Monday, June 24, 2013

As a Little Child

Hello family and friends!

Guess who is really excited to write this email?? This missionary!! This missionary is a happy one. Strangest. Week. Ever. The whole week Sister Paxton and I were really struggling because our area is so dead. And then, all of a sudden, everything started turning around. This week turned out to be really good! There's so much to tell! I'm excited about this. =D
But first some pieces of random information. Do you know what I heard all the time around BYU campus, but never thought I would hear in Tennessee? "You're Chelise's sister!!" Yeah, that actually happened. I ran into one of Chelise's high school classmates. Crazy, right? Even on the other side of the country, people still recognize me as Chelise's sister. It was prety funny.
Also, (take note Riss) I ran into Atkin's MTC teacher out here. We had dinner with a couple members last night (the Krumwiedes) and he said he served in Albania. I asked him if he knew Atkin and he said he taught him in the MTC! Small world. I'm feeling this six degrees of separation thing.
Speaking of six degrees of separation, there were some members in my last area, the Cardalls, who are from Alpine. I think they're going to be visiting Utah pretty soon and asked me if they could drop by and see y'all. I gave them our home phone # and address, so you should totally meet them! They are the cutest family ever. I loved their whole family to pieces. Still do.
Also, I have to tell you about this crazy southern food I ate last night. I don't actually know if it originated in the South. But it tasted southern. I had beef wellington for the first time. It was steak, smothered in mustard and mushroom puree, wrapped in ham, and baked in a giant biscuit. My arteries started clogging just learning about what it was. But it was probably the tastiest thing I've had out here, aside from barbecue pork. That takes the cake. Southern food is so good! All y'all should be jealous. Go ahead. Be jealous.
I s'pose it's time now to tell y'all about my week! It was good. :) I guess I'll start with Monday. We actually didn't end up tabling. I would probably fall on my face anyway . . . we went to play basketball with the elders. And by "play basketball" I mean sit on the sidelines and write letters with the other sisters and injured elders while watching other elders practically murder eachother out on the court. It was good fun! We also had cake. Shaped like a temple. Bonus!
Tuesday was pretty slow. We had a lot of appointments fall through and we were feeling a little discouraged. So we tracted our guts out. Guess who is getting missionary tan lines?? I have a stripe across my feet from my shoes. And a farmers tan where my blouses sit on my shoulders and neck. It's pretty endearing, if you ask me. Also, if you were wondering, it's really hot here. I like people who offer us water bottles. Those people get extra prayers.
Wednesday was really good! We picked up an investigator that the previous sisters were working with. She had been going through some family trouble and wasn't able to meet with them. We found her records in the area book and dropped by her home. Oh my heavens. She is golden!! I have never seen someone so hungry for the Gospel. She was asking all the right questions and drinking everything in. She desperately wants to know what God's plan is for her, and she feels a little empty. She knows God wants her to do something, but she can't connect with it. Sister Paxton and I are so excited to teach her! Her name is Sylvia, and she is incredible. We taught her a little bit of the Restoration and Plan of Salvation, and she soaked it in like a sponge. We're going to go back and finish teaching her both lessons this week, and we are way excited! It's investigators like Sylvia that help me experience the joy that is missionary work.
Right after Sylvia's lesson we went to teach Cheryl. Cheryl is so ready to be baptized. She wants to be baptized, she wants to be sealed to her family, she wants this Gospel in her life so desperately. Still waiting on her husband. He's starting to warm up; he has been asking more questions and has been going to more ward functions. Our goal this week is to get them to church! That would be so good for both of them. They are in our prayers!
Thursday was so unbelievably slow. Probably our slowest day. Sadly, we were actually on a power-up. Instead of doing exchanges, one of the Sister Training Leaders (Zone leaders, but female) will join us for the day. Poor Sister Malloy caught us on our slowest day of the week, so she got to tract with us. All. Day. All our appointments, including dinner, fell through. I felt bad for her. But as a Sister Training Leader she probably sees this a lot. She should have come with us FridayFriday rocked. Something good did come out of Thursday though! We were driving around Thursday evening to meet potential investigators, and we met Alice! Alice is a really sweet, open-minded woman who happily invited us in when we asked if we could pray with her. We shared the prayer, taught a little about our message, and she invited us back! She even scheduled us on a day when she knew she would have family in town, so we can teach all of them! That 20 minute encounter made the hours of tracting more than perfectly worth it. That's how missionary work goes. You'll have days that seem to drag on forever and nothing seems to happen, and then in a short span of time, you will see a miracle that will make your entire week. It rocks.
