Wednesday, June 18, 2014
So you know how one of the big things that kept me from getting married (which I see now was so I would be unmarried at 21 and able to serve a mission) was that few of my suitors were of a suitable age?
Yeah, well, yesterday a fifteen year old boy with shaggy hair asked for my number and last Tuesday the investigator that had come to church twice but still hasn't read the Book of Mormon told us we were brainwashed and then when he heard we get transferred asked how he was supposed to find a wife if we leave. Both sufficiently insulted and sufficiently grossed out because he's like my dad's age, we got outta there real quick and will not be going back. Fun stuff, huh?
Bike week proved to be another major test of our faith, as we somehow got way fewer lessons that usual and only one new investigator, despite the total of 25+ miles that we ended up biking this week. 15 of those miles were all in one day. Sister Dailey is such a trooper. I don't really know how we did it, except that Healthy habits + Enabling power of the Atonement = Strength and endurance like I've never seen in myself. When we tracted, only two people accepted Books of Mormon and guess what. Both had friends that were members of the church. People with member connections are literally THE ONLY ONES who will speak to us/be nice to us 80% of the time. YOU DON'T REALIZE HOW MUCH INFLUENCE YOU HAVE. Speaking of which, do ya'll recall that Elder Ballard in his last talk committed us all to invite one person every quarter to take the missionary lessons? That's only one per season. Only four per year. Easy. So ah, who do ya'll have lined up for summer? Can't wait to hear. Cause I know ya'll are just dying to jump on this, ahem, commandment from a prophet of God.
A tracting miracle, we went back to recontact a man we'd found two days previous who was elderly and probably didn't even know who we were or what we're about, and when we get there, he's not available. However, we began talking with the woman who answered the door, as we've been counseled to do when a potential is not available, and we eventually discover that she was baptized several years ago, removed herself from church records when she married a man who wanted her to study his faith, has since separated from him, and wants to come back to the church that she knows is true. i.e. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That's us! Holla! It hasn't been easy, but we're determined to help.
In M-Hall, we finally made contact with the woman that had a baptism date for May 24 (obviously didn't make it, and then we didn't see her for three weeks) and I breathed an enormous inner sigh of relief when I saw her. She looked different. She was busy so we couldn't stay, but she spoke with us a minute and we learned why creased scowl was gone from her eyes, why the dark circles were gone, replaced by a glow of health and color in her cheeks. She'd been reading the scriptures, she told us. And then pondering them. Sitting outside and meditating and allowing Heavenly Father to reach her understanding and fill her with good thoughts - and take away the stress and worry. Incredible what such a thing can do to your physical appearance. I've waited my whole life to be able to discern that "light in your countenance" that people talk about and now I've been able to witness it twice. Let's all pray her progression continues.
Fun fact: Mormons and Pentecostals are the world's last advocates for the dignity of women. A Pentecostal minister, one of the nicest people we've ever encountered tracting, thanked us for being modestly dressed, and he was like super sincere about it. And while we as Latter Day Saint girls don't wear long sleeves and skirts in public 24/7 or refuse to cut our hair, that's still one value we have in common. So someone go tell the ward's Young Women, Aaronic priesthood and your parents aren't the only ones grateful for your virtuous dress and appearance! The Pentecostals' teenage sons dig it too!
Father's day yesterday was a strange mix of great and terrible. It being Fathers day, both sister companionships got Father's day cards for our district leader Elder Webb. He's also training, which makes him undeniably a dad now. Church was great, two powerful talks about member missionary work (do you yet grasp the importance of this?) and the elders' investigator (on and off for the last ten years) asked in sunday school if we could talk about forgiveness. It being a small gathering of six missionaries and him, we said yeah of course! and jumped into charity and forgiveness in the manual and scriptures. By the end, he had a peaceful look about him and told us he resolved to call a family member that day to tell her he's forgiven her. In the priesthood meeting following, the visiting stake president committed him to a date to be baptized. Woohoo! I mean, after that the day went downhill. Worst was we were texting a recent convert who got mad at us for telling him shopping on the Sabbath isn't keeping it holy and doesn't connect that when prophets speak it's the same as God speaking and thinks we put our trust in men because we heed the prophets. He got really indignant and I got super depressed because this happens a lot with this guy and Sister Dailey ate away her pain with a large bag of M&Ms while I laid on the carpet and gave up on life. We eventually got up, the day went on, and we taught no one, and both the investigator and returning member who'd asked for priesthood blessings either were not home or didn't answer the door, I felt like a failure and apologized to the priesthood holders we'd pulled away from their families on Father's day for nothing, our most reliable investigator waved at us as she walked by the door but did not return to answer it and we spent fifteen awkward minutes standing at the door and occasionally knocking until we gave up and left in confusion and defeat. I had to rattle off every encouraging scripture I could think of as we drove to keep myself from throwing myself into a ditch.
