Friday, July 19, 2013

Reality Check

Family! Friends!
Hi! This week, like many weeks, was no walk in the park. Thought I'd just throw that out there. But I'm learning a lot. In my first area, part of me knew that the success we saw wasn't normal. Clinton truly was a statistical anomaly, especially for the South. This area has given me a reality check of sorts. This is what it's really like serving in the South. But, I still love my mission, and love the things I'm learning. Combining lessons from both the successful and the slow times has really helped me grow in patience and character.  And that's something I will never regret. Even if I don't get any converts in this area, at least I will have myself. I can say this transfer has brought me closer to God than ever before. And that's something I will always look back on with fondness and appreciation.
The South is hard. People are so comfortable here. They're comfortable with their religion. They don't feel like anything is missing. They feel like their relationship with God is perfectly fine, and they could not ask for more. Some churches here are even so extreme that they will preach against our church over the pulpit. We show up at their door and they either freak out, send us away, or graciously pray with us and then send us away. A lot of rumors spread here, and it's hard to put a stop to them. The scripture that comforts me most is D&C 6:33-37. God promises us we will reap what we sow. It just takes a ton of patience. I may not see the fruits of my labors here. It may be several years in the future. It may be the next life. But I know that as long as I'm on the Lord's business, even if I feel like I'm not doing much, I am still abundantly blessed. I'm doing what God wants me to do. And that's all that matters.
Yeah, the work is slow. Yes, I'm struggling. But I am so grateful for your prayers. Seriously, they make the biggest difference. Sister Paxton and I have been in a bit of a funk lately, but this week, even though it wasn't a very good week, we have been abnormally chipper. The last few days we've been laughing nonstop, enjoying eachother's company, and happily working our tails off trying to get this area going. We concluded that people at home must be praying for us! And we appreciate that a lot. Your prayers really are making a difference. The work may not be changing, but at least we feel so much stronger and happier. Thank you all so much!!
I do have highlights from this week I would like to share. First of all, I discovered a new game. Now it may not seem that interesting, but it's really fun! It's called Quarto. It's like tic-tac-toe on steroids. We played it with some members last week. It's really fun! And it takes a lot of strategy! I won every game I played by the way. Just thought I'd throw that out there. ;)
Monday was p-day. Like I said in my last email, we really like p-days.
Tuesday we had a return appointment with a new investigator. Her name is Mary; she's an older woman and she's really nice. She invited us back and we started getting into a pretty good conversation about her religious background when her daughter-in-law barged through the door. She not-so-politely asked us what we were doing. We politely told her we're missionaries and we're here to help bring people closer to Christ. She said she had taken down our license plate number, that this was a private neighborhood, and it would be in everyone's best interest if we left the premises. After that Mary politely told us she was no longer interested in further visits. Not every lesson has a positive outcome, I guess. But it's okay, because a couple hours later we visited Maria, and she has a knack of making my day. She's the cutest little girl! She really is like a little sister. After teaching her another great lesson, she put on a little dance for us, which resulted in tons of laughter. Tender mercies everywhere!
Wednesday it downpoured!! Tennessee rain is something else. I went out to the parking lot for probably twenty seconds to get Sister Paxton's umbrella and raincoat from the car, and I came back completely soaked! The parking lot itself had actually turned into a small creek. We get flash flood warnings on our cell phone all the time, and now I understand why. I love it though!! I've always been one who likes the rain. Wednesday night we saw Dustin again! Last week we thought we had lost him, because he didn't shop up to appointments and wouldn't answer the phone. But he's still interested! We ran into him outside and said he would like to keep meeting with us! We had a great lesson on the Plan of Salvation with him this week, and he loved it. He even taught it to his little sister! He also said his friends had tried to throw away the copies of the Book of Mormon that we had given them, but he didn't let them! Now he has about 4 at his house. He's awesome. :) We have to hand him over to the assistants because they're in charge of the singles' ward in our area, but we'll still see him around. It just makes me happy that we didn't lose him!
Thursday we met with a part-member family! I love those. Bro. Fraser was born into the church, but he went less-active and his wive is Methodist. She said she would be interested in hearing the lessons, though! We're going to go back and teach them this week. We hope it goes well! Thursday night we had dinner at a member's home and invited Cheryl. Cheryl has been pretty closed off lately.  She was bringing her husband to dinner, so we asked her before-hand if she would feel comfortable with us sharing a 10-minute message about the Book of Mormon afterwards. She declined. So after dinner we just did a little spiritual thought about the Fall of Adam. Cheryl didn't really listen to it though. We think she found some anti-Mormon material. We're going to put her on the back burner for a little while and see if she's still interested in learning more at a later period. Seed planted.
