Thursday, August 29, 2013

Best Thing Ever

Hello Family, Friends, and Followers!

This is Sister Fox! Writing another email after another eventful week. I am filled with so much excitement and nervousness I think I may just pass out.

If any of you were wondering, I did not pass out last week. Though after the success we had, I came pretty darn close.

I! . . . Don't even know where to start. Actually, I'll answer Dad's question. Because it ties in to one of my favorite stories from this week. Dad asked me if Janette knows Suellen, the investigator who dropped us. It just so happens that she does! They are neighbors. Coincidence? I think not. Oh. My heavens. Janette is so solid! The answer she received at church last week was so powerful, she wants to tell the world. The only thing we taught her was Alma 32. But after she came home from church that day, she started teaching all her neighbors. All of them. She's rounding people up! Quite a few of her neighbors had approached her with rumors. "I hear they worship Joseph Smith." She totally held her ground. "No, they honor and revere Joseph Smith as a prophet, but they worship Jesus Christ. They're called the Church of *Jesus Christ* of Latter-Day Saints." She even talked to Suellen! Suellen did not feel comfortable with the doctrine of the Spirit World. Even though we hadn't taught Janette the Plan of Salvation yet, she helped clarify the doctrine. Now Suellen feels better about it! Janette said she wants to try to get Suellen to church along with a couple other neighbors. There is also a less-active family in that neighborhood with whom she associates, and she wants to get them to church too! We hadn't even taught her the first lesson and she's already trying to re-activate less-actives! She. Is. Amazing. When we called her for our appointment Wednesday morning, she told us about all the encounters that she had and how desperately she wants everyone to know about her experiences with the Mormon church. AH! The Church is true!

Wednesday we had a fantastic meeting with Janette. A member family in our ward, the Millers, reached out to her and they became fast friends. We had dinner together at the Millers' house Wednesday night and taught Janette the Restoration. The Spirit was so strong, and everyone in the room bore a powerful testimony about their experiences with the Book of Mormon and answered prayers. Right before we invited Janette to be baptized, the Bishop walked through the door (he was taking the Millers' kids home from mutual). So he was there to see it! We invited Janette to be baptized on September 21st and she just started sobbing. She said nothing would stop her. She. Is. Amazing.

Janette came to church with us Sunday! She woke up feeling really sick. Her voice was gone. But she loved church so much last week, she decided to come again. She is so dedicated. I am so proud of her and how far she has come already! I love her story. Missionary work is the best thing ever.

Mattie came to church too! She is really shy and quiet, but she had a good time. She is really open to learning more about the Gospel. We're excited to work with her! She's solid too. She accepted a baptismal date the first lesson, and every time we teach her new doctrine she welcomes it with open arms. She has changed the way she prays and she feels closer to God. Missionary work is the best thing ever.

I have to tell y'all about Pete! Pete is awesome. He was one of the 19 investigators we found last week. He had actually ordered a Book of Mormon off of television once and had read a little bit. We taught him the Restoration and invited him to read. He has been reading a lot in between lessons! He really likes it too. We had a really neat experience just a couple lessons ago. He said he had written and published a poem a couple decades ago that he wanted us to read. He wanted us to tell him whether or not he was crazy. As I read the poem, I was completely stunned. At the time he had written the poem, he had never heard of the LDS church and was not familiar with the doctrine at all. Yet in the poem he beautifully describes the deeper doctrines of the church regarding the nature of man, the nature of heaven, and man's potential. Missionary work is the best thing ever. As we taught him about the Holy Spirit, he said he could feel it in the past as he wrote poetry. No surprise there. It was the neatest thing. He is so receptive. We haven't been able to get him to church yet due to some complications, but we're hoping to soon!

We got to see Leslie again this week! We have been re-teaching the lessons to her to help spark her memory and feel the Spirit. I love teaching her the lessons because she has so many incredible insights. It took two days just to re-teach the Restoration. She is coming back so strong! She has thanked us over and over for being an answer to her prayers and helping her feel the Spirit again. Missionary work is the best thing ever.

