Sunday, December 28, 2014

Week 70 & 71: Shake Heaven

I just want you all to know that I have been working hard - despite the countdown to my death that ya'll betimes remind me of - and the proof is in my shoes.  Another piece of the sole just came off as I sit here and the sides are busting open with holes.  Just the sight of them fills me with joy and satisfaction.

These last two weeks have been stellar.  I told my greenie, "Don't get too excited.  This is beginner's luck.  Normal missions here involved weeks and weeks of fruitless finding, stagnant investigators, and no-shows at church.  Not a baptism your second week and multiple progressing investigators."  But in the meantime, I'm letting her bask in the glory that is Slidell, Louisiana.

Thanksgiving here was a blast.  We spent the day raking our ward mission leader's yard (still fit in my jeans, small victory) and partying at Sister W's house (K-dog's mom).  There was way more pie than even 12 missionaries could handle (that's six senior missionaries and six of us young'ns).  I was assigned to prepare a program, so I played the piano and had the elders sing with us sisters Because I Have Been Given Much, A Child's Prayer, and Silent Night, complete with scripture verses to precede each song.  We're not professionals.  But the seniors enjoyed it. Sister W and K-dog are like my best friends in the whole world, right now.  We called her last night because we wanted to watch the First Presidency Christmas devotional, and she said "Come over!" and she made us hot chocolate because she's the best.  The devotional was wonderful, I recommend looking it up on LDS.org if you missed it.  It lifted my heart.  Come on, Christmas.  We ready.

Sister C's baptism was wonderful.  The Holy Spirit of Promise was there to seal it, and I got the feeling that this was just as much, if not more, for her formerly less-active husband who got himself worthy to be ordained a priest so he could baptize his wife.  When the bishopric welcomed them into the ward at the end of the service, they both ended up talking about the priesthood, the blessing it is to families, and being worthy at all times.  I sensed that Brother C could feel this new responsibility to take his role as spiritual leader of the home and lead his family into the gospel he knew as a child and is bravely returning to.  They're going to be eternal.  I just know it.  #operationeternalize
My trainee was walkin on air all day.  First baptism your second Sunday is not even fair, but you know, whatever :]  I was happy she got to experience this (so when her time comes to go for months with downpour of disappointment and zero success, she'll remember this and that baptisms are possible and have hope).  But then again, with the way this mission is going, this whole "being successful" thing could become the norm.  Imagine that.  It's come leaps from where it was when I first got here.  We as a mission fasted yesterday that we'll reach our mission goal of 300 for the year.  That would mean 50 convert baptisms in the month of December.  Eesh.  We think we can we think we can!

Perks of my new comp:  she's had real world experiences.  Real world problems.  So when we're teaching, say, a woman who's depressed and alone and still grieving the loss of her mother, I'm like "Um, the gospel, it help" but my companion can be like "I know what you're going through" and suddenly what we're teaching is 100% more relevant.  Second, she's still got that fire they instill in you at the MTC and is not afraid to boldly ask in the middle of a lesson on the plan of salvation and agency, "Have you been making the right choices?"  and this less active sheepishly admits that she should be coming to church instead of making excuses and I'm like - Whoa.  That just happened.  High five for calling to repentance.

So cool thing in gospel principles yesterday: the elder teaching is on the subject of missionary work in the millenium, then looks at our two recent converts and says "So you were just baptized, how has missionary work blessed ya'lls lives?"  And their replies are basically what you see in the missionary training videos or read about in the Ensign stories.  "It gave me a second chance, and I feel great knowing that the past is in the past and I can start again.  It's made me excited to share the gospel with others now."  "The sisters knocked on my door and I let them in and I don't know why.  But they helped me find exactly what I'd been looking for, for me and my family, and that sense of belonging.  I'm so glad they knocked on my door."  It was a lot more amazing-sounding in person.  But yeah, I was floored.  They never told US these things!  I guess cause we didn't ask.  Imagine that.  What's better, is that our investigators, Linda (been investigating forever), and Lonnie (currently succeeding in the stop smoking program and on the edge of glory) were both present for that.  You're next!  Into the celestial kingdom we go!

Speaking of Lonnie, coolest thing.  We were teaching him with a member, outside in front of his trailer, and his son Junior comes home from school and kind of lingers by the door while we talk.  We'd met him once before and answered his questions about the afterlife - which only intelligent teenagers take time to think about.  So we invite him to sit with us and he runs to grab and chair and join our lesson.  We turn the lesson more to Junior when he arrives and hand him Alma 7 to read, and I could almost see the wheels turning in his mind, evaluating the choices he'd been making (peer pressure to do dumb stuff, normal high school) and calculating what he must change to live a more meaningful life.  So naturally, we then invited him to be baptized.  And he accepted.  You know it's been a good day when it includes a moment of you and your companion getting in the car, and right when you shut the doors, screaming and pounding the ceiling.  Pure joy.

 5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

 6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.  [D&C 21]

The prophets and those in leadership may at times ask of us hard things.  Increase your faith!  Work harder!  Do better!  E.g. Our mission's leadership in the push to reach 300 by increasing faith, which comes of improvement in four areas: study, prayer, work and obedience (#SPWO)  If we make some improvement in each of these areas, faith increases.  Rather, Heavenly Father grants us more faith, because faith is a gift from God.  And we exercise it, and we push, and we stretch, and we make ourselves do things we don't want to do, but it's an act of faith, and miracles happen.  Heaven shakes and WHOOSH send down more power upon us, so our labor in the Lord's work can be an upward climb.  It'll require daily sacrifice and constant reevaluation.  But it's all worth it.  Pray for us.  I love ya'll, I pray for ya'll.

Sister Valdez

1. me scissoring Lonnie's last bit of tobacco
2. rake warriors
3. Thanksgiving crowd


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