Contact information

18 months is a long time for any missionary to be away from friends and family. Sierra - and any other missionary in YOUR life - would love to hear from you from time to time. Letters, packages, or whatever else intended for Sierra may be sent to the Florida Jacksonville Mission office which will get the parcels safely into her hands

Sister Sierra Heller

Florida Jacksonville Mission

8663 Baypine Rd # 102

Jacksonville, FL 32256

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Still catching up on some VERY overdue pictures and such. May recap...

Sierra was greeted in her first week or two with a small tornado that touched down near Waycross.  She was some distance away and in no danger. The tornado itself did very little damage, but it was a vivid reminder that the FJM is subject to weather that we don't get in Utah.  We suggested that a little food and water storage might be prudent in the mission field.

Q: Water Storage?
A: We do have some in the house.

Q: So what happened this week
A: Sister Hansen and Grissom found a dead lizard that was stuck in an investigator's door for YEARS.

The following is from Sierra.  I've changed all member and investigator names to initials only.  It does make it harder to follow Sierra's narrative, but I want to leave their lives private. (Sierra's Dad)
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Dinner with the W's! The cutest old couple took us to Ryan's (which is like of like Chuck-a-Rama). It as like being with a grandma and grandpa. They signed on our dinner calendar saying we could have dinner with them whenever and we took them up in it!

We had a FULL (practically The District version) lesson of the restoration with some former investigators, N and M. They both became new investigators! We got to teach about the reformation, about dispensations, prophets today, and several verses of the Book of Mormon. It was such a good feeling having used time so well and enjoy it all!

We then had a return appointment with R where we taught the whole restoration again with different parts standing out. Such a productive after p-day!
Ms S with Sister B. She still does not understand the restoration. Has many of the same questions as last time. Such as: why is this truly Christ's church when all other churches say that? What distinguishes your church from others? Why are there so many churches?  Had not read the restoration pamphlet, so we recommitted her to read it. (Because she has SO many questions that could be answered if she would just understand the restoration!) Sister B loved sharing her testimony but took it in many directions, she committed her to Corinthians. She had many questions about heaven with so many different churches. Wow,
understanding makes such a difference.
Here's cute Sister B after Sister Heller's first lesson with her!
Did some unique service by coloring Sister F pictures that she said she would put on her wall as decoration.
Just on Monday we found out that in addition to zone p-day, zone meeting, and our trade off in Florida, we also have a zone conference in Dunn Ave and so we are VERY tight with miles. About 5 miles a day for proselyting/p-day/non-meeting purposes. Members can't drive us to missionary meetings but they sure are doing everything else! But we also are doing our part and so we're biking quite a bit!
So.. we biked to A's who lives right by us and we saw a man picking up pinecones! And he said we could help! (You'd be surprised how hard it is to find people who will let you serve them) We got practically a full yard's worth of pinecones quickly and then got to introduce the Book of Mormon and then teach the full restoration. He was very appreciative and was saying the whole time how excited he was. He's open especially to the Book of Mormon and will want to read it next time. Wants to get to church especially with his son. He has a great "I will" attitude and seems very dedicated.
We then got to A's and had a quick lesson with her where we read from the Book of Mormon. Was excited to read from it and sees how it goes right along with the Bible! (She does keep calling it the Book of Norman though ha-ha) She has noticed that the more things she tries to do better and the more spiritual she is trying to be, the more Satan tries to pull her down. She I s going through some hard times but is still relying on God and trusting in him.
We then biked to try and see J but got to talk to D there and had a great contact. D said "It's good you caught me on a day I wanted to talk. I enjoyed this" she doesn't usually join in so it was a good experience
Dinner with M's and Brother N at Pizza Hut!
Brother N had read Mosiah 12-15 we had asked him to read last time. He loved getting into the story and kept trying to ask us what happened to Abinadi and the people! He was so excited and stick on the cliff hanger! He committed to read more from the Book of Mormon every day - he has been reading but now we wants to read even more so he can get to know the stories and understand more doctrine. The M's are such great fellowship for him! They have Brother N for dinner every time they have either the elders or the sisters for dinner (twice a month!) it's great to see bonds that last.
C family at the H's!!!
H' s were great fellowship in how they already had connections and Brother H jumped right in and was comfortable with however the C family took the lesson. They had not fasted since Jimmy had gotten sick on Sunday. The C family had read all together (J and J listening) 1 Nephi 17 and J was able to clearly talk about the events that happened. They enjoyed reading the scriptures all together. We taught them how to pay tithes and offerings and they committed to pay tithing when they were baptized. They loved how it is a lay ministry and how the tithes are private. They keep saying how otherwise the 10% is usual. We taught about confirmation using John 3:15 and invited them to be confirmed June 5th. J and J said yes but then J hesitantly said how they don't want to rush into things. She is having a hard time adjusting (such as with how they don't preach sermons from the bible on Sunday) but is going to keep trying to get an answer.
Tuesday night we laid on the floor at home processing so much because we just care about the C family beyond words!
After getting food at the "Mexican Trailer", We got to rake leaves, wheelbarrow, and do other yard work for Sister Stewart! We did 6 wheelbarrows full! It was quite a tiring but also accomplishing day. After Laura Beth asked us to come and help her clean out her room and her old mission memorabilia! (I can already tell i'm going to have a lot of stuff from my mission too...)
Laura Beth then drove us to area 1 and we got to have Dinner with Brother and Sister Miles! We had been seeing them regularly but they then had trips so we hadn't seen them in a while. But happily they had called us the day before asking if we could have dinner with them! Yay!!! They always cook healthily and make the dinners big deal. And we get to teach a full lesson after. They time in line with Sister Heller's weekly application of commandments! We taught the Word of a Wisdom which they themselves had brought up several lessons earlier. It was exciting seeing Sister Heller teach with such boldness but definitely such LOVINGness. It was a perfect balance especially since after they still have some concerns. It's hard seeing worldly desires and justifications overtake what we spiritually know is true.
So after that we were stranded for about an hour and a half so we street contacted in Spurgeoj which always has some excitement. A great time for golden hour complete with two other lessons, a new investigator, and a bathroom.
After we sat on a curb and waited for then Laura Beth to come and pick us up (her brother had a seminary graduation so she couldn't have just