Oh! I have a fun story about answered prayers. A few nights ago we were out proselyting when Sister Walker realized she didn't have her name tag on. Poor thing was devastated. She had put a lot of stickers on the back that had a lot of sentimental value and she was desperate to find it again. We said a prayer as a companionship and began our search. We began retracing the steps we had taken for the previous couple hours. We were prompted to search the area we had parked for our dinner appointment. So we went back to our dinner appointment and started searching the grass outside. And there it was! Sitting in the grass. Sister Walker was so excited. It strengthened all our testimonies that God cares about us enough to answer our prayers, even about something as trivial as a name tag. If it's important to us, it is important to the Lord.
We had really good meetings at Church yesterday. I wanted to share a few insights. In Sacrament meeting someone gave a powerful talk on the importance of receiving temple ordinances. My heart longed for the temple like nothing else. So. All of you reading this email, will y'all do something for me? Go to the temple at least once this week. I promise you have time, even if you think you don't. There are no blessings like the blessings of a temple. We are so blessed to have so many surrounding us. So go and let me know how it goes. Please and thank you!

We had a fantastic lesson in Relief Society about watching our words and conduct toward our family, friends, and neighbors. It is so important to provide those around us with positive feedback. A human development professor at BYU had done a demonstration with his students about positive feedback. He had two students leave the room and the rest of the class hid an object. When the first student came in, the rest of the class gave her nothing but positive feedback: "Yes! It's that way! Great job, you're doing great!" The first student always finds the object in seconds. When the second student came in, she received nothing but negative feedback. "Are you sure you want to go that way? Okay, if that's what you think is best . . . I hope you know what you're doing . . . no, don't go that way, that's ridiculous." Usually, the second student doesn't even find the object. Sometimes she just wants to give up, sit down, and cry. It's just like raising children. They are motivated by positive feedback. I find most people are that way. A very wise person sent me an email a while back talking about how our perfect Heavenly Father puts all His confidence in us. Getting doubtful or negative feedback from Him would be so destructive. I'm gonna quote her email: "Can you imagine Him sending you into a difficult trial and getting the prompting, 'I'm not sure whether you can do this. . . I guess maybe. . . It's just that I'm not sure you're quite there yet.' Even when we may not deserve it, He always expresses confidence. You can change. You can do good things. You can overcome. Through His Son, He promises we can do anything. In this way His confidence is such a mercy, and an expression of love. And if He knows we're going to make mistakes, and still has this confidence in us, it behooves us to have confidence in others. People benefit much more by our confidence than by our fear."
I love that! It is so important to express our confidence in others. As we build others up with positive feedback, they feel so much more confident. Can you imagine how hard it would be to reach your potential if people were questioning your capabilities all the time? I see this a lot as a missionary. I live off of the confidence others have in me. I can see that with the missionaries I work with as well. So watch your words. Express your confidence in others. Good things come from it. :)

Speaking of confidence, I'm trying to gather as much of it as possible for this upcoming transfer. Transfer calls totally threw me. I was positive I would stay in West Hills and finish training Sister Walker. But that was not God's will. It's ironic that once you finally start feeling comfortable in an area you are asked to leave it. I spent 12 weeks trying to pick up this area. Well. At least it picked up! I still feel right about it though. I feel like my work here is done, and there are more lives to bless. When I heard my name called as a trainer I wasn't too surprised. I think my heart skipped a couple beats when they called me as a new Sister Training Leader. They're starting to make Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders into trainers, so I will go train with another Sister Training Leader in a trio. I'm really nervous, but I am also so excited for this calling! Basically a Sister Training Leader is a Zone Leader for the sisters. Except they don't do nearly as much. We go on exchanges with every companionship in our zone and we give trainings at zone meetings and whatnot. I'm excited for this opportunity to get to know the sisters and serve them! I'm nervous to find out where I'll be going, but I know it's where God wants me to go. Wherever I go, I know that missionary work will still be the best thing ever.

Well friends and family, my time is running short, so I'm going to make like a tree and get outta here. I love you all so much and I am so grateful for all the confidence and prayers you send in my direction. I know this is where God wants me to be, and I am so grateful for all the things that I have been learning. This really is the best thing I have ever done, and something I will never regret. Love y'all lots! Until next week!
-Sister Fox

Monday, August 19, 2013

No Coincidences

Family!! Friends!! Followers!!

Hey that sounds kinda catchy.