Friday morning did not rock. Both Sister Paxton and I were really pumped in the morning; we felt like it was going to be a great day. By dinner time, we were at an all-time low. It was so discouraging. No one wanted to talk with us. We couldn't find anyone to teach. We had no appointments. Those days are hard on a missionary. But, when the going gets rough, you just need to keep pushing on! And that's what we did. Our day did a complete 180 after dinner. We teamed up with a returned missionary in our ward and went to teach some new investigators we tracted into last week, Haney and George. Haney and George are from South America, and they primarily speak Spanish, but luckily their English is good enough to communicate clearly. Sister Paxton, Sister Avery (the returned missionary) and I taught them the Restoration, and it was so powerful. It felt different. The Spirit was so strong in this lesson, and Sister Paxton and I clicked. I've never been able to click so well in teaching style; it comes naturally with Sister Paxton. We naturally teach in unity; I've never seen anything like it. Haney and George both said they believed that it could possibly be true, and we offered them both a copy of the Book of Mormon as a way to find out. They said they would read, and they want to come to church! Happy missionaries. That was one of the best lessons I've taught out here. I love those!
Right after that lesson, the three of us taught the Restoration to Chris. We tracted into Chris last week as well, and he invited us back. He has a strong Catholic background, so this lesson was a little more difficult. However, the Spirit was really strong, and he accepted a copy of the Book of Mormon and said he would read it. He didn't seem to have any objections to what we taught him, which surprised us a little, due to his Catholic background. We don't know if he will want any return visits, but we'll keep working with him and see if we can help him progress. I could feel the Spirit working on him as we were teaching him. Once again, we taught the Restoration in a way that was so different from any other way that I've taught it. The words just came. It's so interesting to see that when you truly listen to the investigator without thinking about what you'll say next, and then open your mouth, the words just flow. Then after the lesson, you can't remember anything you said. It's the neatest experience, feeling the Spirit speaking through you. I just love being a missionary!
Ok. Saturday. Rocked. First, I got a call from Sister Mortensen, which totally made my day, because I've missed her so much! She called to tell me that Curtis was going to be baptized Sunday!! AND his sister, Courtney, was going to be baptized too!! That one threw me a little. I had met Courtney, but I didn't think she was interested in learning from the missionaries. Sister Mortensen said it was a complete miracle; Courtney sat in on a lesson and actually asked the missionaries when she could be baptized. Curtis and Courtney were baptized yesterday! I'm so happy for them! It's good to hear that my beloved Pleasant Ridge North area is still thriving. I knew it would, with Sister Mortensen there. I'm so happy for her! The Church is true!!
Saturday morning we finally had a lesson with Antoin again. He is a rock star. So, he has a huge smoking problem. He couldn't go an hour without smoking two or three cigarettes. But when we taught him Saturday, his ash tray was practically empty! We haven't even taught him the Word of Wisdom yet, but he's trying to quit! I think he felt bad for smoking in front of us, so he actually burned incense so his apartment would smell nicer when we came by. He has such a good heart.  We're so proud of him! We finished teaching him the Plan of Salvation, and then we took him on a tour of our church building. I think that helped him feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of coming to Church. Hopefully we can get him there next week! Fingers crossed!!
So you're probably wondering about the title. I think a lot about Christ's admonition to "become as a little child." I have learned so much from the children out here, as I have been on my mission. I wish that all people would embrace us as much as the children do. They are so pure, open-hearted, and easy to be entreated. It has been interesting to see how some children will recognize us immediately as servants of the Lord, and sources of help and guidance. I'm reminded of Crystal's little girls when they wrote us a note, thanking us for helping their mom. There was also a time when Sister Mortensen and I were tracting, and we found a single mom with two adorable little boys. Her little boys invited us in immediately. They wanted us to come see their bedroom and see their pet turtle. They invited us back immediately as well, and said we could come over at any time. If only the adults were like that! I've seen that over and over. The children will invite us in, but the parents are hesitant. If only all adults could recognize us as the children do. And I have to say, I absoltely adore the kids in this area. There are so many kids in this ward who are already friends with me and Sister Paxton. Kids are the best.