We then drove back from Kingsland and just a mile or two away from our house we were blocked by a stopped train! Noo! But have no fear we could just spend our hour of training in the car waiting! But then... It still hadn't moved! So... We took matters into our own hands and walked through it! We left our problems behind and just walked through. Sister D was then planning to pick us up from the other side but someone we had seen before gave us a ride to the D's.

So here's a picture of where we parked our car and left our troubles behind! And then came back and got it after dinner.

Here's a day in the life of a low miles missionary:
Crocheting with Sister D and a lesson with T!
Dinner with the K's at a Mexican buffet and then they dropped us back off at our car
We then got to talk to a former, Mr R, who is still not interested but said we can come back and help with his garden!
We hen had such a powerful lesson with Angel with Sister Fussell!
She is really loving reading the BOM. We read some from Mosiah 2 as she hadn't been able to read. We promised her specific blessings as she read s from it everyday. She is excited to be baptized on May 28 and has an I will attitude about attending church. Will be trying to bring another family member to church with her. Was able to notice how the BOM applied to her life as we were reading.
Noticed a fly. Yes, this is important.

Massacre #1
Killed 48 or so flies. They're drawn to both our front and back windows. We first saw seven and killed them all but throughout weekly planning we got to keep taking breaks to kill flies!

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(Sorry - blog guy is having trouble rotating some pics)

Zone meeting!  Mission focuses: Four pillars of missionary work:
 obedience, work ethic, gospel knowledge, attitude
 (Sorry - blog guy is having trouble rotating some pics)

... Back from vacation

In early April, Sierra's emails were directed toward our family rather than to everybody as usual. After her whirlwind three weeks in the MTC and all the adjustments of flying to Florida and then heading to Waycross, Georgia, everything started to catch up to her and she really began to feel down and homesick.  We were able to exchange a few words of encouragement, she received a real nice blessing (parts of which she shared with her family), and she spent some time talking to the Mission President's wife, Sister Craig.  When we heard from her again, she sounded a bit more upbeat and was more emotionally involved in the mission field.

