Monday, September 8, 2014

Week 58: Get Swole

High five to the Waveland district for an all-time high in lessons taught in a week!  I don't know what it is, but the six of us missionaries in the ward are going hard (and not going home) to get this deal diggity DONE.  Waveland ward has some awesome members.  One makes us sandwiches every time we go over.  Others who have trucks come pick us up with our bikes when we have a long way to ride.  And another gives us massages after long hard days; one sister gets knots worked out in the chair while the other
reads to the member out of the Book of Mormon.

Fun facts about Waveland.
- Sister Rocha likes to start sentences with "Fun fact about Sister Rocha" followed by things I didn't know about her yet.
- We teach a lot of black men.  I don't know why that is.  But 72.6% of our lessons this week were with black men.  If there's something about them that makes them receptive, all the better.
- Flat.  Everything is flat.  We can bike for miles and not feel like we're going to collapse and die because NO HILLS it's glorious.
-Most people actually have porches, in addition to stilts under their homes.  I got to paint a porch last Saturday while Sister Rocha mowed an enormous yard.
- People here not only give us free eggs, but free bread as well.  Our member neighbor works at Jimmy Johns and gives us bread.  We then get to make amazing sandwiches without even having to find a Subway.
- I tried to see how many conversations we could have with strangers without someone bringing up hurricane Katrina.  Still at zero.
- The bugs here are no joke.  They bite and show no mercy.

Which brings me to the title of this email.  If you thought I was going to bring up my workout regimen and get-ripped plan one more time, think again.  You'll see a photo of me knocking on a door (not connected to a house) attached to this.  Fun fact about that photo.  It was in this spot that Sis Rocha stepped in an ant hill and got a series of miniature stinging bites, and I got bit by either a very large ant or a very small spider.  It left two white dots on the top of my foot and only kinda stung for a while but I didn't think much of it until that night when Sis R was like "Is your foot swollen?" and I looked down and sure enough, one was noticeably fatter than the other.  I was just like "huh weird, swole up foot" at first, but the next day it didn't get any better, and after walking and biking on it all day, the swelling went up my ankle.  A kind member gave me some epsom salt and Sister R had some benadryl, so the past two nights have included me sticking my puffy foot in a bucket of salt water and sleeping with it propped up on a stack of sweatshirts (and occasionally waking in the night because it randomly itches like crazy).  And all this from one dumb bug.  Sigh.

However - I don't know if I brought this up when I got shingles last winter, but this is a theory that I have.  There must always ALWAYS be something going wrong.  If not so, the universe would be thrown out of whack.  It keeps us humble, necessary for this work to be meaningful.  Therefore, if I'm going to experience major victories here in the mission, there must also be some major inconveniences to balance it out.  In this case, it's physical injury.  One the one side, Sister Rocha has been dealing with a knee that is constantly in pain, so we bike around with a bum knee and a puffy foot all day and then yesterday our water bottles got stolen off our bikes.  I mean, not like we needed em in this sweltering weather or anything.  But on the flip side, we hit twenty lessons for the first time in FOREVER this week AND we set a new investigator with a baptism date!

Other victories:  We taught a little girl who's 12, who's devout Catholic mother had to excuse herself because she kept interjecting but let us teach because she really wants her daughter to be able to choose her own religion.  It was kind of uncomfortable at first when the mom walked out, but we kept teaching.  At the end of the Restoration lesson, the girl said "I think I believe you more than I believe the other church I went to."  I asked why and she said, "Because you explain things a lot more.  And I feel like my faith in Christ is growing."  Bah!  What!  I almost fell over.  She's 12!  And yet, she recognized the Spirit when she felt it.  We were blown away.  She was stoked to come to church after that, but ended up not making it. However, she did call us Wednesday night to ask for a ride to the young women's activity!  We screamed with joy.

