehow required to be or to make things perfect. … We can
gratefully accept, as God’s sons and daughters, that we are His
greatest handiwork, even though we are still a work in progress.”

God has made it so simple, all we have to do is humble ourselves and
rely on is our responsibility to let him in. Sometimes what I
struggle with is.. that I am sort of a self willed person....  Take
things on myself thinking I can handle it and don't need any help. Of
course I am humbled each and every day and I am so grateful for the
gods patience with me and that he helps me realize I can't do this
myself! Missions are hard-- but LIFE is hard, and thankfully because
of the savior Jesus Christ we don't have to do it by ourselves. I know
that we are each given our own personal challenges and trials to help
us grow closer to the Lord. I testify that any time we overcome with
the strength of the lord our faith and testimony grows.

What a wonderful time of year to reflect upon what we can improve on
to increase our faith in the Savior. Every year my family individually
chooses a gift to give to the Savior throughout the new year. I
challenge each of you to do the same and ponder and pray about a gift
you can give the Savior this year to help draw closer to him.

My gift to the Savior 2016
- My gift to the Savior this year will be to serve him with all my
might, mind, and strength in helping to bring others unto him through
faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost.  Striving to
follow him with full purpose of heart. Understanding the importance of
serving others and helping them to strengthen their testimonies and
endure to the end.

I love each of you and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas season!
Happy new year!!     Thank you for all of the love and support!!

Sister Parke

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pictures Reason to Believe

We helped a woman in our ward who is bedridden set up her Christmas tree this week!

Zone temple trip!

Santa Claus came to the mission home and gave us all new gas cards. Yay!

Loving all the Christmas Cards!

I made Sister P some French toast for breakfast. Makes me feel less homesick. I miss making food for you guys!

This is ISABELLA. Diane's daughter! Her call has been assigned! We are just waiting for it to come in the mail!

Heading home after a great day in the city. Trump bldg behind us.

Pday breakfast out with Maddy, Connor and the Elders!

Reason to Believe

Hello everyone!!

