Why hello there! Guess what? It's p-day! So I get to write another letter! Yay! Guess what else? The field is white! Literally. It's a flippin' blizzard outside. Only in Tennessee is the weather 50 degrees in the beginning of February and 25 degrees at the end of March. I swear, it's almost more erratic than Utah! But that's not important. Just thought I'd make a mission pun. I'm chuck full of those.
OOOH speaking of mission puns! Funny story. I apologize for the language, but that's what makes it funny. I promise it's not that bad. Sister Stone, Sister Mortensen, and I were out meeting our neighbors because we had a little extra time before our dinner appointment. We were knocking on doors to introduce ourselves, and we knocked on this one lady's door, whose eyes grew super wide when she saw us. She looked slightly mortified. Here's kind of how the conversation went:
Missionaries: "Hi! We're your neighbors, and were coming by to introduce ourselves!"
Lady: *examines nametags* "What Church are y'all from??"
Missionaries: " . .The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."
Lady: "Nope, nope, sorry, can't do it."
Missionaries: "Oh it's okay, we just wanted to introduce ourselves . . ."
Lady: "Yeah, yeah, it's nice to meet y'all and everythang, but quite frankly, it scares the Hell out of me."
And with that she slammed the door. Can't say I've gotten that reaction before! Well we crossed the hall and knocked on someone else's door. That's when Sister Stone muttered, "Well...we could get the Hell out of her."
And that's when all three of us erupted into an uncontrollable fit of giggles. So much so that we couldn't regain our composure for a solid five minutes. It's a really good thing nobody answered the next door.
I also have another funny story, but sadly I wasn't actually there to witness it. This is a story from Sister Mortensen when she went on exchanges. She and Sister Bowman tracted into this black rapper who gladly invited them in. He didn't seem too interested in their message. They kind of struggled teaching him the Restoration, because apparently he wouldn't stop talking. However, when they told him the story of the First Vision, he finally got silent. He leaned forward and looked deep in thought. Sister Mortensen was pretty sure the Spirit was working with him, and they both stayed silent as they waited for him to speak. Finally he spoke up: "Alright alright alright. D'ya know what Ah thank et was? Ah thank, et was a U.F.O."
That's when they gave up and left. It took me a long time to recover from that one.
So! I s'pose I'll start talking about my week! I hesitate to say it was slow, because it seemed slower than usual, but we still saw a lot of good things happen! I guess I'll start with Monday.
Monday we went to Target and I was so flippin' tired of grey skirts that I bought another skirt because it was bright blue and on sale. And it kind of makes me look like the tooth fairy. I figured I'd do something to protect my title of "climbing fairy" while I'm out here and deprived of rocks to climb. Just thought I'd share that. After our p-day activities we went over to Larry's and Marlene's and we taught them how to conduct Family Home Evening. We watched the Testaments together, and they both loved it. They got a copy of their own so they can show it to their kids. We're working with two out of three of their kids now, and they're definitely progressing! But I'll get to that later. This letter is gonna go in chronological order.
Tuesday we spent most of the day doing what we like to call "roster clean-up." Our ward roster is 8 pages long, because after they merged the two wards, naturally the ward got freakishly huge. And it's nearly impossible for the leaders in the ward to keep track of everybody, because ward boundaries are scattered over several cities. So the ward mission leader wants us to try to meet with every family in our area on our roster, figure out if they still live there, if they need help, if they're less-active, part member, etc. We tried to visit about 12-15 families, and only a few of them were home. The best part was when we got lost in the middle of the woods. That seems to happen a lot in Tennessee. You know you're not going the right direction when you suddenly see all these "No Tresspassing" signs on the road. And when the road turns to dirt. I'm grateful for Gloria and everything (our GPS) but sometimes she likes to take us to these obscure back roads. At least it makes every day more of an adventure! Yeah. So that was Tuesday.
Wednesday was fantastic! We went to do some service at Larry's and Marlene's (yeah, we like to spend a lot of time there) planting seeds for their garden, and then we went to visit with their daughter, Sheila. Sheila is doing really well! She is always reading and studying from the Book of Mormon, and she knows it's true. Poor thing is still struggling with her husband, though. She doesn't want to go to Church unless he's okay with it, and he still wants nothing to do with the Church. We'll keep her in our prayers, I know that his heart will soften one day. Hopefully it's sooner rather than later.
