Me: " . . . "
Sis Stone: "It's true! The Branch President said I didn't need to use the Priesthood Authority for that one!"
Me: "Tennessee is so weird."
Elder Dreesen: "You'll get used to it."
Yep. That's my companion!
Hello family and friends! This week has been absolutely nuts. The emotional roller-coaster that makes up a mission is more intense than I ever could have imagined. Some days are euphoric but are followed by days that are less than good. But I've learned that each day brings a new lesson with it, and even though some days are slow and I can't find a single soul to bring closer to Christ, I come closer to Christ myself as I learn to rely on Him more and more. The refining process is hard, but it's so rewarding. And if I've learned anything this week, it's that the Gospel of Christ will always bring a message of reassurance and hope to you if you let it.
On that note, I will tell all y'all about my crazy week! But first, a few items of business:
First, I must extend a public apology to Elder Davis, from whom I received a plentiful amount of letters the very day after I sent last week's email. Did I feel sheepish? yes I did. Sorry Elder. Patience still isn't my forte, but I'm working on it. Thanks a million for the letters! :)
Also, I would still love to hear from Laura and Jason, but if they're super busy I can write them first. Can one of y'all send me their home addresses? Please and thank you!
I would also like to extend a public thank you to Grandma and Grandpa for the girl scout cookies!! They're my favorite flavors. Sometimes I just need chocolate in my diet. I love you so much!! :)
I have a side note for Chelise: I went to this Mexican restaurant and discovered something glorious. Vegetarian fajitas with grilled pineapple. Do it. You'll thank me later.
And I have a funny story pertaining to the title of my email! So, we had District Meeting this week (which was super good by the way, I absolutely adore my entire district because they are the most awesome missionaries ever. End of story), and afterward Sis. Stone and I drove Sis. Irion (The mission president's wife) to our apartment. She has been trying to spend a few hours with all of the companionships, so she accompanied us home to participate in our weekly training activities. Sis. Stone was driving home and she missed the exit she usually takes to get off the freeway. Our GPS's name is Gloria, so she said, "Ah, dang it!! Ok Gloria, reroute!!" Sis. Irion paused and then leaned forward for the GPS. " . . . What is it you want me to do? Oh wait . . . is that the name of your GPS?"
That's when I found out Sis. Irion's first name is Gloria. It took me a long time to get over the fits of laughter that ensued. Sis. Stone was mortified and told Sis. Irion that she would never call her by her first name. I still give Sis. Stone a hard time about it. Isn't that what companions are for? :)
We had another miracle this week! It was truly incredible. I believe in my last letter I mentioned Shane. He is Nicole's boyfriend, and Nicole is a member of the church. She really wants to be married and have an eternal family, so she has been trying to get Shane to take the lessons for years. He has taken the lessons from the missionaries, but nothing really clicked. He had a lot of questions that made him feel skeptical towards the doctrine. He had a whole long list of questions concerning the apostasy, priesthood authority, the spirit world, tons of random points of doctrine really. Well, he finally agreed to meet with the missionaries, so Nicole invited us over last Monday evening to teach him. We were able to answer a few of his questions and we taught him the importance of seeking answers through studying the scriptures with a specific question in mind. Well, we came back two days later and asked him if he had any more questions. I knew we definitely hadn't hit every bullet point on his hugely long list. To my surprise, he said he didn't have any questions! He said he wasn't skeptical anymore. I was honestly taken aback by that. He was so doubtful for so many months and now his doubts had vanished. I didn't expect them to vanish that quickly. I said a prayer of gratitude and we jumped right into the Restoration. He soaked everything in like a sponge. When we would hit a point of doctrine and ask him what it meant to him, he would talk about why he didn't like it in the past, but now because he understands it, he has learned to love it. Shane is so golden. We asked him if he believed that everything we taught him is true and he said yes! So, we invited him to be baptized. He is getting baptized March 9!! Oh happy day!! That made my entire week. He just gets it. Everything that confused him before has been made clear. He understands the role of the gospel in his life and he is really looking forward to his baptism. In fact, we originally set his date for March 15 so he would have enough time to quit smoking, but he really wants to be baptized the 9 so he can go to the temple to do baptisms on the 15th. He said he is sure God can help him quit smoking before then. He is so fantastic. We will definitely be praying for him, and we look forward to his baptism!
We had another lesson with William and Amanda this week. It went pretty well; we taught them the Plan of Salvation and they seem to get everything. William just struggles with praying and going to Church. He doesn't want to go to Church because he worries about the judgment of others. Amanda really wants to go, but doesn't want to go alone. She wants William to be there. Sadly they didn't come yesterday, but hopefully we'll get him there next week!
Well, every week has its ups and downs. Marlene has been progressing, but since we invited her to be baptized, the gates of Hell have opened wide. I have found that to be the most frustrating thing so far. Satan is so irritating. When people strive to change, he will throw every piece of artillery at them. Marlene has a lot of doubts and feels really discouraged. She wants an answer but doesn't know how to get it. She cancelled our appointment and refused to talk to anyone.We're afraid that if Marlene doesn't pull through, we'll lose not only her, but her entire family. But I know Marlene will pull through. When Larry called us I was crushed. But something inside me filled me with peace. Everything is going to be okay. I feel like I have truly been blessed with the gift to be at peace when times get rough.