Hello! This is Sister Fox!! Still on cloud nine from yesterday! Y'all would not believe. What happened. This week. This week rocked. Remember that boulder I talked about last week? It budged! I'm so excited I may just set the keyboard on fire with my maniacal typing! I've lost myself to an uncontrollable fit of giggles way too many times this week. I think I just might pass out.

In all seriousness, this week was one of the most incredible weeks I have ever seen. I attribute all of it to the Lord. He has blessed us so abundantly this week, and I thank Him every day for it. I don't know what changed all of a sudden, but I know it was all the power of God that helped us this week. The gratitude I feel is perfectly beyond words. I just love missionary work.

I guess I'll start with MondayMonday was a good day. After doing emails and such we went to lunch with the Sister Training Leaders. We went to a tasty smoothie place and then drove down the street to have fried oreos. Sister Paxton insisted that she absolutely had to taste a fried oreo. It was the funniest thing ever how excited she was. So we bought them. Except I didn't eat any because I seriously can't handle putting those things into my stomach. But, from what everyone told me, they are quite tasty.

Monday night Maryanne fed us dinner, and it was delicious! It tasted like Thanksgiving. And she made us peach cobbler, which was so delicious it made me want to cry tears of joy. It makes me excited for fall! The weather lately has been much less humid, and some of the trees are starting to speckle! I am so excited for Fall here. I'm kinda sad I only get to stay here for one Fall instead of two. It's my favorite season! The weather has actually been so good this week, it has sustained us during our plentiful tracting. Because we lost all our investigators last week, we had to tract basically all week. But the weather was perfect for it every single day. Coincidence? I think not.

I don't remember what happened Tuesday.

Wednesday we had District Meeting and went to lunch together at a really tasty cookout place. Then Elder Lynn told us we had to take a park day. Basically we had driven too far and had to spend a day out of the car. I originally wished he had told me on Sunday so we could've taken one on our P-day. So at first I was a bit frustrated. But we decided to just stay out of the car and walk around after district meeting. We changed our plans for the day (we had no appointments anyway) and decided to tract around the apartments right next to ours. Oh my heavens. We found a gold mine!! Right up the flippin street! We taught 12 other lessons during that escapade and made 7 return appointments! In one day!! I've never seen that before. Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday we finally got into the door of a less-active. Her name is Leslie. She says we're the first set of missionaries she has not told to go away. We knocked on her door right when she was prepared to come back. Coincidence? I think not. What a story. She has been less active for quite some time, but she doesn't even remember why. She has long-term memory problems, so she can barely remember the past decade or so. She doesn't remember joining the church, getting married, any of it. It's so sad. She knows she worked in the temple because she found a nametag in her closet. It started coming back to her a little as we spoke with her. Coincidence? I think not. It was an incredible thing to see. She still has a solid testimony, she is just intimidated to jump back in. She came to church on Sunday though!! She wants to come back. I love working with less actives just as much as I love working with investigators. I love seeing that light come back into their lives. It's the neatest experience!

Thursday evening we decided to return to our gold mine, where we were able to teach 5 more lessons and make 5 more return appointments. Then we met with Ralph. He seemed kind of open when we taught him, but then he dropped us the next day. It happens.

Friday we lost some new investigators because some return appointments fell through. But it's okay. Because everything played out really well. We continued to tract basically all day, and we were able to teach 9 more lessons and found 4 more investigators! I've never seen this before. At the end of the week, we found a total of 19 new investigators. 19! We lost a few, but that is still an amazing number. God has blessed us so abundantly this week, and we have been brought to our knees over and over in humble gratitude. The time of greatest prosperity and success came right after the week of greatest loss and frustration. Coincidence? I think not.

Saturday we got to attend a baptism! The Assistants had a baptism and let us come watch. I love the spirit at convert baptisms. It was incredible. After that spiritual boost we had our first appointment with an investigator named Janette. Back story on Janette. We were actually trying to visit a less-active family in her same neighborhood. They drop their appointments a lot. So, they dropped another appointment. Frustrating, right? Well, on our way back to the car we run into a 9 year old girl, and she is absolutely adorable. Kids are so loving and open-minded; I wish everyone embraced us the same way kids do. Anyway, she invited us to her house. Note for all missionaries: take kids up on those offers. We went over and met Janette. She talked about how she had been taught by missionaries in the past and had been to church a couple times. She loved it, but she had to stop because she started working on Sundays. We had no record of her in our area book at all. She doesn't work on Sunday anymore and she is looking for a church. Coincidence? I think not. Anyway. Saturday was our return appointment, and we read Alma 32 together. It was amazing! She was being taught the Spirit like no investigator I have ever seen. She got so much out of that chapter, and by the time we were done reading she said she wanted to nourish her seed by reading the scriptures and going to church. I just sat there wide-eyed, like a little child looking at a giant Christmas present. We invited her to church, and Sister Paxton followed the advice of Elder Kopischke and asked Janette to write down a question. She promised that her question would be answered.

