Monday, February 24, 2014

Week 30: Angels and Agnostics

I don't think I've ever had much reason to believe in angels, prior to my mission.  I mean, I believed it when other people talked about their experiences with souls on the other side, but since I've been in the field I've had occasion to speculate that much of God's work gets done here by the faithful spirits, either pre-earth or post-mortal, that aid the Holy Ghost in all his guiding and prodding and whispering.
Firstly, this last week was our first full bike week.  It's quite an adventure.  We've been chased by dogs a few times, and hollered at by some hicks in a truck - they said "Do a trick!" to my companion and she pointed to her skirt-biking self and said "This is a trick!" then when I came by they said "Hey what're ya'll sellin?" and I shouted back "Happiness!"  In other news, I don't weigh any less from it (i.e. still 10lb heavier than when I left home) but I'm fairly sure I've got way more leg muscle than I've ever had.  We biked over 15 miles last Friday and if it weren't for some sort of divine help we probably would have given up or died, considering half that ride was on a backwood highway at night where there are no sidewalks or road shoulders and the wind was freezing, but there was this great moment where we paused for breath and I looked up between the rows of thick woods and there were even more stars than usual, Orion's constellation far clearer than I've ever seen.  These lines of course came to mind... "I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed."  How great Thou art, indeed.

Sometimes I stare at these lines til they start to move
Secondly, it's been an excellent week for finding.  Sister Creager is hardcore about the 7 hours of tracting per week, so we've made knocking neighborhoods a high priority.  The new mindset is quality over quantity when it comes to investigators, and with all this finding, we've come across several potentials and can more easily pick and choose the ones with most promising first reactions.

1. The G family.  We'd made a return appointment with them, and when we showed up for it, they were all there, waiting for us, and had us sit around the table so we could tell them what makes our church different.  The dad, young guy, recently got his family back into going to church and the Restoration interested him because he saw a documentary about how books were taken out of the Bible.  His mother was even there, who was as interested in researching religions as he is.  They eagerly took a Book of Mormon to study.

2. Old Joe.  He's been to many churches, he said, and could never find one that would satisfy or answer his questions, which he takes to God often and waits as long as it takes to be answered.  He said something about our smiles, something he could see in us, and let us tell him a story about a boy in a similar situation...and with his same name.  He thanked us sincerely for staying and talking with him (usually the other way around) and expressed desire to come to our church, one he hasn't tried yet, and when we left we realized he'd been slightly intoxicated - regardless, I sensed that there were moments he could feel the Spirit getting through to him that what we shared was something valuable and I'm 90% convinced the two deceased relatives he mentioned had something to do with it.

3. Ash the agnostic.  Super sweet girl, was the trenchcoat-wearing, anime-loving, art-major type, and believes that a higher power must have preserved her in a car wreck so she could be a mother to the baby she has now.  We shared about the pre-earth life, our purpose on earth, our relationship to God, which is something she said she's wondered about.  And she loved that we didn't judge her in all her quirkiness and was excited to have us return.  Minutes after leaving her, we met another agnostic young woman who made a return appointment with us.  I feel like "agnostic" is another word for "golden investigator."  These are the first I've met since being in the South.

4. The S household.  Initially, we'd gone because the father had said we could return.  He's a Jehovah Witness, but doesn't even believe everything they believe, and our appointment with him ended up being a 2 hr lecture on the "two-sided research" he'd done on Joseph Smith and basically had a list of reasons why he couldn't be a prophet (yes, by including both understandably true and ridiculously untrue things he'd read about from questionably legitimate sources) all of which, I believe I could have easily rebutted by pointing out things he'd not thought to consider (the actual recorded testimonies of people like Martin Harris and the eight witnesses) but upon realizing that this was not my job as a missionary and representative of Jesus Christ, the Spirit stayed my tongue and I let my companion invite him to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it.  There was this moment when he was talking in impartial detail about the martyrdom of Joseph and I felt this sweet and strong spiritual confirmation in my heart that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet of God, who restored the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was like a shield sprang up around us, and it was a strange and beautiful experience.  The crazy thing though: the guy's daughter had been sitting with us the whole time, reading a Restoration pamphlet, and when I asked her about it she said she really like the story about the boy who was lacking wisdom, cause she related to him.  She couldn't even remember the boys name, in spite of her father having slandered it for a straight hour, and the only explanation I've come up with for this is that there had been an angel standing behind her the whole time, covering her ears.  She's the reason we found this household.

We continue to meet with Jaco, and he continues to ask us really good questions.  How does Christ "set us free"?  How are we both "of God" and "with God"?  How do you use the individual spirit to connect with other people?  We do the best we can, but I think he may complicate things more than he needs.  Someday, God as his loving Heavenly Father will become real to him and everything else will click.  That's the hope.  In the meantime, we still feel like best friends, the three of us, and we love him to bits according to Sister Creager's definition: "Love - constant anxiety for the eternal welfare of another person's soul."

guests at the Baptist
Sunday evening, we did a crazy thing and followed a woman we'd tracted into who invited us to her Baptist church, for the evening worship.  The preacher was a bit loud, a bit excited, good with words, had some nice points about humility and repentance, though it at times sounded like he was advertising prayer or leading a Jesus pep rally, and when he invited us to "bow our heads" it was really hard to pray when he kept talking and telling us what to pray for.  Some of the songs were nice, and I felt the Spirit during one of the contemporary gospel hymns.  They projected the lyrics and a live band played a long, like a congregational karaoke, and it's been stuck in our heads all day today... "I'll rise up like the eeeeagle, and I will soar with You, Your Spirit leads me on, in the power of Your looooooove..."  The people there were totally nice though, and let us share their potluck following the service.  I admit: I am a fan of the Baptist potluck.

In sacrament on Sunday, the six of us missionaries sang the EFY medley, "As Sisters in Zion" and "We'll Bring the World His Truth."  The ward loved it, despite our amateur voices, because the Spirit was strong.  It got me thinking how at many points in my life, all I wanted was to be part of something great or to do something noble.  And here I am.  This is it.  We are as the army of Helaman.  We are the Lord's missionaries.  And we get this wonderful promise:

88 And whoso areceiveth you, there I will be also, for I will gobbefore your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my cSpirit shall be in your hearts, and mine dangels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]

They're everywhere.  And you all get this same promise of companionship too.  Awesome, huh? :]

Sister Valdez

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