Waiting for adventure and sunshine

A ward member was able to put together her bike after having it shipped from Utah. So far the bike has sat unused and clean in their apartment, but that's due to change. Sierra's mission is considered to be a "car mission", but they're still limited to 1000 miles per month.  If a 1000 miles doesn't cover their needs, they're supposed to bike the difference.  That will take some trip planning on their part, and some awareness of upcoming weather.    

Ready to go forth.

Sierra continues to meet, teach and serve non-members, investigators and members in

the Waycross area

The Blog-Keeper has been asleep for a while..... April 2016 recap

APRIL 2016

Sierra was still settling into being a new missionary in her first assigned area, Waycross, Georgia.  By early April she'd been in Waycross just a short time and was still adjusting to the newness of it all and trying to get her feel for Waycross.

From Sierra:

It was so nice to hear from all of you in the emails today and it was so fun to be able to email all of you last week and now today! 

I had my first little homesickness moment this morning when I was able to read a letter from G'ma that arrived a couple of days ago (I actually can't open anything until Mondays until I've been here either 3 or 6 weeks). But I think I can handle it! 

Conference truly was amazing! We watched a few sessions at the church which had an entirely different feel than watching in member's homes though that was good too. The home where she sent you the picture was at the Bennett's (one of the many). L B was the one who sent the picture to you. She actually served her mission in Utah from Bountiful to Tooele. They also gave us dinner which was belgian waffles! 

We had our first tornado watch(and it sounds like you already knew about it!) We had so many people calling/texting us about it so we were able to go to a member's home where we were going to be having dinner with anyway and provided service. Then later that night President Craig actually called and just told us that things would probably be good but gave us some good suggestions as to where to be in the house if things did get rough. Sister Hansen was super excited, she wanted more than a watch--she wanted a warning! She also wants to experience a hurricane so keep in mind she may be praying for that to occur. 

I saw my first dead run over snake! Eeek!!! And apparently with so much rain filling some of the "gutters" here, there are lots of snakes that camp out near or in them and we've already been warned away from some of the collections of water.  

I also got a crochet hook today and we are going to be doing service with Sister D (she's a less active member). She is older and enjoys talking and her son Brother D has some kind of disability so we'll be doing some yard work, talking to her, and learning to crochet! Sister Hansen is already beginning to crochet but wants to improve her skill set! It'll be so much fun hopefully! 

I also got to see K B in the (Mormon Tabernacle) choir which means you probably did too!!! How neat!!!! I didn't get a picture soon enough though! 



another cool wall we wanted to take a picture at

another cool wall we wanted to take a picture at

Last pday we just kind of went places and took
 pictures at cool places. This street has over
 13 attorney offices all down it. We thought it
was so funny so we took a picture at one of them.

waffles at the Bennett's 
Love to hear from y'all!!

My companion (Sister Hansen) and I with one of the many trains of Waycross

My model pic (on accident, because I didn't know she was taking the pic)
from last Monday from the coolest wall in Georgia

One of the men we just met just had all these chairs he
makes just for fun outside on his lawn, he had even more outside of the picture!!

Welcome to Waycross

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sierra's been in Waycross for a couple weeks now.  They've had a small tornado touch down on the outskirts of town, had severe thunderstorms accompanied by mild flooding, and have been warned to avoid bodies of standing water which remain after the storms as snakes, alligators, and assorted other critters have been displaced by the high waters

We received another unexpected text from a Waycross member (I guess) with the smiling faces of Sisters Hansen and Heller.  They were proudly wearing "I (heart) Hilliard" which they received while doing some kind of service project.  Hilliard is a small Florida community midway between Waycross, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, but we don't know yet what the service project was of what - if any - connection there was to the Hilliard area.

Apparently Sister Hansen just loves free T-shirts

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Provo MTC --> Jacksonville Florida --> Waycross Georgia

It's been two weeks now since the last update to this blog.  Sierra left the MTC early in the morning on March 22.  Her flight left the Salt Lake International airport and arrived in Atlanta for a short layover before a second flight took her the rest of the way to Jacksonville, Florida.  Her flights were on time and the weather was cooperative.  