Sunday. Was. Awesome!! Best. Day. EVER! Janette came to church! With her two kids! And she brought Suellen's daughter!

Sacrament meeting was the perfect meeting for all investigators present. We had a speaker from the high council, and he talked about coincidences. He said coincidences are God's way of being anonymous. He began with the story of Moses; how he was spared as a baby, found by Pharoah's daughter, and raised by his own mother. Then he told an incredible story about how he himself met his wife, how he was baptized, and how his parents were baptized. As he talked about all the details of his story and how everything fell into place, he bore a powerful testimony about how there are no coincidences. He also told a story about how he and his wife struggled to have kids. He gave her a blessing and received a powerful prompting that he needed to tell her three times that she would bear children. He wondered why, but he followed the prompting. A few months later they found out they were having triplets  With the Lord in our lives, there are no such thing as coincidences. Coincidence means that you are on the right path. Then he said, "It is no coincidence that you are here today." I looked over at Janette. She was crying. Leslie was crying too. After Sunday School Janette said that her question was answered in Sacrament Meeting. She has been looking for a spiritual family and she said she found it here. She knew God had answered her question and she wanted to be baptized. Coincidence? I think not.

After Church we had our correlation. We usually have correlation at our Ward Mission Leader's house so we can all have lunch together. But this happened to be the third Sunday. And the third Sunday is our mission fast. So, to spare our miles, we decided to meet at the church. Church gets out at noon, usually, and we're gone by 12:30. Well, we had our correlation and we were done by 1:30. And it usually goes until about 2:00. But we ended early. So we got out just in time for the singles ward. As I walked out of the church building, I found myself looking at my older sister.

Coincidence? I think not.

That was the coolest thing I have ever experienced. That made my life. She was the last person I expected to see. I knew she would be coming to Tennessee for school, but I never thought she would have stopped just a few hours short of her destination to come to church in my same building. She had no idea I was there either. It was the best thing ever. I burst into tears and we had a joyful reunion. And because we didn't meet up on purpose, it was entirely guilt-free! I totally needed that. Beyond words. Coolest. Thing. Ever. When God is in your life, there are no coincidences.

We taught the Restoration lesson 3 times yesterday to 5 of our new investigators. Each of them received the message really well, and one committed to be baptized in September! Her name is Maddie. She recently lost her husband and she's looking for a church for herself and her family. We found her at the perfect time.

Coincidence? I think not.

Y'all can probably tell that I really like saying that. As I look back at this email, and back at my mission, I see so many things falling into place. As we work, we may not be able to see the fruits of our labors, but as God gives us a preview of His grand design, it is overwhelming. When God is in our lives, and we do our best to align our will with His, there are no coincidences. We find guidance, blessings, and success not only through significant spiritual revelations, but by simply being good. As long as we are leading good lives and following God as closely as we can, our lives will fall into place. Our futures are secure when they are in God's hands. Things just come together so naturally as His story unfolds for all of us. That has been the coolest thing to see out here. So many times I was led by the hand of the Lord and I didn't even know it. I love this Gospel. I love my Savior. I am so grateful for everything that He has done for me, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to give back just a little. I love serving Him. Through the good and bad times. My heart goes out in gratitude to Him daily. I know this Church is true.

Well friends and family, my time is running short. I hope you all know how much I love all of you! I am so grateful for all of you and everything you all do for me. God bless you! Until next week!

-Sister Fox

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Faith as a Grain of Mustard Seed

Why, hello there friends and family!!

The good news is, we got a new dvd player. 
The bad news is, we lost our pool of investigators. 

As you might have guessed, I'm about as *delighted* to relive this week as a firefly that's been sucked up into a fan (*drum *drum *cymbals). 