Christmas is in four days? Oh my goodness where has the time gone? I
love this time of year and the opportunity we have to ponder and
reflect on the life of the Savior. What a great week it has been!!
Here are a few of the new things going on in Buffalo Grove.
So Maddy isn't going to byuidaho this next semester. There are a
couple reasons that factor into this decision. First, she wrote a
letter to her parents telling them about her plan to be baptized and
going off to school.... Asserting her position with the church. After
her parents read the letter, her dad had a really good talk with
her-the first positive one about the church ever- he said that he
acknowledges that she is going to be baptized and that he is
respecting her choice even though he doesn't necessarily agree with
it. He did say however, that he wants her to wait until next semester
to go to BYUIDAHO so that they can go with her to tour the school and
take some time off so that they will be able to help move her to
school, which with this short notice would not be possible. The second
reason, is purely financial. Maddy is paying for school herself and
needs to save more money before she heads off to school so that she
can avoid debt. But I am so glad the miracles regarding school,
because without them she would not be getting baptized on Wednesday!
School can wait, but what is most important is baptism... And now
Maddys parents are softening their hearts. She was willing to
compromise her baptism to go to school but the opposite occurred...
Her parents are accepting baptism but asking her to put off going away
to school. We are VERY EXCITED for her baptism this Wednesday and know
it will be a very special experience.
We made the phone call on Wednesday to schedule a hand-off lesson with
Luis for this upcoming Tuesday. He really needs Spanish-speaking
missionaries. But, the law of compensation is real! About a half hour
after we called the spanish elders, someone texted. They said, "I got
your number from Danny. I want to learn more about being Mormon. Do
you have time to help me?" So that threw us for a loop! We had met
Danny in McDonald's Saturday night. It had been a long day and it was
8:30 PM and finishing up contacting at Walmart. We wanted to go home,
but Sister Plomgren felt a strong prompting to go to McDonald's. We
get there and there is only one couple there, and I did NOT want to
talk to them. They had foul mouths and were kind of rude in general.
So we sit there for a couple minutes, and sister Plomgren said to me,
"Let's just go home",  I felt like We needed to show them the video,
then we could go home. We ask if we show can them the Christmas video,
and after he says, "Yeah, I dated a girl who was a Mormon. Her dad's a
bishop in Salt Lake City. I talked with him a little about the church
and I thought it was pretty interesting. I just like learning about
religion." We invite him to church Sunday, and get his contact
information (his name is Danny). I don't really think much of it, to
be honest because he was pretty involved with his own religion.
Tuesday, we get that text from his friend Mike, and set up an
appointment to meet with him! What a miracle!
Random little miracle moment: we were in the mall food court (where
the people are) doing some contacting and we were taking a break and
had a Book of Mormon out on the table. This woman walks by saying
"Nice book!" and Sister Plomgren and I just look at each other and
turn back to her. We ask if she had ever heard of the Book of Mormon
and she says, "Oh, I thought that was a Bible! I've never heard of the
Book of Mormon" so we explain what it was and she says "Oh, I'll have
to check it out!" and we were like, "Well you can have this one". She
takes it, thanks us, and walks off. Sister Plomgren and I were kind of
dazed for a few minutes because that seriously doesn't happen often so
when it does it's kind of awesome.
The whole mission has started a new initiative where we do two hours
of personal finding a day. Sister Plomgren and I have taken that and
added two active member visits and two less-active member visits, so
that we give our days a little structure and that we have "all our
nets in the water" (we are using all our resources to find people to
teach). So we had done our two hours of finding, and we had just
finished our second active member. We went to visit our first
less-active member (and mind you it was about 25 degrees out and
Sister Plomgren and I were freezing), and she opens the door and says,
"Are you from the church?" We answer with "Yes, yes we are" and she
says, "Then I don't want to talk to you" and with that she slams the
door. Most people are civil with us and say something along the lines
of "Thanks for visiting, but this isn't the time that I want to come
back to church right now" and then we give them our card with a number