I bring this up because Sister Paxton and I experienced a little miracle Saturday night. We had an appointment with a less-active family, but when we showed up, they weren't home. There was a group of about 6 black kids, ranging from about 4-12, playing together in the parking lot. All of them came up to us and told Sister Paxton that she looked famous. It was the cutest thing! They immediately clung to us and said we could come over to their house sometime. At first we were like, "yeah, maybe someday." But then we realized we had no appointments and nothing to do. So we took them up on their offer. We went up to their door and got permission from their father to meet with his family for a moment. He happily invited us in, and we sat down with his kids (a couple of them were actually his nieces and nephews) and talked about Christ. That's when his wife came home, and she sat down and started listening too! They have a baptist background, so we agreed with the kids that if they sang us a song they learned from their church, we would sing them a song from ours. We sang I am a Child of God and they sang Jesus Loves Me. It was the cutest thing I've ever seen. Ever. We taught their whole family a little bit about the Book of Mormon, and every single one of them wanted a copy! Including the parents! The parents are open to learning more; they are so humble and open-hearted. We're going back to see them tonight! Sister Paxton and I just about died of happiness as we went back to the apartment. We found a family!!!!!! Happy. Missionaries.
Sunday was so good. We had an incredible lesson in Gospel Principles about parenthood. I loved the analogy that came up. Children strive to become like their parents, and good parents will love, encourage, and guide children to reach their full potential. But children make mistakes. They're still learning. When they're learning to walk, they will stumble and fall. Will a good parent ever frown upon a stumbling child? No! Compared to the glory and knowledge of our Father in Heaven, we are like children learning to walk. We will fall. A lot. But will God ever scold us for falling short?  He knows we're learning. He knows we're imperfect. He's not ever going to tell us to stop trying. The real problem hits when the child doesn't get back up. How will a child ever learn to walk if he refuses to get back up after falling? So it is with us. If we fall short and refuse to try again, how can we ever progress to become like our Father in Heaven? Satan would have us define ourselves by our failure. God would have us define ourselves by our little successes, each and every day. As parents cheer for their child with every small step, our Father in Heaven rejoices in every step we take that brings us closer to Him. We fall short. We're imperfect. We make mistakes. But Christ's atonement allows us to get back up. Some of us have weaknesses beyond our natural capacity to overcome. Some of us would think that it's impossible to get back up. Ether 12:27 tells us that we are given weaknesses to humble us. Our weaknesses allow us to become as a little child. Because when we learn that we are weak and cannot do it alone, we become submissive to our Father's help. We learn that we must turn to Christ and rely on His atonement. That is what allows us to develop faith and trust in Him. God does not set us up to fail and wait to punish us. He gives us weaknesses as a way for us to rely on Him. Christ's atonement fills the gap between us and our loving Father created by our weaknesses. And as we turn to Christ, we grow that much stronger. Paul himself glories in weaknesses and tribulations. I love, love, love the scripture in 2nd Corinthians 12:9. I came across this scripture in a moment of frustration, when I was asking, "Why weaknesses? Why are things holding me back from my potential?" Paul asked the same question. He asked God three times to remove the "thorn in [his] flesh." But God replies, "my grace is sufficient for thee." God's grace is sufficient. When we do all we can to access the Atonement of Christ, our weaknesses can be turned into strengths.
Well family, that is all I have for y'all for now. I hope you all know how much I love my mission. I am a very happy missionary. Not all day every day, but there are still reasons to find joy in every footstep. I know that God lives, and that this is His true Church. I am so excited to be a missionary at this incredible time when God is hastening His work. I would encourage all of you who didn't see the fireside to go back and watch it. The members are a critical part to the work! Pray for missionary opportunities and I promise you will find them. And you will be able to feel a happiness and joy beyond comprehension. It's not just reserved for us young folk with the name tags! All of us can feel the happiness and joy that comes from missionary work. So go tell your friends the good news!! I love all of you! Thank you for your prayers and support!! Until next week!
-Sister Fox

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