Friday we met with Suellen again!! If you remember a few weeks back, we found a group of kids in a parking lot and they invited us to their home. That's how we met Ti and Suellen. I didn't realize they weren't married until just this past week. Suellen had broken up with Ti and he took his 5 kids with him. So now Suellen and her daughter live alone, but now her heart is so much more open to the Gospel. We began teaching her the Plan of Salvation, and she was asking all the right questions. She got pretty interested in reading the Book of Mormon! After leaving her with a commitment to read the Book of Mormon, we left. We're going back to teach her tonight, so we're hoping all will go well! Friday night we had dinner at Nina's. I don't know if I've mentioned Nina before, but she is an excellent cook, and Sister Paxton and I look forward to eating there like a little child looks forward to Christmas. She is the sweetest person and she cooks for us once a week. It's always wonderful having some incredible members to associate with!
Saturday we had transfer calls. This one threw me a little bit; I didn't think they would change anything around. But! They did! I am training not one, but TWO people. Now that'll be different. Training Sister Paxton has been pretty simple though. Like I said, she came pre-trained. On Wednesday we're going to Farragut to pick up another brand new missionary. She's actually a visa-waiter, so we don't know how long I'll be training her. It depends on when she gets her visa. It'll be interesting being in a trio again! And training two people! Maybe she'll bring with her a spark that this area needs. Who knows?
The rest of the day wasn't that good. Nothing negative happened, but nothing good happened either. We had all our appointments fall through. That happens sometimes. We named Saturday "Beula." Because, you know. Days like that need a name. For being a Beula kind of day though, Sister Paxton and I were in a surprisingly good mood, as I mentioned before. We've been pretty happy this week, despite all odds. So we're grateful for that!!
Sunday! All y'all will be so proud of me!! Guess what I did?? I totally went completely outside all the boundaries of my comfort zone and sang in church. For all who know me really well, you know that I don't sing in front of people. I sang a couple solos in front of my Chamber choir in high school, but this was the first time I have sung a song from start to finish behind a microphone in front of a large congregation. It scared me half to death. But at the same time it was really fun! And I got a TON of compliments afterwards. People kept coming up to me and told me I have a beautiful voice. I'm not used to getting that. I even got compliments on how composed and calm I looked up there. It was so validating! This is a very nice ward. And I'm pretty proud of myself. That was the accomplishment of the week!
Well, like I said, even though this week was hard, I've learned a lot. This week I've focused a lot on God's purposes for His children. I look at how important the work is and sometimes ask myself why things aren't happening. People need this. Why don't they see it? Why do investigators fall through the cracks? Why aren't people flocking to the font? Logically, they should. This is eternal life, this is the greatest gift of all, this is God's work, why is nothing happening? These are probably the most common questions missionaries ask. And yeah, I struggled with them a little bit this week. But I've learned so much from prayerful research. One of my favorite talks is a talk by Elder Holland entitled, "Missionary Work and the Atonement." Y'all should look it up. He addresses these very questions. He talks about how salvation is not a cheap experience. The work has never been easy. Securing salvation for us was not easy for the Savior, why would it be easy for us? The price to pay for us to be saved in the Kingdom of God is a price beyond what our mortal minds can comprehend. It has never been easy. But the Savior is always there to help us when it feels like it's getting too hard. We are walking shoulder-to-shoulder with the greatest Life who ever lived as we do His will and carry on His work. It's hard not to see the fruits of your labors. But as long as you know you are doing the Master's will, that's all that matters. That enough should keep you going. I've thought a lot about Zion's Camp this week. God will never give us commandments or instruction for no reason. There is a purpose behind everything He asks us to do. And though it may seem like we are running around in circles or not accomplishing anything, we are learning more than we can ever imagine. As we do His will, we are being prepared for greater callings. He is always blessing us with the things that we need, and through the power of His atonement, we can accomplish everything He commands us to do.
Well, that's it for this week. Thank you all again so much for your prayers and support. And your letters. They mean everything to me. I feel so loved! It makes a huge difference, it really does. Honestly, we're really struggling, but at least we're really happy here. We're doing God's work and that's what matters. Love you all! Until next week!
-Sister Fox

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