It's probably always a challenge for parents and family to send their children throughout the world to serve church missions.  A certain amount of trust in the child is required, a bit of hope that as parents they did the best that they could have in preparing their child, and a whole lot of trust is placed in the Lord to watch over the missionary child is also requisite. On the same day Sierra had a quiet, peaceful flight to Florida, hundreds of people were injured and 32 people lost their lives in two Belgium bombings.  Included among the injured, were four LDS missionaries.

Sierra's first assignment is in southern Georgia (Is there really any other kind of Georgia than southern Georgia?) in the township of Waycross, about 70 miles north of Jacksonville.  The town has a population of less than 15,000, but at least it has a Walmart.  Within her first week, little Waycross experienced some strong spring thunderstorms and even saw a small tornado on the ground. Yikes!  

Sierra did receive her bike thanks to FedEx, but (as far as we know) it is still in box, only partially assembled.  Her current mission is primarily a car-based mission.  Unless she and her companion use up their allotted mileage, they won't be needing their bikes in the near term.

Sierra and her new companion, Sister Hansen, have their own apartment in the northwest sideof
Waycross.  Sierra thought her new companion was Christmas obsessed, but it turned out Sister Hansen and her previous companion have been so busy doing their own mission work, that they hadn't yet removed the Christmas decor.  Maybe Christmas isn't so bad; with the thought of summer heat and humidity around the corner, Sierra is already missing Utah snow.

We received a text from an unknown Waycross member who hosted Sierra and Sister Hansen in their home to watch the spring session of General Conference.  It's nice to know they're already being welcomed into peoples' homes. 

From Sierra:

Hey ya'll!
I know, look at me all Southern now. I am now in Waycross, Georgia as part of the FL, Jacksonville mission. 

So this place is basically made up of two families, the Bennett's and the Musgroves. If your last name is not one of the former, you are somehow directly related to one of them. Oh, the dating potential for those who live here. 

The people here love to talk about Jesus! It doesn't matter who they are, how old they are, or where they are--if you mention Jesus, there will be a following conversation. It's actually really neat. There are churches EVERYWHERE!! 

My new companion is Sister Hansen. She is from Salt Lake City, Utah and she has been out on her mission for about 9 months. She is super fun and fantastic and knows doctrine really well--which is something I think I need to work on. One of her words that she says is "golden" so I get to hear that a lot.

Something else that President Craig (my Mission President) has instituted is called Golden Hour. It's an hour where we get to focus on going out and finding people who would like us to teach them, offer them service, give us referrals, share a message about Christ, etc. We do it every single day and so far, it's the hour that I most dread. I am still really nervous about approaching someone and striking up a conversation that could lead to us sharing a message about the Restored Gospel. I know though that through Christ, I can do anything and that if I open my mouth, am living right, and am doing my part in studying, that He will fill my mouth and help my words to reach people's ears, hearts, and minds. I am working on having a better attitude as well and I know that I can do that through Christ too.

On our very first night (which we got to spend at the Mission Home in Jax), President told me that one of the very first things I should get would be bug spray because the bugs here are vicious and will eat us alive! Amen to that! Though there really are a ton of butterfly's (butterflies?) so it kind of makes up for the mosquitoes. 

 Banana spider (golden silk orb-weaver)
That is not okay!!!

So, obviously I have that to look forward to and I am super terrified of when that day comes. EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!
I'll cross that Banana Spider web bridge when I get to it though (LITERALLY!!!!)

I have been missing my District from the MTC, but the people here just have such big hearts that I feel like I've been adopted into the Ward family especially. Their love just flows over me and it feels so nice. And! Everybody hugs here in the South which is great! The men though, are teaching me how to improve my handshake so it is firm and impressive!

We've been able to teach so many lessons and it's so wonderful to be able to see the light of Christ in people and how it can prompt so much change!

I LOVE Y'ALL SO MUCH!! Thank you for all the letters and support!
Sister Heller


Sister Heller

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Has it Been Almost Three Weeks Already??? Leaving the MTC REAL Soon!