to call or something like that so that they can call us if we ever
need anything. But this woman's rejection really did a number on us
for some reason. So we were hitting our spiritual low for the night.
We go to get gas and try to figure out what we should do. When sister
Plomgren pulled out the book to record how much gas we buy and how
much it was (we keep a lot of records here), these CD cases fall out.
The CD's are from a band called Remembering Rome and sister Plomgren
asked, "Who is Remembering Rome?" and I say, "You know pretty much
everything I do about this car". So I throw them back in there without
a second thought. Then we were looking through our list of people that
we want to visit and this one name jumps out at us.  We both felt like
we needed to go visit this man. so we go to where he lives, which was
only about five minutes from where the gas station was. We get there,
knock on the door, and his mom answers. We ask, "Is Mike home?" and
she says "Yes, let me go get him for you. It's freezing out, would you
like to come in?" Wow! Usually people make us wait outside, even when
it's cold out. So that was a little tender mercy in itself. She gets
Mike and we introduce ourselves to him and we get to talking and he
invites us to take us seat in the living room. Yeah, that doesn't
happen ever. We chat a little about everything and he tells us that he
was in the band Remembering Rome. My mouth falls open at that point
because what are the odds? I have seriously looked through that glove
compartment about 10 times looking for a pen and have never seen those
CDs before. That was so cool! We invite him to church and the
scripture study class that the missionaries run and he said that he
would come! That was seriously one of the coolest things that I had
ever seen.
I have gained a testimony that as we obey and listen to the promptings
of the spirit they will happen more frequently. I have been studying
and pondering about the Holy Ghost this week as i prepare my talk for
Maddys baptism. The Holy Ghost has such a strong influence on my life
and I know that without the companionship of the Holy Ghost I would
not be where I am today. As I was studying... I noticed something that
finally clicked in my mind....everything we do as members of the
church is intended to invite and bless us with the companionship of
the Holy Ghost! Annnnd the reason that this church is a true and
living church is because of the gift of the Holy Ghost! The Holy Ghost
testifies of the truth and bears witness of the Savior Jesus Christ. I
love the quote by President Faust, "the gift of the Holy Ghost is the
greatest guarantor of inward peace in our unstable world." I have a
strong testimony of this. On Friday I had the opportunity to go to the
temple with my zone for Christmas. What an unforgettable experience.
The peace that I felt is indescribable... And can only be felt by and
through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is how we are able to feel gods
love for us. Even though he is not physically here with us, he can
always spiritually be with us through the Holy Ghost, if we live
worthily. I testify of the power in striving to keep the spirit of the
Lord with us always. Life is so much more simple as our thoughts are
directed to the Savior.
I have also been reflecting a lot upon the teachings of the Savior in
his mortal ministry. My heart has been filled with the spirit
countless times as I have pondered upon the life of Jesus Christ and
his goodness. This is a Christmas I will never forget; the Savior is
the hope of the world, and I don't think I fully understood this
clearly until my mission. Jesus Christ was born so that he could be
the example to us of how we need to live to make it back to our father
in heaven. Without him, we would be lost. I am so grateful for the
Savior, and his atoning sacrifice. I am grateful that he was willing
to come to this earth and live a perfect life and because he loved
each of us so much, he died for all of our sins. I was studying in
Luke chapter 23 this morning, and read about the crucifixion of the
Savior. Tears filled my eyes as I remembered that the atonement is the
reason why Jesus Christ was born. He came to this earth to save us
all. And this is why we sing... JOY TO THE WORLD. I love my Savior and
Redeemer Jesus Christ. I am grateful for his infinite atonement. I
know that he was born to offer blessing of peace and hope to each and
everyone of us. I am grateful for this time of year to remember Jesus
Christ and all he has done for us. I hope you all choose to believe.
Believe in Jesus Christ. Alma 33:22 the reason to believe is found in
the Son of God. I wish you all a Merry Christmas! I miss you so much,
but I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve! I love

