Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Week 45: Exalted Highways

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:

 Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith youhave been afflicted shall work together for your goodand to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.  [D&C 98]

 And now, saith the Lord—that formed me from the womb that should be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him—though Israel be not gathered, yet shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength...
Go forth; to them that sit in darknessShow yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them; for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
 11 And will make all my mountains way, and my highways shall be exalted.
Like Elder Bednar said, the hard things, the loads in our lives are what give us spiritual traction and bring us closer to the Savior.  Our mountains are made a way to salvation, and our highways exalted, no matter how rough the roads, if we're serving the Lord, seeking His will, relying on His merciful arm.  Though Israel be not gathered (yet), we shall be glorious.  God shall be our strength.  His way IS the highway.  The highest way.  Take it.
Sister Valdez

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