We exchanged a handful of emails with Sierra on her last Friday "P" day.  from her tone, she sounds excited and confident.  She recently requested that we send her a white handkerchief so she's planning on participating in the dedication of the nearby Provo City Center Temple on the 20th on March. 
Provo's Exclusive Fine Dining; Invitation Only!
Clearly, all the missionaries in the MTC are there first and foremost to learn, but they're still encouraged to take care of their health and fitness.  One of Sierra's cousins warned her of the MTC cafeteria and how easy it was to go back for seconds (and thirds!), and how she put on 10 pounds in the MTC.  We haven't had any weight reports from Sierra (not really something we'd expect any way), but she has earned the nickname Rabbit since she's nibbling on carrots throughout the day.  Sierra has also said she plays a basketball game called "Bump", volley ball and Four-Square. Sierra claims her basketball skills have improved vastly over the past few weeks.

"Some of our feet that we thought
looked cool--break from studying"

"Sister Helm (blonde), Sister Dahle, and I today!"
Missionaries are free to receive and send letters whenever, and can send and receive email on their "P" day, but phone calls are limited to Mother's Day, Christmas and from the departing airport.  Of the four opportunities Sierra will have to call home, the first opportunity will be this Tuesday.  We were concerned that Sierra's phone time would occur during our work and school hours when we might have difficulty getting to a phone.  We were excited to learn that she expects to be at the airport sometime between 4 and 7 AM.  Painfully early maybe, but we'll all be home and free to chat.

"Elder Holmstead being all cool with
his balloon bud"

Add your own caption here  :)

Sierra's bike and bike accessories should be in Florida just in time for Sierra's arrival.  The Mission secretary has assured me that there are always some Elders with the mechanical know-how to reassemble her bike after being shipped to Florida.  By Tuesday (or maybe Wednesday) evening, she will be settling into her first mission apartment and preparing to start her mission on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints.

From Sierra:

It's so hard to figure out what to say in these emails, it seems like so much time has passed and yet it's only been a week! Our district will be leaving this Tuesday for our different missions so it's been really hard coming to that realization. I am seriously going to miss these Elders and Sisters more than my family-sorry family!!!!! Oh, for real!!! I am so broken up about having to leave them! We've already made plans for after mission get togethers, so that's reassuring. 

We've been really focusing on how to teach to what people need. This Gospel offers them everything they ever needed and we get to be there to invite them and to help them understand the truth of what they're learning and feeling. 

So, about the miracles this week!!! Sister Dahle was almost certain that she had a cyst on her ovaries (she's had them before and knew the feeling), she was feeling so bad. She asked Elder Holmstead for a blessing of healing and all the Elders were able to participate. The effects were almost immediate. It still hurt but she was able to feel like she was healing and she's continually doing better. Sister Helm was also able to experience a miracle!!!! So Sunday night while she was praying, she kept getting the feeling that she needed to pray for her dad's health and helping him recover-it was really strange but she followed the feeling. The next day, we were all called down to the Secretary's office here where Sister Helm found out that her dad had had a mini heart attack ( mini but very strong). He was recovering and she was able to even speak with them and the rest of her family. Her dad told her that at the exact same time that she was getting the feeling that she needed to pray for him, he was having his heart attack. Generally when heart attacks are that strong

there is no chest pain associated with it. He told Sister Helm that the reason that he's still alive was because he felt those chest pains and he knows that he was blessed as such because Sister Helm is serving a mission currently. I also was able to experience a miracle today. I was just wondering why God had trusted me and wanted me to serve a mission. I randomly flipped the Book of Mormon open and the first verses that I read were exactly what I needed! I think it was Alma 13:3-4. It said,

"...thus called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith.."

I truly felt like God knew exactly what I needed and He helped His Daughter (me!). We were also able to go to the Temple today which was much needed!

We welcomed in some new missionaries this Wednesday so our zone has grown so much!! It's really neat to see how many people have felt the Call to Serve!!!!!

We've been blessed to have great teachers which help us role play a ton and share their knowledge and wisdom with us! Sister Spence and Brother Bettilyon are the best! Their testimonies of our Savior are so strong and they bring  a secondary peace in addition to the Gospel. 

I want to let you all know that the Gospel is true and Jesus Christ is the only way to find true happiness and peace. Blessings come as you follow what is true and especially if you are exactly obedient!! Fasting and prayer work miracles as well--we were able to fast for Sister Helm's dad on Tuesday and his doctors are amazed at how fast he is recovering--he is seriously going to work tomorrow! I love this Gospel and I love how families can be together forever and that we can come to know our Savior throughout this life and meet him in the one to come!

