Monday, October 20, 2014

Week 62: Shell-Shocked

Once upon a time, we was mindin' our own business, cruisin back to our apartment after a lovely lesson with our Columbian lady investigator who had read - and likened to herself - the story of Lehi and his trouble children and told us she and her daughter were trying to get work off together so they could finally come to church with us.
Then the mission president called us up, said "if you're driving, pull over a minute" and dropped the bomb.  "First of all, Sister Rocha I can tell you where you're going but I can't tell you who your new companion is-" (that's the joke, she's going home and Pres doesn't make assignments for eternal companions) "- Now let me tell you two what's happening to your area.  First, let me tell you where Sister Valdez is going."

Boom.  Me --> Slidell, Louisiana.  Waveland --> being made into an elders' area.  Poor Pres got an earful of sister-screams of despair as we watched our world blow to bits.  All this time, all this hard work we put into this area and these people... the whole time we were making it ready for a young elder and his greenie.  And we have to say goodbye to everyone I'd told I would see next week.  Heartbreaking.  When president hung up, we screamed a little more and banged our heads on the dashboard in disappointment.  Ate some chocolate, and got back to work.  Among our final preparations before transfers today included cleaning the massive amount of girl-hair from our bathroom floor and the shower drain (the wad I pulled out was literally the size of a rat), throwing out all the hair products and accessories past sisters had left behind, and updating the area book and teaching records in painstaking detail.  You're welcome, elders.

Once we got over the initial shock of the impending whitewash (what you call it when they put two missionaries into an area that neither of them is familiar with), we were able to really enjoy our final days as the Waveland sisters.  I had exchanges with Sister Borja, who does not have an injured knee so we got to bike all day, it was fantastic.  And she loved loved loved teaching our 8 year old inv, Lil Z, who understood the Spirit World when we taught him about it and then said,  "I want to be like Jesus one day, I want to be a son of God."  We said, "Do you know how?"  he said "No but I bet ya'll can teach me."  100% correct.  Last night Sister Rocha and I read to him out of the Book of Mormon about baptism, and how Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness.  He immediately looked to his mom and said "Mom, can I get baptized?"  She answered in the affirmative.  This little boy's faith and desire to be closer to God is astounding.  We're hoping and praying that his example will influence his parents in time, to change their lives so they can walk that path to eternal life together.

We also had one last lesson with JP, who accepted the Word of Wisdom well and committed to live it.  With, of course, the help of the incoming elders who will teach him the Stop Smoking program.  Said he hates grapefruit juice (and the unsweetened kind truly tastes like liquid death) but he'd drink it if it would help him quit smoking.  Thank goodness for his teenage son, who he really wants to be a better example for.  Man, if some people didn't have kids, I don't know where they would get any motivation to live better lives.  Huge thing I've noticed is just how much purpose having children adds to a persons life.

Oh snap.  General Conference.  Almost a disaster since the satellite at the church wasn't working, and three investigators had shown up, but we were able to turn conference on in the family history center and had six of us crammed into that tiny room watching one computer screen.  Our investigator, Rick, was enthralled the whole time.  And the talks that were given by Elder Christofferson and Pres Uchtdorf were PERFECT for him.  About the existence of absolute truth and moral responsibility, and having patience and faith to find and grow in the truth.  Rick is going to be a slow, steady one, very cautious as he learns new things, but he'll get there.  Because he's sincere.  He told us listening to the story of the man stricken with palsy being brought to Christ made him think of his own paralyzed spirit.  And that me and Sister Rocha were the ones who came and rescued him.  I wanted to cry when he said that.  It was confirmation to us both:  We done good.  And our work here is done.
Other cool thing, Sunday session, a man no one recognized appeared in the back of the chapel, after finding out he was none of our investigators, the elders talked to him.  Found out he was homeless, has stopped in to use the restroom, and decided to sit in the chapel and listen.  He wore a dirty tshirt and jeans, thick untrimmed beard, was missing the top half of all his left fingers, and smelled like.... well like you'd imagine someone who hadn't access to a shower in a week or two, and we seized the opportunity to act on Elder Holland's exhortation to care for the impoverished and invited him to have spaghetti with us.  Great, great feeling.  A little nuts, but a good guy and let the elders teach him a lesson even.

We got fed almost every night by members who'd heard Sister Rocha was going home, and in the after-dinner devotionals we had with them, tough-it-out Sister R got to tears as she testified of her love of the gospel and expressed her gratitude for the marvelous examples of these families.  Seeing her of course got me all leaky-eyed too.  She's been an awesome example to me.  Taught me how to force myself to love everyone.  How to express that love while testifying of the gospel.  How to have faith in people despite their weaknesses and setbacks.  How to shoot a basketball.  And how to break into our apartment when we get locked out.  You know, the important things.  Really though, she's been a great example of one who gives their all to the Lord til the very end, and I hope I can be like that when my time comes.  Nearly our whole district got split up so there were a lot of goodbyes this morning.  I shed a single tear for them as the vans drove off.  You know, just to be dramatic.  And because I love them a lot.  Weird thing about a mission.  You realize your capacity to love is literally limitless, when it's through the Savior.  His is infinite.  Which means, plenty to lend the rest of us, and then some.

32 And also remember that thou hast said that thou hast prepared house for man, yea, even among the mansions of thy Father, in which man might have more excellent hope;wherefore man must hope, or he cannot receive an inheritance in the place which thou hast prepared.
 33 And again, remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world, that thou mightest take it again to prepare place for the children of men.
 34 And now know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father.  [Ether 12]

Anywho, off to Slidell with me.  I'll have some friends in that district, Elder Huntsman (Huntsdawg) which will be fun, and guess what!  Sister Creager is the new Sister Training leader on the coast!  Together again.  Exchanges are gonna be a hoot.  Love ya'll with all my heart.  Hope on.  Journey on.  The best is always yet to come.

Sister Valdez

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