Friday, July 25, 2014

Week 50: Watching. Waiting. Warning.

Let's see.  Tender mercy this week: We were about to start tracting and the mailman stopped us to ask what we're doing and when we told him he warned us about houses with mean dogs and gave us his dog repellent.  It's like pepper spray.  But for dogs.  I feel a lot safer with that stuff clipped to my belt.
We drove by the young less active's house that we've been working with forever (who still hasn't mustered the motivation to come to church despite our every effort) and he was leaning against his truck, smoking.  I'd half a mind to drive up, get out, and punch him in the face, but I didn't.  He also slunk inside when he saw us coming, so instead we talked to his roommate sitting outside, asked him for an estimate on the mini damage to our bumper (we just accidentally rolled into a little ditch the other day, nothing serious, don't freak out) and he told us he's trying to get better at not using the Lord's name in vain.  He's technically not an investigator, but he'll talk to us anytime we're around.  He lives the party life, just like his member roomie used to.  So we commended him for that little step of repentance, told him how God is our Loving Heavenly Father and if he remembers that it'll make it easier to honor His name.  I don't know why I like this kid so much, as he's never without a Bud Light in his hand and smokes like a chimney, but it's prob because he talks to us like we're friends and I think maybe we can slowly, sneakily love him into the gospel.
Speaking of interesting characters that I have an inexplicable love for, I've been working on charity lately.  And really all it takes is to pray for it with all energy of heart and then make a conscious effort to stop thinking about myself (how hungry, tired, or frustrated I am) and just listen to them while they talk.  The love just comes.  It's pretty great.  I hope I can keep this up.

Remember the guy that told us to pray about fluoride in the water?  We caught him at home again, showed him the Restoration movie, and he was in awe.  He loved it.  We asked if he believes that Joseph was a prophet, and he said yes, because he has a lot in common with him.  Apparently they receive revelation in similar ways.  And here I thought pillars of light above the brightness of the sun were like a special occasion or something.  Still hasn't committed to anything though, he won't even read the Book of Mormon until God tells him to he says, and each time we ask like "Will you come to church on Sunday?"  or  "can we set up a time to come back?" or "Will you set a date to prepare to be baptized by?" his answer is always "I don't wanna lie to ya" meaning he doesn't want to make a commitment he can't keep.  So we pray hard that he gets some solid revelation soon while we play the waiting game.
We do a lot of waiting.  Waiting for our investigator with a date and without a phone to get back from the hospital every time her little baby has surgery.  Waiting for our once-progressing investigator to move out of her boyfriend's house once and for all like she keeps saying she will.  Waiting for our golden member referral to move back from Virginia so he can get baptized asap.  Waiting for letters.  Cough cough.  So if you ever worried that I'd come home not having learned a lesson in patience... just... worry not.

One of our new investigators was super sad the last time we saw her.  She'd just had to give up her three little kids to the state because she couldn't take care of them.  However.  She found a job the same day.  And said she'd been praying, as we'd committed her to do, and asked for a sign to let her know that everything would work out for the better.  She looked up and saw two angel shapes form in the clouds.  That was her sign.  She knew God was taking care of her.  That's the thing, everyone receives answers in a different way, but it's always a way that befits them, that makes sense to them.  For her, angel shaped clouds.  She said when she got that answer, it was like a wrecking ball came at the wall she'd put up between her and God and BOOM no more fear.  Well.  A lot less fear.  She set a baptism date that same day, after we told her about covenants and the sacrament.  The irony is that the job she got keeps her so busy that it's been impossible to meet with her again.  So we wait.

We followed up with this one family, and it was like a prime example of the differences between the generations.  We showed the Restoration movie (prime teaching tool, anyone can understand it), and we got three different responses.  The grandma said she enjoys our company but she's Baptist and she's going to stay Baptist.  The mom who doesn't go to a church said she'd try ours out whenever her son wants to come, but obvi isn't making it a high priority, it's just like whatever.  The son, who gradually got into religion on his own, said it'd be very important for him to know for himself whether this is the true church and that he wants to look into it himself, read the book, pray about it, and visit when he can. 

