Well hello there, friends and family!This email is going to be all over the place, but I thought I would start with funny stories, because I always do. And last night I totally forgot about all of them, so I'll include them today! First funny story starts with last Monday. Sista M and I were tracting, and we started up someone's driveway. We couldn't see the house because of all the trees, but we figured it wasn't that far. Well, we kept on walking, and there was more and more driveway. And it kept getting steeper and steeper! Oh my heavens, it was like hiking the Y. We finally got to the top and we were panting. We knocked on the door and a very confused woman, who was talking on the phone, answered. Before we could say anything, she asked, "Did you . . .just walk up my driveway?" All we could do was nod. "You WALKED up my driveway?? Seriously? Do you need a glass of water or something?" She even hung up the phone, "I'm gonna have to call you back, these girls just walked up my driveway." We proceeded to talk to her about the Gospel for 30 minutes. She said she usually doesn't talk to church people, but she was impressed we walked up her driveway. I guess that shows dedication! Sadly she didn't invite us back, she just agreed to disagree on religion. But at least we made an impression!
Another funny moment was when Sista M and I were doing our daily planning. We were making backup plans, and we had no dinner appointments this week, so we were saying, "Well, dinner isn't going to fall through, so we don't need a backup for that. Unless . . .we stand ourselves up . . ." To which Sister Mortensen replied, "That's it self, we're over! It's not you, it's me." That had us rolling on the floor for a while. Everything is twice as funny when you're a missionary.
And I said this last night, but for those who haven't heard it, Sister M and I are starting to get really unified, to the point where we will start saying the same things at the same time. This week we both burst out singing "Lester's Possum Park" from A Goofy Movie. Simultaneously. That was probably the funniest thing that happened this week!
Well, another week has come and gone, and I feel kind of bad that Mothers' Day fell on a day that followed the most difficult week of my mission thus far. But it was so fun seeing and talking to everyone! It certainly made my week. :) And I hope you all know that I love you lots and despite all odds, I'm still quite happy. And this email, rather than going over the details of my week (because I really don't want to relive it if I can help it) I'll be focusing more on what I've learned about the character of the Savior.
Though I will give a little bit of background. What made this week tough was that everything was beyond our control. Every appointment, save one, fell through. We had an investigator chase us off her porch, several ignore our phonecalls and visits, none could make it to church, and, due to purposeful human injustice and indecency, two investigators were hospitalized and one was thrown in jail. I can handle rejection, but it's difficult to see people I love go through so much hardship.
Sometimes things happen in life that make you want to throw your hands up in the air and just ask, "Why?" And not always "Why is this happening to me?" but "Why is this happening to him? To her? To them?" And this week the latter two were the questions I struggled with most. But, in a way, I look back at these seven days and see just how much I learned about our Savior, and how much I felt His love.
This week can be summed up in the scripture in the title. I received two letters this week, one of which was from my grandpa. It was short and sweet, and exactly what I needed to hear. He wrote about the account of when the Savior sat back and let his apostles toil all night through a terrible tempest. Quoting my grandpa, "He wanted them to exert all their own energy and reach deep down within themselves to discover strength they never knew they had before he came to their aid. He knew where significant growth was born. But he was always watching them."
How true that is. Growth comes from those moments when elements beyond our control compel us to discover our own strength. There are several more accounts of this: Joseph Smith, as he prayed in the grove of trees, was about to give in to the incredible power of the adversary just as the light appeared. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into a furnace before they were rescued. Abraham had the knife in his hand and was just about to slay his son before the angel appeared. God will let us toil so we can discover our own strength. He will help us discover our own character through these periods of hardship. And He will step in right when He is needed. But the important thing to keep in mind is that He is always watching us.
Despite the hardship we and our investigators faced this week, I knew God was watching, because of all the tender mercies that I saw every day. Every day, at the peak of our discouragement, God blessed us with a tender mercy. They ranged from something as simple as a beautiful sunset or a cool breeze to people signing up to feed us dinner last minute, or someone letting us into their home, or members who just so happened to run into us at Pizza Hut and paid for our bill without our knowledge. At least once a day, we met someone who made my day in some little way. There was Evangeline, an adorably Spanish lady who let us in because she thought we were Jehovah's Witnesses. But when she found out we were Mormons she still listened to our message and gratefully accepted a Book of Mormon. There was Matt, whose family has been struggling, who graciously invited us back to see him. There was Debbie, who talked with us on her porch for an hour about Mormons and what we believe, and how she would love to learn more. There were the Curtis's, a nice older couple who cried as we prayed for them, and said one of the most beautiful prayers I have ever heard for us. There was a nice young woman, Angela, who gratefully accepted a prayer and thanked us profusely, saying it made her day and that she wanted us to come back. There was Emma, who didn't have much time to speak with us, but still happily invited us into her home and prayed with us. She listened as we taught her some brief points of our unique message, and she was so interested she talked about how she may even become a Mormon herself. She said she wanted us to teach her everything we know about our religion, and she would love it if we could teach her whole family.
And even now, after writing that paragraph, I feel so much better. It's incredible to see that no matter how dark it gets, if we focus on the positive, and pay attention to the tender mercies the Lord blesses us with each day, we can still find happiness and joy in the journey. I told my family this last night, but life is like a heart monitor. You know the person is alive when you see all the ups and downs. You never want to see it go flat.
I also want to pull a few quotes from a letter I received a year ago from a very dear friend of mine. He wrote about the miracle of the Atonement. When we are at our lowest, this is the time for which Christ suffered, so that we might never be alone in our afflictions. He walked the path utterly alone so that we would not have to. And through Christ we can find joy as exceeding as our pain, just as Alma did. Everything we are given--experiences, trials, sufferings--are all to help us become more like the Savior. And there is nothing we cannot overcome because there is nothing Christ could not overcome. He descended below all things. And when He asks us to make sacrifices, there is always a reason for it. When we sacrifice a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and succumb to the will of God, we will receive something so much better that we could not have received before.
Last thought comes from district meeting this week on battling discouragement. I think I have said this before, but there is a connection between faith in ourselves and faith in Jesus Christ. When we doubt ourselves, or our futures, we doubt the Savior and His plan for us. Christ will never, ever create feelings of discouragement or inadequacy. Don't you believe God knows you have potential? That you have traces of the divine and celestial in you? Do not doubt God's plan for you, or for your loved ones. Through Christ, all things are possible. Disappointments come, but we must take the assurance that God is making a masterpiece out of us, and the ones we love, through the enabling power of His Son's infinite atonement.
Just a couple scriptures to look up on your own that also stood out to me this week: Alma 31: 31-35, 38 and D&C 123:16-17.
I hope you all know how much I love you, and how much I love missionary work. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but also the best decision I've ever made. Each moment, whether it be good or bad, becomes precious as it enables me to draw closer to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Words cannot adequately explain the happiness that comes from completely devoting all my time, talents, and energy to the service of my Savior, who suffered beyond all comprehension out of His infinite love for me and all of God's children. You are all in my prayers, and I thank you all for the prayers in my behalf. They lift me up every day, and your support means the world. Until next week!