Monday, February 3, 2014

Week 24 & 25: The Skreets of LA

Who needs signs when you got spray paint?
Plot twist: the Zone leaders called up our apartment last week with a "Hey so we decided to switch your area boundaries - swoosh! - over here.  So now South, your area is smaller, and East, your area is impossibly large.  Also, you get some of the ghetto."  Okay, so maybe they didn't say it exactly like that, but that's what happened.  So Sister Sellers and I got to spend a couple days this week in the hood of Shreveport, Louisiana - the true skreets of LA.  It was certainly nothing like Rameumpton Row, and goes to show how much I'd be missing out on if I did stay in Shreveport my whole mission (which I initially was wishing for with all my attached heart, but realize now that since I'm approaching 6 months in my birth area, it may finally be time to move on.)
We witnessed an actual rooster crossing the road in front of us, but he unfortunately strutted away before I could ask him why he did it.  We crossed paths many times with Randy, the one legged man burning rubber in his wheelchair, who said "You ladies only come to this neighborhood when I'm here, I gotchu, no one will do nothin to ya while I'm around."  Heck yeah, anyone shady comes near us, no doubt he will run. them. over.
Someone's front yard. I have no idea why.
We tracted Babylon. No big deal.
As it occured to my companion the other day, we miss a lot when we don't trust the Spirit and listen for it - though it usually sounds like not much more than a "hey maybe you should go here, or do this."  Oh, that's the Spirit?  I thought that was just my head thinking stuff.  Yeah, genius (says to self) that's how the Spirit gets through, not over a loudspeaker in the sky or a text message from a long distance number (do you know this area code? ah yes, that's city of Heaven).
Me looking hardcore next to a bullet hole.
One day we spent a good hour with Sister S, driving all over the dickens for someone to minister to while we yet had a member with us.  We almost located a less-active, but instead met her son.  To make it worth the drive, I gave him a Book of Mormon to take with him as he enters the Air Force, and he gave me an awkward unanticipated side-hug.  (This happens sometimes, and I don't know why.)  So after a few more tries we ran out of ideas and Sister S said, "Let's go see Sister P."  So we did it.  Started out like regular small talk of trips and children, as visiting teaching goes, next thing you know we're hearing Sister P's conversion story and rocky family life and current life struggles, and - swoosh! - out come the scriptures so we can dry her tears with the words of Christ and testimonies of His Atonement.  We left that sister's house with that undeniable feeling that that was where we'd needed to be.

Once in awhile I get astounded at what my calling allows me to do.  In some cases, counsel full grown adults with years more life experience than me.  And it has nothing to do with my own knowledge of the gospel, and everything to do with my calling and the fact that while I'm assigned to this area, all those within it, member or not, are under my stewardship.  What's more, they trust ME, this little never-lived-away-from-home 22 year old girl to teach them out of the scriptures, like the true representative of Jesus Christ that I'm trying to be.  It's really significant and really makes me not want to ever go home and have to have this mantle removed.  (I also am not looking forward to having to make choices and stuff.  Righteousness is so much easier when you have sky high rules and the salvation of many others dependent on your obedience.)
I've lately noticed a constant balance between the amount of times I watch the Atonement work in someone else's life, and the times I'm using it myself just to stay afloat.  My companion has this habit of dropping a talk by a general authority on my desk, and saying "Read this.  It changed my life."  I can't imagine what her life would be like without modern day prophets.  Because she does this at least once a week.  But one of them was by Elder Holland who said "the Atonement will carry the missionaries perhaps even more importantly than it will carry the investigators."  Some days, that's absolutely the truth.  Certain neighborhoods seem to be just brimming with haters, and the most promising investigators somehow decide all at the same time they're going to drop you, and some days I just want to crawl into a hole and die (or at least pass out until the Second Coming) but when I remember that such rejection means I'm "standing with the best life this world has ever known," I find myself able to go a few more steps.  Looking back really throws it into perspective - I made conversation with the guy at Walgreens processing my film and handed him a Mormon.org card.  Who am I?!?  Who does that??  Not me six months ago, that's for sure.  When you're walking with Christ, you go places you never thought you could.  Including the mean skreets.
Our reward for getting 7 hrs of tracting: 7up
Though I suspect my time here is soon to come to a close without my having had a single opportunity to fill the font,  I have a chance to witness a most beautiful thing - a heart change.  A woman we're teaching stepped outside for a moment to smoke - "I need to calm down" - and when she stepped back into the lesson, we showed a Mormon Message "Lifting Burdens" which is entirely apostles and the prophet testifying of the Savior's Atonement.  When it was over, she said "Wow.  That really calmed me down."  Better than a cigarette ever could, that's for dang sure.  And the following lesson, we showed the Restoration dvd, after which she not only expressed how much she liked it, how she related to a young and searching Joseph, but you could see the impact it had on her from the look on her face.  The dark circles gone from her eyes, stony expression of stress and the cloud of worry, all gone and replaced by a glowing countenance of contentment and a light forming in her eyes.  Things were beginning to "settle in her heart" as she said, the Spirit was working in her, and she was changing.  I was beginning to think I'd never see it, but here it was.  And it was wonderful.  I can leave this place with peace in my heart, knowing that something was left behind, that the light of the gospel had pierced the tireless darkness of at least one soul.

Elder Rose - always good for a laugh
Transfers are next week.  And I have this strange feeling that I've done all I can do.  That Heavenly Father is more than capable of taking care of the rest.  Funny how strong a sense of trust can grow when you're forced to practice it, to place it fully on the Lord every waking moment of every single day.  As Sister Sellers observed, "Heavenly Father's got this!  When none of your plans work out, it's because He wants to somewhere else!  And you just have to ask Him and He tells you!"  True that.  "For behold, the Lord doth agrant unto ball nations, of their own nation and ctongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that hedseeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.."  [Alma 29]
Sister Valdez
Ladies and gentlemen.... the Marvelous Work ft. The Shreveport District

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