There was this lovely moment when we were talking to a recent convert, and he was this perfect picture of the south, a scruffy sixty year old man with the thickest southern accent leaning on an old red truck while he talked to us, and as he talked about church that morning and how much it made him want to do missionary work in any way the Lord requires it and how he knows we're going to receive a great reward in heaven for the hard work we do - before my eyes he transforms into this ageless, beautiful, noble hero of some sort.  It's like, hard to describe.  But our differences, whether they be generational or cultural, just didn't exist anymore.  I imagine that's what it'll be like when we're all resurrected.  Perfect and beautiful and glowing and mighty and heroic and radiating with our infinite worth and potential and capacity to love and connect.  What an awesome time that will be.
Speaking of the times.  I should forewarn you.  I've been learning some things.  And many of you will probs think I'm crazy.  But I accept that.  Because it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor and whether or not the neighbor accepts that is not upon my head.  Ye be warned.
So here's the deal.  This isn't like official doctrine, but I'll let you look it up and ponder and pray about it yourself.  Here goes:
Matthew 24.  When the fig tree putteth forth her leaves, you'll know the summer is nigh.  A generation will not pass until all these signs happen (and the second coming occurs).  The fig tree is Israel, which was established in 1946.  If a generation is approx. 80 years, that puts us at 2026.  Twelve years to detonation. (Kay I know this isn't like precise, but you get the idea!) Doctrine and Covenants 88 give us more.  It's written, six angels at the second coming will declare the history of the six thousands years that man has been on the earth from the creation til then.  Adam was 4000 BC.  It's now 2014 AD.  You do that math.  It's written, the fulness of the gospel will go forth to everyone and people just won't recieve it.  It's just so they won't be left without excuse.  Cough cough.  It's written, above all clothe yourself with charity.  That will be most important.  What was President Monson's last talk about?  LOVE.  It's written, cease to be idle or sleep longer than is needful.  Um, at the time this was written, these people farmed and did manual labor like all day and played outside for fun.  Facebook, instagram, vine, twitter, and youtube did not exist.  You tell me which generation this warning was directed toward.  I'm not even going to go into the Cardston Temple vision of 1921 or vision of the popes by St. Malachi in 700 AD, because those people weren't prophets or revelators, but needless to say.  We have less time than Satan would have you think.

126 Pray always, that ye may not faint, until I come. Behold, and lo, I will come quickly, and receive you unto myself. Amen.
Watch and pray.  Read the scriptures.  Follow the prophet.  Be temple worthy.  Update your food storage.  (And familiarize yourself with the law of consecration and maybe learn how to grow wheat and vegetables.)  And do not count these things for naught, because there's a reason everything prophesied of since the beginning of time seems to all be happening right now, all at once.  The wicked are slothful and think they have all the time in the world.  The righteous will be ready.  Pick your side.
Sister Valdez
note from Mom: this is a face Sabrina made as a baby!

Week 49: The Nuisance of Freedom

Americaaaaa!  Happy late Independence day.  I hope you guys had a killer time watching fireworks behind the middle school with the whole city of Yorba Linda like we have every year of my entire life.  I got to see like, three fireworks.  In people's front yards.  Cause I guess that's legal here.  I also celebrated my independence by completely disregarding several personal health standards.  Ice cream and candy-shop fudge for lunch (nothing else), twinkies and mini donuts during our planning session, and the best banana pudding ever plus Special K peanut butter bars at bishop's that night.  I regretted nothing. Except the mini donuts.  Not worth it.
We had FHE with the ward mission leader and his wife, Book of Mormon pictionary.  We love them a lot, they're like our ward parents.  Except they're, like, my age.  Or younger.  It's only weird sometimes.  Weirder still when I get pictures in the mail of my own friends, younger than me, that have babies.  I can barely cook for myself.

We aimed again for daily contact with the newlywed less active, who jumps back and forth between being really committed (in word) to do what's right and simply not caring i.e. not coming to church because he doesn't feel like it.  I'm glad he said he welcomes my chastisement, because I went hardcore this week.  I basically told him (through the scriptures) if he doesn't bring his kids up in church and they go off the deep end, the sin is upon his head because they were his responsibility, I told him that the Savior rarely if ever did what he "felt like doing" because he was always doing the Father's will and NEVER thinking of himself.  I told him that not coming to church is being totally selfish, and refusing to change and overcome the natural man is blatantly rejecting the Savior's Atonement.  I did not tell him that I wanted to punch him in the face for drinking with his friends on the Fourth.  But it better not happen again.  I think one of the things that stresses me out the most with this guy is this fear I have that I'm going to have a son someday with his same attitude and it's going to rip me in half because when it's you're own child, you can't say "welp, transfer time, you're someone else's burden now!"  It's a lifelong stewardship.  And if they don't change, a lifelong frustration.  That's just the nuisance of agency.  They're free to choose, and some just consciously choose the wrong.  japgo;ish;lskdfj.  But we'll worry about that later.

