Family and Friends, ALOHA!
Actually I am not in Hawaii. But I figured it would be appropriate to begin with a Hawaiian greeting. You know. For kicks. Bet all y'all it's hotter here than in Hawaii.
Oh my heavens!! My third transfer is finished? What the deuce?? That was the fastest six weeks of my life! I feel like Sister Mortensen and I just got started! I'm kind of sad to see it end. Sister Mortensen and I, if you haven't been able to tell already, have become super close friends. I will miss her lots. Luckily we're going to the same university when we get home, so we can move into the same apartment complex!! But that's a little while down the road. I still have lots to do here.
Yes everyone, I am getting transferred. I had mixed emotions when that call came. I have been feeling for the past couple weeks that my time here is up, and I have touched the lives that I have needed to. It'll be hard leaving these people behind, especially before seeing them enter into the waters of baptism. I'll miss Caitlin's, Kathy's, Emma's, and Curtis's baptisms, but I'll rest easy knowing that they are in good hands. Sister Mortensen and her trainee (yeup, she's training!) will take good care of Clinton and all the people that I love here. It'll just be sad to leave them. Larry, Marlene, Marty, Travis, Sheila, Shane, Caitlin, Kathy, Jerry, and so many others here have taught me so much and have changed my life for the better. Serving a mission is such a tremendous blessing, because you are able to build close ties with some incredible people. And as you help one another come closer to Christ, you are filled with a happiness beyond description.
Though I am excited to see what lies ahead. I'll be whitewashing an area, and that idea has kind of intimidated me since I received the call on Saturday. Because guess what? I'll be training too! It feels like the transition between trainee to senior companion to trainer went a little fast. I hope I've been prepared though, and that I can help this brand new missionary experience the immense joy that is a mission. We'll both be taking on a new area with new people, but with it will bring new opportunities to grow and serve! So I'm unbelievably nervous, but also quite excited!
I figured I would start this email off with a few funny quotes from the last couple weeks.
"It is hotter than death for the unsaved sinner." -Caitlin
"You don't have the Priesthood Authori...why did I just turn into a vampire?" -Sister Mortensen
"The problem with eating apples is that I always get full."-Sister Mortensen
" . . .Isn't that generally the case when you eat anything?" -Me
So we were looking for a less active the other day in the backwoods of Clinton, and we passed this super sketchy abandoned barn. It was totally falling apart and junk was piled up everywhere. And we saw a dead animal carcass nailed to the wall. Only in Tennessee. We couldn't resist, we had to get a picture of it. So that's the picture I'm attaching to this email, if you were wondering about it. There was also a sign that said "No Trespassing." It was kind of intimidating. But we went past it anyway. Sister M saw the dead animal skin and asked, "What . . .is that?" I replied, "A trespasser." That kept us laughing for hours.
There was another night we were super tired and stir-crazy because we had been in the apartment doing our weekly planning all day, plus we had to stay in longer to switch out our bunk bed for a regular twin bed. So we went a little nuts that night as we were tracting and we were quoting everything in the book. We were having a really hard time finding a place to park, because you can't park on the road in Tennessee, because there's no dang room to drive past a parked car on the super narrow roads. So we started mimicking Doofenschmirtz, "So I was driving down the roads and I couldn't find a place to park. I started getting so tired of having nowhere to park. BEHOLD! The Parkinginator!! It will destroy all the No Parking signs in the whole Pleasant Ridge Area!!" That's when I learned that Sister M is super good at imitating Doofenschmirtz's. Which made me laugh so hard I started crying. We were both doubled over laughing when we officially decided we've lost our minds.
We had some pretty cool things happen this week! It's funny how many times we ran into people who asked us if we get paid to be out here. We happily report that we pay to be out here. It gets them interested every time! We had one person in particular ask us, "Do they pay you to walk around in the hot *expletive* sun all day?" "Nope, we pay to be out here!" " . . .Why??" "Because we love our message and we want others to experience the same joy!" "Well . . .what's the message?" Score. We placed a Book of Mormon that way this week, and got a new investigator out of it. Awesome!
This week we had an incredible lesson with Kathy and Jerry about the Plan of Salvation. Kathy is excited for her baptism, and she's pretty ready. She just needs to come to church one more time. Sadly she was feeling really ill yesterday and couldn't make it. Hopefully she'll be there next week! I'll have Sister Mortensen keep giving me updates so we know when she's officially baptized. We also saw Curtis, Kathy's grandson, a couple times this week. It was really neat actually, we were talking about how sometimes God answers our prayers through other people, and his face lit up. He said God was answering his prayers after all. I asked him to explain and he said that we must be an answer to his prayers. That was a neat experience. I can't say it enough; so much joy comes from serving God's children. I love it so much!