Ok, let me clarify. Work wise, this week was less than fun. But there were a ton of good things this week that I'm actually really excited to share with all y'all!! 

Credit for the firefly pun goes to my grandpa. As some of you have probably guessed already. ;)

But do you know what's great about  hard weeks? If you have companions like mine, you come out of hard weeks with a lot of funny quotes. Here are some from this week: 

"You based your salvation . . . off the Library of Congress?" - Me

"Hi Stacy!!! . . . Wait, is this Stacy?" - Me (Really awkward phone call with potential investigator)

"What's that thing that blows? It's not a ferris wheel . . ." -Sister Paxton

"What about our companionship?!?! I LIKED it until it DIED!" -Sister Paxton


And my personal favorite. It took place after a long, hard day, and we were all abnormally hyper: 

Me: I worry about Sister walker, she's losing it. 
Sister Paxton: At least we're breaking down this way.

Me: Yeah, at least we're not crying. That's never fun. 
Sister Paxton: Yeah. I'd much rather break down this way. 
Sister Walker: (down the hall) "AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE!!!!!!"

Sister Paxton: . . . Maybe not. 

Well, quick update. I'd like to keep this email generally positive, so I'm not going to spend too long on investigators. 

We handed Lucas over to the Assistants, so we won't be teaching him anymore. Sadly he didn't make it to church yesterday. We hope and pray he progresses!

We didn't get to see Genny at all this week. I guess he's really busy. In fact, we didn't really get to see anyone this week, everyone was out of town or really busy. 
Chris came to church again yesterday!! He's our only investigator keeping commitments. And . . .he moved. So we have to hand him over to the set of missionaries in his new ward. Ah well. At least we found him and planted that seed. Hopefully he'll be baptized soon!

We kind of lost Glenda. We literally cannot find her. It has been kind of frustrating. She moved out of her daughter's house unexpectedly and she has no phone. We have called every phone that she has used to contact us and there's no answer. We asked her daughter where she went, and she gave us an address that didn't exist. Recently we found out through her daughter that she has been in the hospital. Oh heavens. She's in our prayers! We hope to find her and teach her soon!! 

All our appointments fell through this week too. It happens. 

Well, on that cheery note, I do have some good stories from this week. Friday night we were driving home for dinner because we had no dinner appointments. We saw a teenage girl in her car in the middle of our neighborhood. Her car was stalled and she had her emergency lights on. I'll be honest, I had a prompting to help her, but I was so hungry we drove right past her. But I felt a really strong prompting to turn around and help her. So we turned around and asked her what happened. Her car had run out of gas and she had to be at work in 20 minutes. She was frantically on the phone with her ex-boyfriend, who refused to come and pick her up. So, we ran to the nearest gas station, filled up a little tank with gas, and brought it back to fill her car. She was so grateful, she said she really needed us. She was so stressed about getting to work on time, and was so distraught that no one would help her. She was running late, so we told her who we were and gave her a pass-along card with our number on it. I don't know if she will encounter any more missionaries anytime soon, but at least she knows by experience now that we are good people! Seed planted. :) I felt really good after that. Never ignore a generous thought or a spiritual prompting!! 

We had interviews with President Irion this week! I love President Irion. He and his wife are so inspirational, and so fun and easy to talk with. President and I discussed D&C 121 for our interview, and it was really enlightening. We talked about what characteristics make for a good leader, and I learned a lot from him. I had an interview with Sister Irion too. She is fantastic. She asked me what my favorite verse was in the Book of Mormon, and I got to sign my name next to it in her copy. I have a lot of favorite verses, but I chose Alma 7:11-12. Those verses have carried me through my mission thus far. I told her how it has been hard to not get discouraged when our area is so slow and we're constantly being thrown back to square one after weeks of hard work, planning, and preparation. What helps me through it all is the Atonement. I know that Christ knows exactly what I'm going through. He understands me personally. And I'm doing this all for Him. Sister Irion then shared a little parable with me that I've never heard before. She compared missionary work to a young man who was told by God to push against a huge boulder with all of his might. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, he pushed against that boulder with all the energy he could muster. As the months dragged on, the adversary came to him and started feeding him discouraging thoughts. "What are you doing? You have pushed against that huge boulder for nothing. You've worked with all your might and it hasn't even budged. You are making no progress whatsoever. You might as well give up now, that thing is never going to move." The young man grew more and more discouraged. But God came to him and said, "I never asked you to move the boulder. I asked you to push against it. Look at you. Look at how much stronger you are. Look at how much endurance you have. You have done my will, and you have grown because of it." 