I challenge you to read Jesus Christ our Master and More in the April
2000 ensign!

Sister Parke

Monday, December 14, 2015

Pictures P-day in Chicago!

Deep-dish Chicago Style Pizza


PIctures 12.23.15

Gingerbread House Night at the O'Briens! So Fun!

Thanks for chocolates Dad! ;)

Yes, my favorite soup in the world!

Helping Diane set up her tree

My favorite family from Ghana! 

Thank you so much for the pillowcase Abbie! I love it!

Letter from EQUADOR. Made my whole entire week!

Dipping homemade carmels with Sister Kappelman! Yum!

Ending the day right with a frosty! 


Week of many miracles
Hello Everyone!
What a great week!! (: the first of many miracles is the fact that it
has been higher than 50 degrees ALL WEEK. absolutely amazing. Sister
Plomgren and I are soaking it all in. (; literally. It's been quite
rainy.  We are headed into the city today for P-day so that will be
quite fun! There is so much to catch up on, sadly I only have a
limited time today.. So I will share the amazing experiences we had
this week with Maddy!
I cannot tell you how happy I am for her. It has not been an easy
road, yet she has remained so strong and the Lord is blessing her. So,
We have been suuuuper busy preparing for her baptism... We want it to
be so special for her! We are getting decorations from the ward and
decorating the RS room! It's going to be like a winter wonderland!
Maddys favorite treat is dipped strawberries so we will be making
those at the kappelmans, as well as chocolates for her baptism. It
will be such an a,amazing day! Maddy has asked me to speak on the Holy
Ghost, and play I know my redeemer lives at her baptism. Yes you could
say I'm a little nervous. But it will be great.
So as far as BYUIDAHO goes, after 3 weeks of not hearing back from
BYU-idahos admission office. We finally got things figured out and
Maddy was accepted. Then miraculously she was assigned to the winter
semester.  Tuesday night Maddy told her parents about BYUIDAHO ... It
did NOT go well at all. Her parents are  still highly against the
church and want nothing to do with it, nor do they want Maddy to be
baptized or attend a church school. This obviously is very hard on
Maddy, because she now has to choose between the church and her
family. This last week has been tough on her but I am amazed by her
resilience and strong faith. After pondering and praying about what to
do, Maddy has received the answer to be baptized and go to school at
BYU Idaho. And ever since she has made that decision everything has
fallen into place.
I know I am meant to be here to help Maddy, and that is the best
feeling in the whole world. Before I decided to serve a mission I was
feeling confused as to what the next decision to take in my life. I
felt prompted to apply for BYU Idaho and was accepted, I was planning
on going to school there and researched apartments and tuition,
classes and programs. As you know obviously I didn't end up going to
school there because I am here on a mission now, but until now I never
fully understood why I had the prompting to apply there. Maybe I had
to go through that to help Maddy get things figured out for school, it
has been such a blessing. Tender mercies. The Lord is ever so aware of
Maddy. I love her so much and I can feel Gods immense love for her.
How proud he is of her for her faith and he is blessing her. Maddy is
such an amazing daughter of God, and I am so grateful for the
opportunity I have to help her grow closer to the savior. What a sweet
experience it is. I can now start to understand the scripture in D & C
18:10-16 the joy that is felt in bringing souls unto Christ. I
wouldn't change this experience for anything else.
So, the STRANGEST thing happened on Saturday morning. We woke up with
a text from Maddys mom asking if we wanted to meet at her church for a
cookie walk. So we decided we would go and met her there, a little
nervous because of the situation with Maddy. We show up and meet her
there and she is THE FRIENDLIEST she has ever been. She welcomed us
with hugs and said, "I just want to get you two some homemade cookies
for the holidays, I am sure it is so hard to be away from home." We
talked with her for about an hour and things were just like normal.
She was happy as ever and was so sweet. I really feel as if the Lord
is helping to soften Maddys parents hearts. Even maddy said she has
noticed an extreme difference since she made the decision to be
baptized. The Lord blesses us for our faith!
On Friday we had a really cool experience! It has been a long day and
sister Plomgren had been sick all week and I was just beginning to not
feel so great. We both were a little discouraged and didn't really
have the desire to talk to anyone. We decided to go into a Mariano's
to try and contact a few more people. Sister Plomgren sat down I I
started talking to a young woman who worked there. She was so nice and
friendly... Which was a good for a change (; Her name is Dorina and
she is from Bulgaria! Turns out her best friend is Mormon! That's not
even the coolest part. Do you remember back in October when our ward
mission leader got us flowers and hot chocolate when we were having a
hard day? Well, turns out Dorina is the one who helped Serve him! She
remembered him because he told her he was Mormon and wanted to know
where the church was! This Sunday just so happened to be Invitation
Sunday... And we invited her to come to church with us! It helped
uplift our day and reassured that God is always there and is aware of
our efforts. So excited to get to know Dorina better and hopefully
teach her about the gospel!
So sister Plomgren and I have been studying a chapter of Luke a day up
until Christmas. How amazing it has been to study in depth about the
saviors life on earth and how he lived. This week I was studying in
Luke 18 about the parable of the widow and the unjust judge. I love
the verse, "pray always, and not to faint." To faint means to become
discouraged or weary or tire of something... It then made me ponder on
the importance of enduring to the end. I have come to the conclusion
that the key to enduring to the end and avoiding discouragement of
growing weary is remembering the purpose in doing something... Whether
it be for church... School... Work.. Etc.  I've noticed that most
people who are struggling with working hard or preserving through the
hard times don't remember their purpose of why they are doing it. It
is not necessarily about individual strength, it's about the strength
of the purpose. My mind reflects back to the difference between Nephi
and Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. Nephi prayed and learned
for himself the purpose and importance of returning to Jerusalem. He
also had great faith. Laman and Lemuel never tried to recognize the
purpose and so that is why they struggled to put forth the effort.
My dad taught me... And continues to teach me the value of hard work
and to always remember my purpose. People who remember their purpose
and keep it strong, form the habit of doing things failures do not
like to do... And then they succeed. On a mission, it is critical to
everyday remember the purpose of why I am here, because if I don't,
well like Laman and Lemuel... My faith begins to dwindle and How easy
it becomes to lose hope. Perseverance is the secret to success. I
found this quote in my studies this week. "Perseverance is rooted in
the foundational gospel principles of faith and hope. Perseverance
reflects our faith that our actions will bring the lords blessings
into our lives."  the only way to Endure to the end is through the
savior Jesus Christ. through him we a able to find strength we never
imagined. Peace to our souls, and happiness to our countenance. I am
so grateful for the opportunity to be a missionary, especially this
time of year!! To understand the true meaning of Christmas, we only
have to remove the last syllable and remember CHRIST. Merry

Sending lots of love from the City of Chicago!!

Sister Parke

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pictures Power of Prayer

Making Cranberry Lemon Shortbread! Yum!
A little fun in the kitchen....

My Packages finally came! Yay!

Can't wait to see what is inside!

Stocking for you and for me!

Extra spoiled by Aunt Pam with lots of goodies and gifts

And another stocking too!

More of what i love..butternut squash soup!

And the stockings were hung...

Sweet girl who I hope will teach my children to play the harp one day!

Exchanges with Sister Sufia from Somoa!

Love this sweetie!

Thank you for my Advent Calendar Emi!

More gifts for under the "trees" :)


My life

Making snowflakes since it's 50 degrees outside now!

All ready for Christmas! So pretty!