We also had a really good lesson about the temple with Marty and Marlene. They want to go as a family pretty soon and do baptisms for the dead. I'm so excited for them to go! I wish I could be there when they officially get sealed as a family in the temple, but hopefully I'll at least hear about it. I just love their family so much. They have grown in profound ways that defy description, and I cannot be more grateful for being an instrument in God's hands to bless their lives. I love this family to pieces, they've become an extension of my own family. I hope to see them again one day. I know I will!
We had a couple good lessons with Billy too. Though he intends to stay Lutheran, he's reading the Book of Mormon and getting a lot out of it. He likes learning about what we believe, and he seems to be more and more open each time we come. I think he will really progress. I'm sad to say goodbye because I would love to see how his story turns out, but I know Sister Mortensen will do a great job teaching him. He's super awesome.
We had a really neat experience Saturday night! What began as a not-so-neat experience turned out all right in the end. We were tracting around a new neighborhood that we found Saturday night, and we ran into my very first bible-basher. Now that was a humbling experience. Because before I came out here I had the impression that I could handle bible-bashers. This one was fairly cordial compared to the ones I've heard about, and still he said things about Joseph Smith and Mormons that crept under my skin, made my blood boil, and the veins in my neck throb. Which surprised even myself, because I consider myself a pretty mild-tempered person. In the MTC we were always told, "Don't bible bash. Just bear your testimony." That's pretty hard to do if they keep cutting you off mid sentence and verbally tearing everything you are saying apart. Things that you know, love, and care about. I'll admit, it was hard. First time is probably the hardest. After enduring about 10 minutes of his somewhat polite verbal abuse we bade him good evening. I felt a little heavy hearted after that. The result was interesting. He didn't make me question my testimony, but it actually grew stronger as we walked off that porch. He helped me understand just how vital it is for people out here to receive the truth. The people out here are good people, and they're trying to follow Christ, but they do not truly know Him. We are personal representatives of Jesus Christ, and as such we are here to stand in His place and invite others to come unto Him. It's hard being rejected by people who think they're already with Him, on top of receiving some pretty rough insults and being politely told you're going to Hell. Though I feel that when we are rejected, we stand shoulder to shoulder with Christ. He understands better than anyone the heartache caused by a wayward soul and the sorrow of rejection. So though I was saddened by an encounter with a heart I could not help touch, I was touched with the peace of knowing that I am truly on the Lord's errand. I felt so much closer to Christ in that moment, and I grew to understand even more my purpose as a missionary. My testimony also grew of the Plan of Salvation. Some hearts may not be touched here, but they will have more chances in the life to come. I've always loved that doctrine, but I have come to love it even more as a missionary. No one is out of our reach or beyond hope. The Plan of Salvation is one of hope, happiness, and healing.
The neatest part of that evening was what happened next. First, we got a healthy Tennessee downpour. And all of you who know me should understand how excited I was to be tracting in that. We got soaked! It was awesome. And, it got us in a door. We decided to try one more door before heading home, and the woman who answered looked us up and down with a confused/amused smile on her face. She asked us what in the world we were doing. I would imagine it would be strange opening the door and seeing two completely soaking wet girls on your front porch. Naturally she let us in so we could dry off a little bit. We told her we were missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and after asking her if she knew about the Mormons, she said she was one. Wait . . what? It was amazing! She had lived there for 9 years and had never seen Mormon missionaries knock on her door. Apparently we found an area that hadn't been tracted in 9 years. Or she just wasn't home when the missionaries were around. Her records had gotten lost somewhere in the system, so we had no records of her on our roster. She still says she is a Mormon, though neither her, nor her family, are active. Her husband isn't LDS, but he's a good man. She looks back on her childhood with fond memories and has no qualms with our religion at all. She agreed for us to come back and teach her! We found a lost sheep who had been wandering for 9 years. Now that was probably the neatest experience I had this week. Plus, missionaries had tracted into her brother in Texas 2 weeks before. Coincidence? I think not!!
Well family and friends, my time is up. I hope you all know that I am absolutely adoring it out here. Tennessee is beautiful, the people are incredible, and the work brings tremendous blessings. I am excited and nervous for transfers, but I know the Lord will send me wherever He wants me to go. Thank you so much for the letters and prayers, they mean a lot! Until next week!