Sister Heller

"Big pic of map and where I'm going"
Three weeks and already life-long friends

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dinosaurs, Sharks, and Gorillas 
(and lots of other things)

Another week just flew by and Sierra had another P-Day today affording her some email time.  She shared a few minor logistic needs with her family, but her email mostly consisted of her message to all of her friends, neighbors, wardies, etc. Sierra is at about the half way point of her short visit to the MTC.  In about 1 1/2 weeks, she'll head to the Salt Lake International Airport to head east.  In another week we hope to hear more specifics.  

What it's All About

Sierra and Other Sister Missionaries in Front of Provo Temple

Fellow Missionaries - All Grins

Elders at Work?

Sierra and Sister Helm

Art Appreciation?

From Sierra on March 11th:

Dinosaurs, Sharks, and Gorillas (and lots of other things)

This week seemed super short but the days seem so long!! We are still learning a ton and we are teaching almost every couple of hours if not more! 

So, Sister Powell decided for her health that she should go home (she was super depressed and it just wasn't healthy for her to be here). That means that Sister Helm, Sister Dahle, and I are in a Trio-so it's been almost like the first day when we're all getting to know one another. I seriously love Sister Helm-she's so cute and is like a mama/sister bear and is just amazingly strong! Her family seems amazing too!!

Like the subject line says, this week was filled with dinos, sharks, gorillas, the Spirit, teaching, and so many other things!!
I LOVE DINOSAURS!!!!!!!!! Therefore, we do have many very interesting conversations involving dinosaurs and sharks-which is super random but our district is just so nice and easy to get along with. We've all bonded a lot as we've basically been spending 15 hours a day together, every single day. WHICH IS SO MUCH FUN!! seriously. for true. :) 

We were able to welcome new missionaries into our zone this past wednesday, which was such a fun experience! They're interesting people and we're still getting to know them but it's been good to break up almost constant studying (which is good, it was just nice to have something else to do too).

In our teaching we've been able to feel so close to the Spirit and feel God's love for the people we have had the opportunity to teach. One of the girls we've been teaching is Taylor. I actually know her cousin so it was so good for me to realize that these people actually have lives!!!! Which seems strange but it's something I needed to realize.

We got to go to the temple today which was so great! I love going to the Temple! It feels nice to relax and enjoy!

I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH! Thanks for all the emails and nice things you say! It's nice to hear about your lives!

Sister Heller

p.s. sorry for all the exclamation marks, I just get super excited!!!!

Sister Heller

Sunday, March 6, 2016

First Word from the MTC!

Missionary service really is a full time job.  Whether in the field or the MTC, daily life is busy and structured.  If not teaching or performing community service, missionaries spend a fair amount of time studying.  New missionaries begin their missions in one of several MTCs around the world, spending from as little as two weeks to as long as eight learning how to be a missionary, how to teach, how to speak a new language, etc.  As busy as they are, they are due a day off once in a while known as a " 'P' Day", or preparation day.  This time gives the missionaries time to shop, do groceries, and to spend just a bit of time on email with friends and family.  If the friends and family time it right, they can exchange a few emails during the weekly email allotment.  Otherwise, it's more like sending messages in bottles back and forth with responses taking a week.  

On the Friday after entering the MTC, Sierra had her first P Day and hopped right on the email home and sent the following.  Enjoy!

Missionary welcome

Sierra and Sister Dahle

The Candy Shelf

MTC Crew

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Wednesday, March 2nd was a day filled with hugs, kisses, tears, laughs, and more hugs.  

It was a beautiful spring day in Utah with lots of sun and a warm gentle breeze.  Absolutely perfect weather! After a saying a lot of prayers over the past year, Sierra found herself at the doors of the MTC (Missionary Training Center) in Provo, Utah.  At 12:45 PM Sierra began her 18 month LDS mission to Jacksonville Florida Mission.

Standing on the curb at the MTC about to begin a new adventure.

Over the prior few months, we've been trying to put Sierra together with what she's going to need in Florida;  clothing, shoes, suit cases (thanks G'ma!), scriptures, shoulder bag, etc.   We even needed to come up with a bike suitable for a missionary wearing a skirt.  The logistics of sending out a young adult are daunting.  Considering the LDS church sends its missionaries to virtually all corners of the earth, we had it easy compared to many families with her serving her mission right here in the USofA.