After teaching Sheila we went to teach Travis, Sheila's older brother. Travis is so much further along than I ever thought! We've tried to teach him in the past, at the same time we taught Marlene, but it was really hard teaching their whole family at once, because they were all on different planes of understanding. That's why we're teaching all the children separately. And now that Marlene has been baptized, she has been a huge help with teaching her children. As we sat down with Travis, we were going to teach him the Plan of Salvation, but Sister Stone had the feeling we should read out of the Book of Mormon with him. So that's what we did. We turned to Helaman 5 and read that chapter with him. Oh my goodness. I love that chapter! There's an incredible Spirit that will flow into any room as you read and study the Book of Mormon together, and it was certainly present there. At the end of that chapter we asked him what he got out of it, and he gave us a very profound answer that I had never even thought of before, even after reading that chapter at least a dozen times in my life. We asked him to apply what he learned to his own life, and he came out and said, "I need to get baptized." Whoa. Wasn't expecting that one! He practically committed himself. It was so incredible! We all got so excited! Travis is going to be baptized!! Ah, I just love this family. I love seeing how the Gospel has blessed not only Larry and Marlene, but their kids as well. We have another appointment with him tonight, and we cannot be more excited! I'll let all y'all know how it goes!
Thursday was kind of weird. We were going to go out tracting, but the Spirit led us back to Larry and Marlene's. We caught them in the middle of their gospel studies. I just love these two. They are perfect examples of what it means to feast upon the words of Christ. They study every chance they can get, and they grow happier and happier as they read. I wonder if at times I take the Gospel for granted. Sometimes my studies and prayers aren't as sincere as they could be. We are so blessed to have the Gospel. These are the words of life. These are the words of salvation, the words that will bring us the most happiness and fulfillment in this life. I have learned so much of the importance of study as I have taught Larry and Marlene. What an example. I just love them.
That was an unplanned tangent. Anyway, they referred us to a couple of their friends, so we left to go referral hunting. Now, here's the problem with Tennessee. It doesn't have a grid layout. We all know that's a western thing. So all the roads have obscure names and wind all over the place. And some roads, I kid you not, will change names right in the middle of the road with no warning whatsoever. So, needless to say, we got lost again. Plus, Larry didn't really know the address, so he gave us directions. He told us he had friends who lived on this one road, but the problem with these roads in Tennessee, they are miles and miles long. And he said they lived in a small white house, surrounded by about 8 acres of land, by a pasture of white cows, just past a huge curve in the road. That's just as helpful as distinguishing an elder in the MTC as "the one in the white shirt and tie." So that was an adventure! We knocked on several doors and talked to a couple confused people. Apparently it's not normal for three sisters in skirts and black nametags to knock on doors in the middle of nowhere looking for someone who needs the Gospel. Huh.
But the best part of getting lost on the back roads of Tennessee is finding all sorts of obscure animals in the middle of the road. Like a couple of stray llamas we found walking down the road. You think I'm kidding. It was really funny. Sadly I didn't have my camera; I'll have to steal pictures from my two lovely companions. Tennessee. It's a strange place.
Thursday night we went to go visit Sharon. Her sons, Quinton and Trevin, were sadly not there. They will take a little more time, but I know we can reach them. During our lesson Nicole came to visit, who sat in on part of our lesson. After we finished sharing a spiritual thought she said, "So...I got married last night." Just thought she'd throw that out there. We are so excited for her and Shane! They are the cutest couple ever! They didn't make it a grand wedding, they just did it kind of last minute. They gathered their family and had the Bishop marry them in their parents' house. I'm so excited for them to go to the temple in a year to be sealed together! Oh they are the cutest little family ever. I just love those two!
Friday we had dinner with Larry, Marlene, and Travis, with the four other missionaries serving in the ward. It was so fun to see everyone! After dinner we gathered together and watched Finding Faith in Christ and the Restoration video. Those never get old. Except for maybe the latter. I've seen it about 20 times. But don't tell anyone I said I think it's old. It's still really good!
Oooh OOoh OOh guess what else happened Friday? We got to meet up with Caitlyn again! If you remember, Caitlyn is the girl around my age who goes to her local Baptist Church, but absolutely loves learning about Christ. Even though her friends tell her not to meet with us, she loves talking to us and learning more about the Gospel. We were going to teach her the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but Sister Stone had the impression again to read from the Book of Mormon with her. So what chapter did we read from? Helaman 5. Naturally. And again, it was such a good experience! She got something out of it that was completely different from what Travis got out of it, but it still spoke to her personally. And then we invited her to be baptized. She said she had just been baptized into her own Church the Sunday before. It was followed by an awkward silence, but the Spirit prodded me to speak, so I took the leap of faith and opened my mouth. Words just began flowing. It's incredible how the Spirit works that way. I told her about how this baptism will only add to her baptism, and how it will be different because it is done by the proper authority and will be followed by receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which she really connected with. She accepted to be baptized April 20th! Happy day!!! Happy missionary!! Three of them, actually. We have a little baptism dance we like to do every time we commit somebody. We got to do it twice this week! Helaman 5. It's the golden chapter.