I learned in my studies this week that if you don't live the law of consecration when appointed to do so by an apostle, you'll fall over and die.  New testament.  I learned in our continued "end of the world" discussion at Bishop's that when we all have to leave society and live in Independence, Missouri, we'll most likely be living the law of consecration there.  Better give it all, or you give up the ghost (so says Acts chapter 5).

I got to teach my own family this week!  The Valdez family.  Ha.  His progenitors are from Mexico but we're probably cousins somewhere down the line.  They make good burgers and delicious fried chicken at a local convenience store, currently don't have a church (because everyone judges the plethora of.... artwork... on his body), and he's curious because he worked in a jail and once saw an inmate reading the Book of Mormon.  We met them awhile ago and finally got to sit down and teach them.  Quite promising so far.  We also got to teach this young family, who totally look like Utah/Cali/Arizona Mormons, even with the tats on the dad's arms (who also looks like he should play guitar in coffeeshops on weekends) and they're really open.  Said they've prayed about the Book of Mormon and haven't got any "negative energy" so maybe learning more is a good thing for them to do.  (Answer is yes, it's actually the best thing you will ever ever do.)

We've been keeping a tally of shirtless old men we spot while driving around town and we're up to 8 for the week.  One of them we actually got to teach, Plan of Salvation because he said he was a recovering drug addict whom God had preserved but for what purpose, he doesn't know.  So we taught the purpose of life.  He liked it enough to agree to another lesson.  Maybe next time he'll put on a shirt.  We can only hope.

I know I've complained a lot about how hard the work is out here (and don't think for a second I'm exaggerating anything because for realz you don't even know) but like.  It's like what our DL told us once.  In the world, it's like this: input --> output.  Your efforts determine your results.  In the mission, it's like this:  input --> AGENCY --> output.  There's this giant wall between the two, and that's other people's freedom choose.  To accept or reject.  To act or to ignore.  To pursue or to cower.  And there's nothing I can do about it.  I know it's how it has to be, because Satan's plan was that no one has a choice and life is meaningless.  But it's really a bother to us laborers over here.

So I was reading in Alma 43, about how the Nephites are battling the Lamanites, and the ill-prepared Lamanites are fighting like dragons and somehow killing many Nephites through their armor, and there's twice as many Lamanites so the odds of winning just aren't so good for the Nephites anymore.

 45 Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.
 46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; 
So they end up winning, of course.  And it's all because they remembered why they were flinging swords in the first place.  Their cause was noble and God-sanctioned, so of course He was on their side.  No battle is too big for God.  I'm here to do that which I feel is the duty which I owe to God.  And even if I don't come out conquerer, if I die before my journey's through.... happy day.  All is well.  At least I was fighting for the right side.


Sister Valdez

Friday, July 18, 2014

Week 48: Day of Tears

I did the math yesterday and came up with the following:
In the eleven months I've been a missionary, I've invited approx. 300 people to learn about the restored gospel by knocking on their doors.
1 of them has gotten baptized (and it wasn't until after I left.)
Before my mission, I invited approx. 3 people to learn about the restored gospel.
1 of them was baptized.
1/300 : 1/3 = Member missionary work is literally 100x more effective than tracting.
Do you get my point yet?  Ok good.

Last Monday, tragedy struck.  Treason in the district.  One of our elders ran away from his companion.  On his bike.  While the unsuspecting other was getting a haircut.  I mean, he was soon located, but went home the next day.  So now our district is orphaned.  It's kinda sad.  We were pretty depressed for a whole day (a dismal rainy day, too) about losing one of our own (and being abandoned) but we're making it.  People have their agency.  And sometimes they use it to abandon you.