Serving in West Hills North is like pushing up against a giant boulder. I give this area everything I have and it just won't budge. Nothing seems to be happening. Our pool of investigators is gone. We are back at square one for the third time. And yet I feel so much peace and satisfaction. And that's an honest statement. I am so grateful for how much I have grown. I have learned so much. There has never been a time in my life when I have had to rely more on the Savior. And because of that, I have had the opportunity to grow in ways I never thought were possible. And I am doing the will of God. I have grown closer to Him because of it. And that is why I love my mission. 

The highlight of the week was a conference held by Elder Kopischke. Our week began relatively poorly starting Monday evening, and from then it seemed to go down hill each day. By the time we went to the conference I was at a pretty low point. But that made this conference one of the most profound experiences of my mission. I feel so blessed to have been able to go; only about half the mission was invited. He did the same thing as Elder Oaks; he made the whole conference a question-answer format. He had all of us write down a question about what we wanted to get out of the meeting. It was amazing! He only answered about 3 different questions, but he addressed the concerns of every missionary in the room. That is the power of the spirit. It was about 3.5 hours long, but it went by way too fast. He taught us so much about Preach My Gospel, the power of faith, and the importance of following spiritual promptings. The best was the last hour though. One of the missionaries stood up and asked him the same question I wrote down, verbatim. "I know our mission is supposed to be a growing experience. I know it's supposed to be hard. But still I don't understand. I do all I can. I'm giving this area everything I have, and I don't see promised success. Why? Is it lack of faith? Is there something I need to change? What am I missing?" I think this is a question that every missionary struggles with at some point in their mission. This doctrine is something I believe every prospective missionary should master before he/she leaves. 

I loved Elder Kopischke's answer: We know faith is a principle of power. But too often we draw a straight line between the two. Faith --> Power. Consequently, we tend to draw lack of success back to faith. We look at the result and figure there's something missing. If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you are supposed to be able to move mountains, right? So if that mountain isn't moving, you must not have the faith. No! Faith is a principle of action. If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, and God tells you that you can move that mountain, than you will move it. Grab a pick, grab a shovel, and start moving it rock by rock. Faith doesn't show in our result. It shows in what we are willing to do, or what we are willing to sacrifice. Missionaries will have weeks when they have to report some pretty sad looking numbers. That result is not a sign of their faith. It's a sign that others are not using their agency the way they should. 

I loved what happened next. Elder Kopischke had us open up to Alma chapter 8 verses 14-15 and insert our name into the scripture. Alma had been laboring in the Spirit. He had been studying, planning, and going through all the motions of missionary work. He had given that city his all. And yet the people hardened their hearts and cast him out. He was sorrowing. He had failed. Was it because he was missing something? Or because he had no faith? No. It was because the people would not receive him. Verse 15 says, "for thou hast great cause to rejoice . . ." why? He had failed. His mission isn't yielding any results. Why did he have cause to rejoice? . . . "for thou hast been faithful in keeping the commandments of God from the time which thou receivedst they first message from him. . ." He had kept the commandments. He had done the will of God. God doesn't care about our numbers. He doesn't care if we're the most successful missionary, or bishop, or relief society present, or person in general. It is not the end result. It is the result in you. Everything we do is about learning and progressing. God cares about what we sacrifice and what we're willing to do as the result of our faith. He wants us to do what He asks. We may see no results, but at least we are doing the mind and will of God. And as long as we give it our best effort, that's all that matters. He is so patient with us. He understands our weaknesses. And as we keep pressing forward, we will see the fruits of our labors. They just may be different from what we originally expected.

Well friends and family, I'm out of time. Rest assured, I feel perfectly fantastic. This is so hard, but if it wasn't hard, what would I be learning? I love this Gospel with all of my heart. I love my Savior, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to sacrifice all I have to serve Him for 18 months. I love all of you and am grateful for your prayers, letters, and support. Until next week!

-Sister Fox

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Missions Rock

Family! Friends! 