We got to see Kathy and Jerry a little bit this week. They want to come to Church! We just need to get Kathy a dress. Hopefully we'll see her come to Church next week!
Saturday we put on an Easter egg hunt for the primary kids, and it was so fun! I just love kids. They're adorable. We were told if they couldn't find all the eggs we got to keep the leftovers. Did I hide eggs in super obscure places after I learned that? Yes. Yes I did. Only a few though. I just gotta have my M&Ms.
Saturday we also found a new potential investigator! We were going through the roster again and we decided to visit a less active/part member family. The dad wasn't home, but his niece was, and she said she's really interested in learning more about the Gospel! We are going to try to see them again next week. Hopefully it'll go well!!
Saturday night we went to Cracker Barrel. Oh my heavens. If all y'all wanna experience Southern food, go to Cracker Barrel. I think there's one in Provo, or somewhere South of Provo. I know there's one in Utah. It's delicious. Just . . .prepare your arteries.
Sunday was awesome! Travis came out to Church again and he enjoyed his experience more this time. Except now I have to get up on my soapbox. Because he mentioned something that was kind of sad to me. He talked about how he loved the meeting, but he couldn't help but see that a lot of the people in the congregation were sleeping, doodling, texting, or simply not paying attention. He said that really bothered him. In the house of the Lord, people should be worshiping Him and doing what they can to obtain His word. That really hit me. How many times have I found myself falling asleep or not paying attention in Sacrament Meeting? Too many times to count. We have the blessing of the Gospel. We have the special opportunity to worship God at His Church every Sunday and obtain His word. Are we taking advantage of that opportunity? Or are we texting? Going to Church can be a powerful spiritual experience, but only if you make it one. And you never know who is watching. If you were sitting next to an investigator, would you be acting differently in Sacrament Meeting? I'm starting to ask myself that question now. Because a lot of the teaching we do is by example. As we feast on the word, and show through our actions how feasting on the word makes us happy, others will be more inclined to feast on the word as well. I'm getting down from my soapbox now. Just food for thought. =D
Speaking of sleeping in Sacrament Meeting, I myself was jolted awake when they released Bishop Rose. At first I was super sad! I absolutely love Bishop Rose; he has been so helpful in the missionary efforts. But then they called Bro. Blankenship as the new bishop!! Now that made me excited! The Blankenships were the first family I met out here, and the first ones to feed us dinner. They were both missionaries, and I know they will both be super helpful in getting the ward excited about missionary work. And they invited us over to their place to watch General Conference! Now I was already excited for General Conference, but that invitation just about tripled it!
Sunday night we finally got to have a real lesson with William and Amanda for the first time in over a month! We hadn't been able to talk to Amanda since her blessing, and she has been doing a lot better. We were thinking about dropping them because they weren't progressing, but we thought we'd give them one more shot. We had an incredible lesson with the both of them. We brought out the Book of Mormon and decided to read with them. What chapter did we read? Helaman 5. We asked what William got out of it and he said not much. Worth a shot, though. But something we taught him that night stirred in him, and we committed him to read the Book of Mormon. I have a feeling that this time they both will really start progressing. We're excited to see what happens with them!
And that, my friends and family, was my week. I just love being a missionary. I love this Gospel. I know the Church is true. There's nothing quite like preaching the Gospel and completely immersing yourself in the words of Christ all day every day. Words can't do it justice. It's just an incredible experience. And it's unbelievably challenging. All my letters are positive, because the work rocks, but that doesn't mean that the mission still hasn't felt like the refiner's fire. But what gets me through those difficult times is knowing who the Refiner is. We teach people over and over about the importance of coming to Christ through our trials. Because He understands. He sees the big picture. He sees our potential, and knows exactly what we need to get there. I received an incredible letter from my very gorgeous older sister talking about how Christ is always blessing us. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it. He will help us become the best people that we can be. And He will make of us, immeasurably more, than what we can make of ourselves. Of us we will create ordinary men. He will create a masterpiece. He will create a God.
I stole that from a talk entitled "The Fourth Missionary." Look it up, it's good!
Thank you all so much for your letters! I just love them, and all y'all, so much. I'm so grateful for all the prayers said on my behalf, I feel them strengthening me each and every day. I pray for all of you as often as I can. I love knowing that my prayers are being answered. Always keep the faith, and know that God loves you, because that will get you through anything. Until next week my incredible friends and family!