It's cool to teach people who actually do some heavy pondering about life and religion and what they believe (rather than accepting everything their parents taught them). We taught a woman who strayed from "traditional Christianity" and came to believe in a diety that embodies both masculine and feminine because it didn't make sense to her that one would be without the other, and she believes in reincarnation because she can't find any other explanation for why when she looked at her baby girl for the first time, she felt that their souls already knew each other.  Needless to say, we leapt into the pre-mortal life... and other things.  Heavy doctrine.  Yes, I went there.  We'll see tomorrow night whether she accepts our view of the Plan or not.

Speaking of heavy doctrine, we also shared a lengthy lesson on the Plan of Salvation + Restoration with Mr. E and the two young kids who came out of their apartments and joined us without having to be coaxed.  Three birds, one heavy-doctrine stone.  The member with us thought I might have blown his mind when I answered one of his questions by mentioning baptisms for the dead, but I think he could handle it.  You know you're in the ghetto when in the middle of a lesson, a bag of weed ends up on the ground next to you and you have to try really hard not to laugh when he gets up to put it away and says "Man, I know that did not just fall out my pocket!.... ya'll just pray for me."  One of the young men who was there with us seemed to be listening intently and summed up the Plan of Salvation in his own words:  "So you sayin life a open book test...but you gotta read the book."  Bingo.

We finally made contact with our golden investigator from two months ago.  And met her husband/boyfriend person who was more excited about the Book of Mormon than anyone I've ever seen.  He also asked if we knew anything about the Secret Sayings of Christ, and if the Book of Mormon was part of that, and if we'd heard about the archaeological evidence of giants that proves the Bible to be true, and asked us to pray that the government stops putting fluoride in our water because it's making America dumb and lazy and less capable of praying.

So if you're wondering about the title, it's not about the time that we got dropped four times in one day.  I mean, that was not fun at all, but it got better when a 90 year old lady we met tracting asked if she could buy us dinner and handed us $40.  We took the other sisters out to Mexican.  No, the day of tears was yesterday.  As usual, none of ours showed up to church, not investigator nor less active.  And we'd had six that we'd invited.  You'd think the chances of someone coming goes up.  Not here it don't.  So during our correlation meeting, the other sisters are gushing about the family they're teaching that showed up, and then our ward mission leader talks about a similar family that he taught and baptized in Mexico city, and he says the one phrase that seems to always push me and my comp over the edge:  "The field is white."  ".... in Mexico," I added.  And then splash! came the tears.  Poor WML then said all the right things to console me but I would not be consoled.  Not right away, anyway.  You just have to cry it out sometimes.  And then correlation meeting ends, you eat some greek yogurt, and you get back to work.

Same night, we had dinner with bishop and somehow got on the subject of the end of the world.  I don't really know how to describe what ensued, because none of us really understand it, but Bishop who's really into emergency preparedness mentioned food storage, and one of the sister missionaries burst out that she had no food storage at home, that there was no point to going to college after her mission because she doesn't even have enough money for gas to get to Missouri when all the saints will have to leave society, and we can't have our babies in hospitals or they'll all go to hell because the law is going to mandate putting micro chips in their arms and that's the mark of the beast (note: these concerns are only about 35% valid).   Then she burst into tears.  Then her companion starts crying because our assurances of "the righteous need not fear" got her thinking about less-active relatives - we all have em - that are not being righteous and will perish in their sins.  My comp and I had been laughing up to this point because of how excited everyone was getting about it all, but then it turned into cry-laughing because they were scared.  And we were sad for them.  Bishop, who's stoked for the end of the world and has closets full of apocalypse supplies, just didn't know what to do with us.  Except be highly amused.  Then in the car on the way home when the zone leaders call to get our weekly reports and ask how we're doing, the entire scene repeats.  And they don't know what to say except, "Uh.... sounds like ya'll had a good week..."

So here's the scripture Sister Dailey flipped to this week while tracting:

 And now, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God. [Moroni 9]

So we labor diligently.  Whether is blazing sun, or pouring rain, or both at the same time (which definitely happens here), we labor to conquer the enemy, and to obtain that wonderful and well deserved rest that only the Lord can reward.  So are terrible things going to come upon the earth?  Yes.  Is it going to happen soon?  Most definitely.  Should we fear?  No. Labor now, prepare yourself spiritually, and follow the counsel of the prophets.  They know what they're talking about.  Then, pass it on.  "It becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor."  Love you all.  Be good.


Sister Valdez