Departing from home.
Sierra gave her farewell talk at her YSA (Young Single Adult) ward in mid February.  After taking the time to prepare her talk, she was  shocked that it only took her 3 minutes to actually present it.  She was determined that her next talk at the family ward would be more substantive.  With lots of typing and lots of practicing, she managed to stretch it out to a full 15 minutes!  She was delighted at its length, the rest of us were delighted with its content.

This blogging thing is new to our family.  We're going to be going through a learning curve here, but it's our intent to share with you Sierra's mission.  She will be in the MTC for three weeks learning how to be a missionary for the LDS church.  Their daily schedule is a rigorous; filled with classes and study.  She will be in email contact with us once a week and we'll talk to her by phone before she departs for Florida from the Salt Lake International airport. 

While she is in the MTC, letters can be addressed to her at:
                               Sister Sierra Nikkol Heller
                               MAR22  FL-JAK
                               2005 N 900 E Unit  12
                               Provo UT 84602
For the duration of her mission, emails can be directed to:

Sierra's Farewell talk as given February 28th, 2016

 I just want to start off with saying that I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus loves each one of us individually, I hope you know that and feel it; I feel it and Heavenly Father’s love is infinitely greater than mine, so I can only imagine exactly how much He loves us. I know that a lot of people say how nervous they are giving a talk, but I get really nervous. At my singles’ ward, I had about a 10 minute talk prepared and when I gave it, it was 3 minutes; I go blank and I just go. So, please bear with me! As many of you know (and what was said earlier), I will be leaving for my mission to Jacksonville, Florida this week. I am so excited to be able to share what makes me happy with those I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity to serve. I’ve been infected by the missionary bug and it’s wonderful. You should all catch it if you haven’t already.
Out of high school, when I prayed about serving a mission, the answer was a no, or at least that’s what I interpreted it as. This past year I kept getting the prompting that I needed to fast and pray about whether I should serve a mission. I really didn’t want to serve a mission but I knew that as long as I trusted in God and His Plan for me that I wouldn’t be lead astray. As time has passed, I am able to see much clearer now that I need this mission and the growth it will yield. I fasted about it on Fast Sunday in April and later that month I went with my sister to do Baptisms at the Bountiful Temple. As we were waiting for our turn, I was praying and Heavenly Father answered my prayer. I’ve learned that fasting, praying, and going to the Temple gives you answers—so don’t do it unless you really want to know and want to follow through on the answers you receive. 
            When Jesus was asked “which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus responds (Matthew 22:36-40), “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” I used to be so confused by that last sentence. What did it mean when it said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”?
 As I was reading these scriptures over and over (because that’s how I function when I give a talk), I finally realized that every single thing we believe in and do are because of our belief and love for God. Keeping the Word of Wisdom, for example, is something that God has asked us to do because he loves us and knows what is best for us. We, in turn, keep that commandment (as well as the others) out of respect and love for our Father in Heaven and the knowledge that He just wants to see us happy and return back to Him. We provide service to others because as we serve we are given a glimpse into how much Heavenly Father loves those we serve, and we in turn grow to love them as well.
Using a classic talk technique, I Googled the definition of love; Webster dictionary defines love as an “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” During my second semester at Weber State, I was on my way to my car after my classes were done for the day. I was walking past the math building when I saw someone in a wheelchair that I had seen before and knew he didn’t have use of his extremities at all. This particular math building didn’t have the electric buttons that open and hold the doors open. I was able to run over, open the door and help him enter the building. The Webster dictionary defines help as follows, “to give assistance or support”, “to make more pleasant or bearable”, “to change for the better”. I believe that helping is an integral part of loving. So what does it mean to love your neighbour? Based on these definitions, I think that it means to be unselfishly loyal and benevolently concerned in giving support for our neighbours, and assistance for them, in changing for the better.
I acknowledge that I now have a bias toward missionary work, but what I am now realizing is how better to show our love for both our Lord and our “neighbours” than by sharing the Gospel and the way back to Heavenly Father and loving them the entire way? 
As I was beginning to prepare this talk, I Googled “The first and great commandment”, and you will never guess what was at the very top of the list; a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland in October 2012, its name “The First and Great Commandment.” The following is a portion of his talk that I felt really illustrated first of all love for Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ as well as loving our neighbours. This picks up after Christ’s death and resurrection, when Peter and the Apostles returned to fishing and Jesus returns again unto them. Elder Holland says,