From that same household, the 8 year old and his 7 year old brother came to church yesterday!  Don't worry, we'll get their busy parents to church with them, as soon as possible.  Turns out a member of the ward knows their family, who used to be the boys' school bus driver, so he picked them up for church.  When the boys were introduced in Primary, one said, "Our mom is good friends with two of the sisters, the white one and the tan one."  Booyah.  That's us.  I am the tan one.  ^_^

A couple other moments occurred that just reminded me that every little effort, every extended hand counts for something.  We paused in our biking, so Sister Rocha could give a woman a Mormon.org card before she got in her car, invited her to visit it for some uplifting videos about faith in our Savior.  The woman said, "Thank you.  I needed this today.  I'm on my way to a funeral."  My gosh.  Heavenly Father knows.  When we were tracting, a really nice friendly guy pulled up next to us and invited us over to his house for cold water - much needed - and was not at all interested in changing religions but had met missionaries before so we just chit chatted a little.  When we got ready to go, he told us he'd had a really cruddy day at work and that talking to us had lifted his spirits.  Snap.  I was humbled by that.  Sister Rocha is really good at talking to everyone we see, and at making conversation about anything.  I initially thought we were wasting our time, but it turns out in both instances that we were exactly where we were needed.  Even if these people aren't ready for the gospel at that moment, we're still being used as instruments in the Lord's hands.  I remember praying that morning before we went out, "help us find someone to uplift."  And afterward wondering where that statement came from.  Goes to show, when you pray by the Spirit, you get what you pray for.  Because it's already the Father's will.  Praying by the Spirit = aligning your will with the Father's (see Bible Dictionary: Prayer).

Now the majorus victory of the week was last night.  The whole theme of yesterday was "expect the unexpected."  We said that to each other multiple times yesterday after something serendipitous happened.  An investigator we had been planning to drop had actually kept his commitment to read and expressed a desire to change.  So we're giving him another chance, stressing that it's 100% his choice to act on what we invite him to do.  We came in contact with a group of five or six young adults, guys, while tracting and ended up having a very civil conversation with them (except for the stoned one) instead of like, getting made fun of, which is always the fear when we pass a group of people our age.  Then we recontacted a woman we'd met in passing at some apartments, who remembered briefly meeting Sister R a few weeks ago, started telling us how much her life sucks and hugged us and cried, and told us she'd love for us to come talk to her sometime.  Not expecting much, we went over yesterday.  She's talking about the Bible, and asks "Now does your Bible read the same way?"  We start to explain the Book of Mormon, and she goes over to the counter and picks up a copy of it and says "I know. I've been reading it."  We near fell over.  Sisters had given the book to a homeless guy that used to stay at her house.  He'd left it behind and she'd picked it up.  So when we taught the Restoration of the gospel, she was ready for it.  Sister R recited the First Vision, and the woman started to cry.  "That's so beautiful," she said.  I started to invite her to be baptized with the usual, "If you come to find that this message is true..." and she says.  "Oh, I believe it!"  "Can you feel the Spirit testifying to you?"  "Yes!  I can feel it in my heart."  I could too.  The Spirit was strong, we could all feel it.  It's such a real thing.  She committed to be baptized October 18.  But of course, we're secretly planning to prepare her weeks beforehand, so she'll be baptized before Sister Rocha goes home.  All she has to do is stop smoking and the rest of the lessons will be a breeze.  We left that lesson screaming on the inside.

As I drifted off to sleep last night, I thought about all the choice souls we've had the opportunity to teach, people who let the Spirit work on them and speak to their hearts, and my own heart experienced an expansion similar to that of my currently elevated foot.  Only instead of pain, twas accompanied by joy.

And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; [3 Nephi 4]

 23 And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son [Alma 33]

And of course, the goal is to be like unto Moroni.... a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people. [Alma 48]

Gratitude and love.  That's what this particularly swelling was.  It filled me up like nothing else, and I am eternally grateful for my call to serve, my time to labor in the Lord's vineyard.  Puffy foot and all.

Sister Valdez

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