"Peace be unto thy soul, for thine afflictions will be but a small moment. And if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high. He shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. I have refined thee - I have chosen thee out of the furnace of affliction. I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed. Let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not. Thou hast with unwearyingness declared repentance unto this people. I will bless thee forever." <-- or something along those lines.
Finally found a less active at home, an elderly friend who was happy to see us. Her husband with Alzheimers/dementia called Sister Dailey a boy, asked what time we clock out, and if the man over there was a foreman. He thinks we're construction workers, it's cool. At the end of our emotionally rough day, we said to heck with fruit and salad dinners, and made pancakes and chicken strips, no regrets.
Miracle moment: We got a call one morning from a man who sounded like someone who'd hit rock bottom. After further explanation, he revealed he really had. Started telling me, a perfect stranger, how everyone close to him was deceased or disappeared, how he'd lost the use of his legs and felt as if he'd lost everything at once. I asked how he got our contact information. You left a card at my door, he said. I've been praying with that card next to me every day and I knew that if I called the number, there would be someone who would listen. Well, I about fell over. He was right. I assured him that His Savior would get him through this, and that the message we missionaries share would show him exactly what he needed to do to find peace and joy again. The bummer part is, he'd since moved to Ridgeland so the assistants to the mission president get to teach and baptize him now. But still. A card we left at a door. What are the chances? The gospel finds the penitent.
I'm not gonna say this week was like my own mission-scale Liberty Jail, but it warn't no walk-in-the-grove either. And my ceiling might have received a few cries of "Where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?!" As Sister Dailey said halfway through the first trying day, "This is so character building. We are going to be such great people."
I have a lot to love about Sister Dailey. We have much in common: we were both homeschooled, used to be terribly shy, eat primarily fruits and vegetables now, are hooked on Jillian workouts, play piano, don't play sports at all if we can help it, are one of five children, and love our quiet reading/writing time at night. The apartment is like 89% quieter than it used to be and I am diggin it. She's also super focused when we're in lessons and that helps me and our investigators a LOT.
Oh, quick highlight. I finished the 30 day workout program. And lived. And I totally made my goal weight! i.e. the weight I was in the MTC. It took four solid weeks of Jillian Michaels in the morning and many green smoothies but I finally shed that pesky last five pounds. Now to retain. Picture included. If I step off the plane next February looking like a beast, I'm not sorry. I feel great.
On the flipside, this week was adversity-central. When it was over, Sister Dailey asked, "On a scale of one to ten, ten being normal... how normal was this week for this area?" "Like a two," I answered. "This was a very strange week."
I mean, our first day was great. After all the transfers craziness, we went out to work, stopped in on a young family that we've taught once, they had two friends over, one was a member of the church from Jackson and one was his nonmember friend who'd read a bit of the Book of Mormon and was interested in learning more about it. We taught her and it was the best thing. Then the next day, nothing went right.
Our appointment with them, and everyone else, fell through. No one else we tried was home. It was hot as cajun gumbo outside, humidity so thick you had to swim through it, every day. We tracted our full seven hours, found no one. To cap it all, I got bit by a dog. Yes, you read right. We walk up to this house, see this big black ferocious dog, chained up, barking like it wants to tear us limb from limb, so we try to walk around it cause we're smart, when suddenly it lunges, BREAKS THE CHAIN, I scream, it bites my ankle, Sister Dailey whacks it in the face with her scriptures and we both run for the car. The owner comes out all mad at us, Sister Dailey's like "Why does it feel like we're in a movie?!" and I just cry. There was nothing else to do at that point. But don't worry, no rabies, not even blood. Just trauma.
But it got better. We met with the newlyweds, and she (the nonmember) told us she wants to get baptized! I guess all we had to do was ask. She said now that they're married, nothing's holding her back. She's just waiting for her husband to get clearance to baptize her. And they're going to start coming to church again. The crazy thing, is that I feel like I did very little. It was all between them and Heavenly Father that they were able to get to this point. I was just fortunate enough to be thrown into the mix at this point in the game. And so it will be with many of the people I've taught, I figure. I just did the initial work, a small portion of it. Many others will come in to continue where I left off, and when the time is right, they'll choose to enter into the covenant of baptism.