I've learned a lot about gifts of the Spirit this week. Some are given to us, and some we have to cultivate. This week I learned that peace comes naturally, but I really need to cultivate my patience. Marlene's struggles have been a huge test of patience and faith for me personally. But I know God will help her pull through. I just need to trust in Him and be patient with His timing. We just need to teach with the Spirit and help her recognize how to receive her answer. She feels pressured and rushed. I truly want to be here when she gets baptized, but transfers are coming up so soon and because there are so many new sisters, chances are I probably will not stay here. As much as I want to see Marlene through to the end, I know I need to have faith in God's timing. She may not be ready by the time I leave. But I've learned the mission isn't about me. It's about the people I'm bringing to God. So I need to put all my trust in God's timing. I know Marlene will pull through, but I don't know when. But I do know that God answers the prayers we say in the behalf of others. I have felt God answering the prayers of my family on my behalf, and I know He's answering my prayers on behalf of my family. I know that He will answer the prayers I say for my investigators. It has been discouraging, but it has helped me rely on God and put more and more of my trust in Him. As a missionary I have tried my best with all our investigators. And now it's up to their agency.
Sunday was discouraging because that's when Marlene dropped our appointment. And when we went to get a report from the Bishop (we weren't at Church because we had a mission conference) we learned that not a single one of our investigators had come to Church. We were hoping for 7. I'll admit, that was pretty tough on me and Sis. Stone. But as I said before in the MTC, when life gets discouraging, the Spirit just has a way of melting your heart. It came more easily in the MTC because the Spirit is everywhere. The buildings are dedicated and you are constantly surrounded by righteous influences. Out in the real world, it's harder to keep the Spirit with you. But you can. And you need to. Because when life gets discouraging or confusing, we need to rely on the Spirit. Sis. Stone taught me something that has made a huge difference in my life, and that is the importance of inviting the Spirit to be with you every morning before you go out and face the world. Just take 15 minutes every morning for a personal devotional with God. Take nothing but a notebook and something to write with. And maybe your scriptures. And say an audible prayer to God. Pour out your soul to Him; tell Him your fears, your concerns, anything and everything. And listen. Have a personal conversation with Him. I promise as you do this you will find God's hand in your life. You will be able to call upon the Spirit to give you the peace you need every day. It has been such a difference for me, and I know it will for you too.
Missionary mode. I have a tendency to commit people to do things. :)
I've seen God's tender mercies everywhere. Even on the hard days, we find God's hand guiding us. We have found a few potential investigators and we have set a lot of appointments to meet up with them this week. Hopefully they are ready and willing to accept the Gospel!
And now that I have a few minutes left I should probably mention that I met Elder Oaks.
Sunday evening was kind of depressing, but at least Sunday morning was good! We had a mission conference and I got to see so many friendly faces! I saw all the sisters in my MTC zone that I missed so terribly, and it was a wonderful reunion! Seeing Sister Day especially made my life. She is doing really well and seems to be really happy! I hope I will get to work with her one day! We exchanged success stories and talked about how difficult, yet rewarding, the work is. It's so validating, talking to other missionaries. Realizing that everyone has slow/hard days helps you understand that you're not alone. And it's even better to hear about their success, because it gives you something more to be grateful for!! If there's anything I've learned from the book of Alma, it's that true happiness comes from rejoicing in the success of other missionaries, not just your own. We're not happy that we've succeeded; we're happy that one more soul is entering into the Kingdom of God. What a blessing.
So yeah, Elder Oaks! He did a Stake Conference in Nashville, and Pres. Irion asked him to give us a special mission conference over here in Knoxville! So he came Sunday and spoke to all the missionaries. It was so fantastic. He gave us a special conference where he talked about personal revelation. He said he has only done this a handful of times and only does it with spiritually mature audiences, but he had us stand up and teach him something we learned about personal revelation. Then he would build off of what we said. It was incredible. One thing that really stood out to me was that we need to teach people what it means to pray with a sincere heart and real intent. A sincere heart means you really want to know the answer. So what is real intent? Real intent means commitment. When we pray with real intent, we pray with the intent to change and to commit to the answer we receive. We can't expect direction if we just sit in the shade and ask God where to go. That is something we all need to keep in mind as we ask God for direction. I found that to be true when I was asking Him if I should serve a mission. I didn't get my answer until I was fully committed to act. All of us, at some point in our lives, will hit a time when we have important decisions to make and we desperately need direction from God. He will give us direction, but we must be committed to act on it. Why tell us what to do if we have no intention to obey?
Simply put, the fireside was awesome. I even got to shake Elder Oaks's hand! And he said we were a beautiful group of sisters! An apostle thinks we're beautiful. Now that is validating. :) Elder Oaks is such an incredible speaker; he has a powerful presence. And I learned so much from him! This mission has been truly blessed with opportunities to hear from apostles. Apparently, Elder Nelson came and spoke back in December. I'm sad I missed Elder Holland in the MTC, but I'm super happy that I got to personally meet Elder Oaks!
Well, I better close for now. I hope you all know that I love all y'all so much! I have truly felt the effects of your prayers on my behalf. I feel strengthened each day, and I feel so encouraged. It's an incredible blessing to be out here. Even though it has only been a couple weeks, I can say the mission is harder than anything I've ever done in my life. But I know it will be the most rewarding 18 months of my life. It will be something I will never regret. I'm doing what I can to give it my all out here. I hope you know that I do love my mission. I love my Savior. I know He lives and that He loves us. I know that He wants to save each and every one of His children. The worth of every soul is great in the eyes of God. Never lose hope in anyone. God is always reaching out and preparing people to receive the Gospel. Sometimes it takes time. We have worked with people who have been less active for decades, but something in their lives come up and they have a change of heart. It takes time for hearts to change, but they can and do change. This Gospel changes lives. It softens hearts. It brings people and families closer together. It's a blessing to see the fruits of the Gospel in the lives of others. I love you all so much! Go out and do something excellent this week!
Best wishes and lots of love,