Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 60: I don't know about you but I'm feeling twenty....three.

delicious ice cream cake from ward mission leader and his wife
Elder Hunstman promised me a hat when we served in Shreveport together and he got me this one just in time for my birthday!  ^_^ Saints!!!
What up!  I'm 23!  Crazy.  And at the same time, not.  It feels like not that long ago I was singing Taylor Swift to my roommates in Shreve to celebrate my 22nd birthday, and at the same time I have had so many experiences since then and learned and changed so much that I hardly feel like the same person.  So it was a good time to turn 23.  New age.  New place.  New me.  But doggone it, I am so flippin old.  There are no silly pop songs about being 23 so hopefully it means I've finally reached real adulthood.
driving through Gulfport after Sis Rocha's MRI

This week has been pretty balanced, with a fair share of extraordinary moments.  We have four investigators with a baptism date at the moment (I know right?  Crazy.  Never happened before in my mission)  None the less, everyone has their own challenges:
PJ is slack in keeping commitments which I guess we attribute to his being a working single father, but when he does read he feels something; Bobbi finally returned from her two week trip, which she took right after we set her with a date, and hasn't read since she left but she still plans to and we're set to see her again tomorrow.  She at least took the Book of Mormon with her on the trip, so that counts for something right?  ahh... ; Didi loved the Restoration movie and always feels the Spirit when we come, said she was excited that she'll get to be a member of the church, but slept through church yesterday, second time in a row.  Our poor member who's so eager to help us with the work got stood up twice now by investigators set to come to church; and then Sammi was a spontaneous miracle case.
our district at interviews - the classing laughing shot

We were trying a less active who wasn't home and both Sister Rocha and I got the prompting to tract the street.  So we did and the first door was Sandra, who let us right in, told us she wanted to go to a church but didn't know which one so she'd been praying about it.  She later told us she prayed three years ago for God to send someone to her to give her direction, and she decided that our arrival had to be an answer to that prayer.  We were ecstatic when she told us, and we taught her about the Restoration and afterward invited her to be baptized.  She smiled when we did, and said "That tickled me!"  Apparently, the Spirit touching her heart felt like a tickle to her insides, but she recognized it as being from God just the same.  And she accepted a baptism date for October 25.  She has some smoking and drinking habits that she needs to get rid of and wants to get rid of, and she might have been a little bit under some sort of chemical influence when we taught her, but we're pretty sure - well, we're hoping - she still was able to feel the Spirit just enough to still want to act on it.  She missed church yesterday, but she called to apologize and ask if we had any other services.  When we told her it's just the one on Sunday, she committed to come next week and set up a time for us to teach her again this week.  Considering that we give our number away twenty times a day and tell people to call us all the time and NO ONE ever calls us, the fact that Sammi did I think means she's elect.  At least, more so than the ones who sleep through church, get concerned voicemails from us, and don't call.

So that's our main people!  It's a lot to keep track of and there are a lot of needs to address, but we're up for the challenge.  This is Sister Rocha's final stretch, after all.  Go big and go home.

a member showing us legit polaroids from the 70's
Some ultra cool things I did this week because I'm a genius:
- Sprayed dog repellent out the car window at a boxer who kept walking in front of our car and then whined in pain when the wind blew some of it into my face and Sister R pulled over so I could lean out the door and pour the rest of her water bottle into my eyes.
- Made a goal to AI (additional inviting - it's when you talk to strangers in public places as opposed to knocking on their door) and then when we picked out someone to talk to at Walmart I clucked out and made Sister Rocha talk to them while I hid behind her.  I don't know why but I could knock on any door in the state, twenty of them every day, and I still can't talk to a lady with a baby in the DVD aisle.
- Almost fell asleep fifty times while an 80 something year old lady in the ward told us stories of her life and the lives of her every family member and had to pinch myself in the ear multiple times to keep from passing out on her couch.
Sis Rocha reading the best book ever!
wearing Sis Rocha's tag, watch and CTR ring while she gets an MRI
helped a family move...I've always wanted to do that!

Remember the crazy little monkey girl I talked about last week?  We prepared a special lesson just for her.  It was about the Godhead.  We told her that her pawpaw represented Heavenly Father.  He loves her and wants her to come and be with him, but first we have to get sent to earth and find our way back - moved her to the back of the room.  While we're on earth we try to get close to Heavenly Father but we get tied up in our sins and mistakes - tied her wrists and ankles together with rope.  Also, we can't even see Heavenly Father while we're here - put a blindfold on her.  She tried to escape many times in spite of her bonds and blindfold, but we held her down for the sake of this important object lesson.  We taught her that Jesus Christ, the son of God, came and sacrificed himself to free us from our sins - untied her ropes.  And that even though we can't see God, He sent the Holy Ghost to help us find our way back by telling us what to do - held her hand and whispered to her where to walk until she finally made it back to her pawpaw and clambered into his arms.  It's possible she didn't get every point we were teaching, as she quickly turned her attention to a marine life encyclopedia.  But if anything, she'll remember that we taught her that God made dolphins.

Have ya'll seen the new Mormon message called "You Never Know"?  About how we sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that is asked of us and we feel we fall short most of the time but probably don't even realize how much good we do?  Well I was feeling like that yesterday.  We tried everyone in the books and taught no lessons.  And none of our investigators showed up to church.  But we finished Sunday evening as we usually do, at the home of an elderly lady in our ward who shows very little expression or emotion, gives us instructions dryly as we fix her supper and perform other chores, and occasionally tells us "before Katrina" stories while we sit at her counter and eat cookies.  We always close the night by showing her a Bible video or Mormon message, and last night was the "You Never Know" one.  Afterward, she offered to say the prayer.  She then took us by surprise, as she thanked Heavenly Father for us, for all that we do and all we have accomplished, prayed for the area we and all the missionaries in the ward work in, and finished by saying "I love Thee, I love Thy church, and I love these girls like my own daughters..."  Was I cryin?  You bet.  And what did she say after 'amen'?  "Now be off with you."  We sure love her.

Behold, am disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life...
have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, ... that he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls...
And as surely as the Lord liveth, will he gather in from the four quarters of the earth all the remnant of the seed of Jacob, who are scattered abroad upon all the face of the earth...
And then shall they know their Redeemer, who is Jesus Christ,the Son of God...  [3 Nephi 5]

What a blessing it has been to have lived my entire 23rd year in the service of my God, in such a way that I can make these words of Moroni my own.  I have yet more to learn, but I have learned so much.  I have felt to sing of redeeming love, and still feel so now.  I know that the promise of redemption is available to all, no matter where on the earth they may be, and I know that this work of gathering is truly the Lord's work.  It is a privilege - and a joy - to be a part of.
Thanks for the gifts and letters, family!  Proudly wearing my Cali necklace right now ^_^  I love you guys!  Hurrah for Israel!

Sister Valdez

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