We heard both their testimonies last night, she told us how she's a lot happier since she started reading the Book of Mormon, how it calms her down. He told us how he found the church through a girl who he noticed was "weird" and he asked her why she was weird and she told him she was Mormon, so then he was interested in the church and the more he learned the more he liked it because it all began to make sense, more sense than anything else had before. It is my dream that someone someday asks me why I'm so weird so I can tell them about the restored gospel.
In the meantime, I'm doing it the hard way. I don't think you normal non-missionary members of the church realize how much easier missionary work is for you than for me. You can do it at your convenience, with people you already know and love, who won't stand you up or break your heart (probably) and you don't have to spend time and energy gaining their trust. Ideally, we missionaries shouldn't even have to endure tracting, because our schedules would be full of people who want to meet us at their LDS friends houses to learn what it is that makes their friends so happy. We came up with this in our studies this morning:
So let's say, that you have this cure-all medicine. It fixes everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, from cancer to the common cold. Now that you have it, do you lock it up in your medicine cabinet and never speak of it to anyone? (Because you don't want to seem 'pushy'?) The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the cure-all. And no matter how good your good Christian friends are, they DO NOT have full access to all the blessings of the Atonement without the ordinances performed by the proper priesthood authority. <-- And that's from the mouth of an apostle. Hastening the work is serious business.
As the area seventy pointed out in our sacrament meeting yesterday, missionary work is also one of the most joyful and rewarding things you could ever take part in. How great will be your joy if you should bring just ONE soul to Christ? (never mind that it's also like, indicative of true conversion and necessary for your salvation) And if it seems hard, just think about your friend over here in Mississippi dying daily of heatstroke and getting bit by Rottweilers.
Or remember these comforting promises from the Lord:
Friday, June 13, 2014
It was the rainiest week ever. Tuesday we were tracting and looked up like "Hum, those clouds are moving awfully fast. They're real gray too. Whoa where'd this wind come from? It's pretty strong. If it rains it means no tornado right? Or does the tornado come afterward? So if this rain stops suddenly, we're supposed to jump in the nearest ditch, correct?"
A couple of hilarious old ladies took us to visit a less active who was in desperate need of fellowship, one of them a sassy black woman with a French name, and then they took us to a seafood buffet afterward where I got "full as a tick" on fried catfish, gumbo, etouffe, stuffed shrimp, hush puppies, FROG LEGS, and banana pudding. Frog legs. All I could think while eating them was that scene from Princess and the Frog. Those hunters in the movie, by the way: 100% no joke completely accurate representation.
Remember my dream to be a waitress? I contemplated how Californians would take it if I was the kind of waitress that calls everyone "baby," old and young, male and female. Still have not reached a decision.
We taught an older woman who'd spent many years working in a place that made airplanes and was so deaf we had to yell 3 Nephi chapter 11 at her, my voice shot by the end and she told us she enjoyed it very much. Bless her heart. We taught a second lesson to one of our ghetto friends, the one that just got out of jail, and then met his mom, who had a single gold grill on her front tooth with a star cut out of it. I don't know where I am sometimes. Another of our ghetto friends, the young one, found us on the street and said "I'm glad I caught ya'll! I read a page in that pamphlet every night til I finished it. And I would like a copy of the Book of Mormon." Made our day.
A recent convert that we've been visiting frequently since I got here finally gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon. All it took was regular study and earnest prayer, which he had to choose to do on his own. He's very in tune, and very humble. Said he was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants and in his prayer said "Lord, this sounds just like you!" and the Lord answered, "It IS me." This shook him a little bit, because of his many years believing the Bible was complete, infallible, all there was. So he poured out his soul, "I don't know what's true anymore!" And his answer, "You know who you sound like? Joseph Smith." And it clicked. We rejoiced so much at this news.
Bestest news of all: the couple that were set to get married, TOTALLY GOT MARRIED! Me and Sister C bought matching tops at walmart, wore them with our matching skirts, picked wildflowers while tracting Friday afternoon, and were makeshift bridesmaids Friday night at the church, our new bishop performing his first wedding ever. It was short, sweet, dignified, and meaningful, just like everything else in the church. They covenanted to be faithful to each other "until the end of [their] mortal journeys" and now our money's on a temple sealing in a year. Or however long it takes. We were soooo happy.
He said after the wedding, driving home, he felt a great weight lifted and knew he'd been forgiven. He told his new wife, and at that moment there was a three-second rainfall, which she took to be a sign that she had too. There is peace in righteous doing.
And he, the less active, figured it all out on his own! After our countless nights of trying to read scriptures and teach principles and extend commitments without getting knocked over by the Doberman, they must have somehow felt the Spirit during our visits and he figured out that living the gospel was what he had to do, the best thing for himself and his family, and the only way to be at peace.