Missions rock!! They're hard. They're emotionally and physically taxing. They're exhausting. They sometimes want to make you throw heavy glass objects at the wall just so you can have the satisfaction of watching something shatter.  But, at the end of the day, there's still that little hint of satisfaction deep within you that loves being in the service of God. And there's also that little hint of sadness knowing that you are one day closer to the end of your mission. Even amidst all all the difficulty and frustration, I can say that I love it here. Missions rock. True story.

No, I've never thrown a heavy glass object at the wall. I've entertained that thought from time to time though. I did break our portable DVD player. That was an accident. Promise!
Just a quick note, I am feeling so much better. I felt happy and healthy all week! And Mom, thank you for the package!!! The skirt fits. :) The bread is delicious! Love you lots!

Time is kind of short today, so I will try to fit in as much as possible! Ready . . . set . . type!!
Ok. Monday. We went to lunch with the assistants again, and we went to Wasabi, a place that is exactly like Tepanyakki (or however you spell it). It was delicious! It was entertaining to watch too. Today we're going to Olive Garden! The assistants spoil us. I love being in an area close by!! They're awesome. We're going with the zone leaders too. Makes me feel all important inside.

Tuesday we went to see Maryann again and we read from the Book of Mormon with her. She's doing great! She was just invited to a temple prep class, and she's working on some names to take to the temple to do baptisms in September!! Hooray!! We're so excited for her!!! She's so solid. Tuesday night we say Haney. I learned how to spell his name!! It's actually Genny. Who knew? I can't read Venezuelan. Anywho. He's starting to progress! He has been reading the Book of Mormon a little bit, and he's thinking about coming to church! He's pretty much a dry Mormon. He agrees with everything we say, and his heart is wide open. I love people like him! He fed us this week too! He makes really tasty Hispanic food. Not Americanized Hispanic, but real Hispanic food. It was so good! He loves having us over. We taught him the Plan of Salvation on Saturdayand he agreed with basically all of it. We just need to get him to church! And we need to get him with a baptism date. That's the goal for the week!

Wednesday we had no appointments. What do you do on those days? Pray and act. We decided to go look up some potential investigators, and the first one we tried wasn't home. We didn't want to blow all the miles on our car, so we decided to do what we like to call a "faith in five." We knock on the doors of 5 neighboring houses. There was a convenient little culdesac right where we were! Nifty. 3rd door we knock on we meet Glenda. I'm so used to saying this, it has become a recitation almost, "Hi, we're representatives of Jesus Christ, and we're here to leave His peace and blessing . . ." before I could finish, she thanked the Lord and broke down in sobs. Finding Glenda was a miracle. We came right when she needed us; she has been going through some really tough family challenges. She's looking for a place to live and feels completely alone. She knows we were sent by God and she is completely open to hearing our message! We returned Thursday with the Relief Society President, who handled everything so perfectly. She offered assistance and bore a powerful testimony. After that we taught Glenda about the Book of Mormon, and she was so touched and excited to have her very own copy. She is so humble and so ready to receive this message. Once again, my heart has been able to feel the immense joy that comes from being an instrument in the hands of God to lift hands that hang down. We were able to restore within her a sense of hope, and a knowledge that she is never alone. God helped us find her, and now she will never be lost or forgotten. We went back Friday to teach her the Restoration and it was the most powerful lesson I have taught on my mission thus far. All of us were in tears by the end, and Sister Paxton invited Glenda to be baptized. "Yes!! When??" was her response before Sister Paxton could finish the question. We set her date for August 24th! She is so ready. She then offered one of the most sincere and heartfelt prayers I have ever heard, and it felt as if every fiber of my soul was on fire. This is why I came out on a mission. To be an instrument in the hands of God and restore hope to those who think all hope is lost. To change lives by helping people receive the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It changes hearts, it changes lives. I love seeing this happen. Even though moments like this are few and far between, they still keep me going when times are slow and hard. I know hearts are being prepared somewhere. We just need to find them. Finding is the hardest aspect of missionary work. But when we have found them, the feelings of elation go beyond what words can describe.
And that, family and friends, is why missions rock.

And y'all know what? We lost Suellen the same night we committed Glenda for baptism. To me, that timing was a tender mercy. I had the feeling that Suellen was slipping. But I wasn't sad; I felt so much peace knowing that I was doing the work of the Lord. I know we planted a seed in Suellen's heart. God will keep working with her, and one day she'll be ready.