 After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”  The Savior responds to that reply but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, “Peter, do you love me?” Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”
The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, “Peter, do you love me?” By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically—but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, “Lord, … thou knowest that I love thee.”
To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my nonscriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do.
Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”
Then, turning to all the Apostles, He might well have said something like: “Were you as foolhardy as the scribes and Pharisees? As Herod and Pilate? Did you, like they, think that this work could be killed simply by killing me? Did you, like they, think the cross and the nails and the tomb were the end of it all and each could blissfully go back to being whatever you were before? Children, did not my life and my love touch your hearts more deeply than this?”
I just want to interrupt and share with you my knowledge that as we allow Christ’s life and love to enter fully into our lives, we will be compelled to share the Gospel and bless the lives of those we are around constantly. The responses Jesus gives after Peter responds, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” are “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep.” When Jesus speaks of feeding his flock, he speaks of spiritual food. If Jesus wanted to give us fish, he could. He wants us to not only give physical help, but spiritual. Continuing on Elder Holland said,
“My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without “a single synagogue or sword” to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live.”
I just want to add my words to what Elder Holland said. Giving of ourselves and sharing the Gospel is what can add happiness to everyone’s lives and will help us become true Disciples of Jesus Christ. Keeping the commandments shows our love and commitment to our Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew 25:40, it says, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” As we serve those around us, we can truly be blessed with coming to know very personally our Savior Jesus Christ, and others through you can also come to know Him.
My grandma had back surgery last year during December and we were able to go and visit her in Colorado and were there the day they transferred her into a rehab facility. She was on the second floor the first door to the right, so you got to see everyone who passed by either coming or going. Well, a few doors down there was a woman whose name was Phyllis; she was basically a permanent resident at this rehab facility—she had very severe hearing loss and some form of memory loss, she really couldn’t remember much of anything. This woman would be placed in her wheel chair and she would shuffle her way around slowly—but she got places. With my Grandma’s room, we could see Phyllis pass by every so often and she got places—the nurses often lost track of her. She had no idea which room was hers so she would just go into a room and assume it was hers—I went into my own Grandma’s room once and she was in there going through some of my Grandma’s belongings.
            One of the days we were visiting, I was walking down the hall and she was shuffling her way along and she stopped and asked me what my name was. I responded and she couldn’t hear me so she asked me even louder with an “eh?” I then said it even louder which she didn’t catch again—later on we would see the nurses talking to her and they would be 6 inches away from her ear and basically yelling into it. So, instead of waiting for another answer she just propped her feet up and asked me to wheel her around. As I was wheeling her around, I don’t even think she was aware that I was really pushing her, but she just talked about her family and especially about some of the people she was missing, some of whom were dead. She rarely had any visitors because all of her family lived out of state and the ones who were in the state were slowly dying off.
Throughout this experience of maybe 10-20 minutes, I was able to grow to love this woman Phyllis. My sister and I still talk about her and we didn’t even really know her. I was able to feel the love that Heavenly Father has for one of His precious daughters. I was blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with Phyllis and show her that even though I really didn’t know her that someone cared enough to spend some time with her. This may not have changed her life drastically, but it hopefully helped her feel that she was cared for and important during the time that she could remember that experience.
            I want to testify that loving your neighbours and loving God are very similar. As we love God, we love those around us. As we love those around us, we can see and feel how much He loves them and us. One of the things I am nervous about with serving a mission is learning how to truly love the people that I will be serving. I believe that God knows exactly what we need to learn and he leads us along a path that will help us learn and grow the most.
I know that Joseph Smith truly translated the Book of Mormon and restored the authority and true church of God on the Earth again. I know that President Monson is the Prophet of God on Earth today. I know that this Gospel is one of change and that all things are possible through Christ. I know that we are all children of God and that he loves us and wants us to be happy. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.