We made a fantastic breakthrough with Chris, too. We went over Saturday to help him pack up some of his things. Sadly, he is moving. The good news is, it's only temporary. He found a place to stay in Farragut for the time being, but he's looking at a place to stay in our ward boundaries. Hopefully we'll be able to keep teaching him! Saturday I feel like we were finally able to break down some walls. He was really touched by our service, and he felt the spirit really strongly as we taught him the Plan of Salvation. He's progressing! And guess what?? He came to church on Sunday!!!! Hurrah for Israel!!!! Do y'all know what this means?? This is the first investigator I have had at church in EIGHT. FLIPPIN. WEEKS! Maybe more. I may or may not have done a little victory dance in the foyer. It is so hard getting investigators to church. We have them meet people beforehand so they have friends when they go, we take them on tours, we set up rides, we do everything. And they still don't come! That gets frustrating. But Chris came!! And hopefully next week we can get Glenda to come too!! We don't know what kept her this week. Hopefully we'll see her tonight or tomorrow. Chris loved it! He loved how friendly everyone was and how we treat eachother like family. It was a beautiful testimony meeting too. Everything a testimony meeting should be. Everyone who bore their testimonies talked about what they believed, and it was one of the most powerful testimony meetings I have been to on a Fast Sunday. We were so happy Chris could be there! Yay!!

We made a little breathrough with a part member family this week as well! They seemed much more open and friendly, and they agreed that we could come back and teach their family the lessons!! Hooray!! New investigators! I like new investigators.

Last night we taught Daniel again. Do y'all remember him? Maybe this will ring a bell:
That was a fun lesson. I even used Chelise's box analogy a little bit. And now I call him a "box scholar." Ask Chelise if you want to know what that means. Basically he kept trying to deliberate on the historical evidence behind the Book of Mormon. We kept trying to push him to have faith, to pray about it, to seek truth from the Ultimate Source. He would have none of that. He finally said, "I will never consider reading this through if you can't prove that it's true." It was kind of sad to me. He was depriving himself of blessings because he had to see proven evidence.

So, how do you build faith in someone who relies completely on reason and hard evidence? That's a question I still struggle to answer. All I know for sure is, faith is a necessary factor in conversion. In fact, without it, we have nothing. Ether 12:4 teaches us that faith is what anchors us. When the adversary hits us with his hardest blows, the only thing keeping us sure and steadfast is not historical artifacts or the proven evidence of Book of Mormon origins, but our faith in Jesus Christ and the divinity of His great and marvelous latter-day work. There was a night and day difference between teaching him and sitting in testimony meeting. We may not be able to prove it's true. But we have experienced the doctrine. Our spirit has communed with His. We have come to feel that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that the Church is true. I have seen it change lives. I have seen it heal families. I have seen it restore hope to those who thought all hope was lost. I have felt directed and inspired every day. I would not receive this kind of inspiration or direction of this Church is not true, or if this work is not divine. We come to know, through our own experience in planting the seed, nourishing it, and helping it grow, of the truth.

So, how do you build faith in someone who refuses to act? It's hard to come to terms with this as a missionary, but really, you can't. They, ultimately, have to choose to act. They have to take that leap of faith. You can encourage them as much as you can, but the decision is theirs. And if they refuse to make it, you have done all. So we had to say goodbye to Daniel. I hope and pray God will keep working with him. One day I hope he finds the courage to take the leap of faith and learn to trust in God and not reason alone. But I am so grateful for all the people I have met who are willing to put all their faith and trust in God. They are so inspiring. And I am so grateful for this opportunity to be an inspiration to them, and to help them strengthen the faith they already have.

Well family and friends, that is it for now. Thank you so much for your letters, your support, and your prayers. It makes a huge difference. You never know what to expect out here. Some weeks like this one rock, and other ones are really difficult. But every day I feel God's hand in my life, and I see tender mercies all around me. I couldn't be out here without your prayers and support. The bad outnumbers the good, but the good outweighs the bad. And I know as I look back on my mission, though it feels like I'm constantly feeling thorns in my side, I will look back and see nothing but roses.

Love you all! Until next week,

-Sister Fox