Monday, January 27, 2014

Going After the Lost Sheep

Hey y'all!

So, a couple nights ago I had a dream that the church instigated a new policy where all returned missionaries get an all-expense-paid trip to Florida for two. And I just happened to be a returned missionary. And then last night I had a dream that I went to the Marriott and enjoyed all-you-can-eat gummy bears. I think my body thinks it's time for a vacation. I can't imagine why. What better place to hang out than in Tennessee in January? Where the cold is wet and seeps down into your bones? Nothing spells vacation like Tennesee winters! BRING IT ON!

SO . . . this week was kind of a blur. I'll be honest, missionary work is hardest in January. It's kind of a hard month for all. The holidays are over, it's cold outside, and everyone and their dog is getting sick. Apparently there's a flu epidemic going around. But! We keep pushing cuz we know we're 'posed to. And it's impossible to be unhappy in the presence of Sister Schwab, so I've been doing really well this January. And January is almost over! Woohoo! I really never liked January. Anyway.

Well, Tuesday we taught early morning seminary. And it was early. I admire all these youth out here who get up so stinkin' early to get to seminary. They have really strong testimonies and several of them will be serving missions in the next one or two years. It's so fun to work with the youth out here. They are inspiring. We taught a lesson about faith and why it's necessary. It went really well, for being taught by a zombie. Sister Schwab was lively though, thank goodness. She's always lively.

Nothing else really happened Tuesday. We tried to have an open house at the church but nobody came. Silly January. I blame everything on January.

Wednesday we went on exchanges with Athens! They are a fun set of sisters. They are in a trio, so I exchanged with two of them. I stayed the night over there with Sisters Ellis and Wheelhouse. They are both awesome missionaries and incredible teachers. I love learning from the sisters; I am so spoiled! We had a couple really solid teaching appointments. The first person we saw was Crystal, who is a less-active who wants to come back to church. We taught her the Restoration and focused on the blessings of having this knowledge. It went really well, and she was so excited to come back to church! I don't know if I've ever mentioned how much I love working with less-actives. I love it so much. It is one of my favorite aspects of missionary work. Helping them get back to church and partake of the sacrament is like helping them be baptized all over again. It may not be recorded in the numbers we report every week, but that doesn't matter. We are still making a critical difference in people's lives, and I love it so much. I love seeing people remember how much the Gospel blessed them when they had it. It's interesting to witness first-hand the significant difference the Gospel makes in people's lives. When people fall away they may not notice it, but when they feel the Spirit again for the first time in years, they finally understand what they're missing. I love seeing that change. It's the best thing ever!
After Crystal we taught a mother and her two twin daughters, who are both ten. They. Are. SO. Cute. They have a thick, southern drawl, and the first thing one of them said to me was, "You are awful pretty!!" I just want to put them both in my pocket and take them with me everywhere. We went over the baptismal interview questions and made sure they understood the commitment they were making. That lesson was an adventure and a half, let me tell you. It's so difficult to take this doctrine and break it down so that a child can understand it. It does wonders for your teaching though. They passed with flying colors! And I believe they, along with their mother, were baptized yesterday! Woohoo!! Hooray for Athens!! They also had another baptism on Saturday--the investigator I had taught the last time I went on exchanges with Athens. He was the one who gave me the crucifix. Those sisters are having so much success, it's awesome! Fun to witness. :) Still feeling spoiled.

Thursday President and Sister Irion joined us for our District Meeting! It was fun seeing them again! It was really intimidating because we were doing the problem-solving investigator role-play, and Sister Schwab beat me to the role of investigator. She played one of our investigators and I picked a missionary at random to help me resolve her concerns. We decided to role play for Janet; her concern is that she has already been baptized and doesn't understand the need to be baptized again (Number one concern in the South, surprisingly tough to resolve). After saying a desperate prayer for revelation we taught her and the role play went really well!! I just hope when we actually teach her again that it goes just as well. We tried to see her yesterday but no one was home. I blame it on January. All our appointments also fell through Thursday except one. I blame that on January too.
That one appointment was awesome though! We taught Daniel and Olivia again. We taught my second-favorite lesson: The Gospel of Jesus Christ (Plan of Salvation is my favorite). It went really well! The Spirit, once again, was very strong. Highlight of the night was when their mother told us on our way out that we are making a difference in her home. I love it. She was asking the best questions during the lesson. We were talking about the Gift of the Holy Ghost and she was asking what changes she could make so that she could have the Spirit with her again. She is so humble. She is so ready to come back to church. I am so proud of her and I love her so much! We also received excellent news! Their dad isn't too fond of the church, but he is fully aware that they are being baptized and he's okay with it! I believe in miracles and the church is true!!!  

Friday I learned a personal lesson about the character of Jesus Christ and His emphasis on the one. We had several appointments lined up after our weekly planning and they all fell through. Usually I get pretty discouraged or frustrated when that happens, but I've been trying as of late to learn what it truly means to serve with your eye single to the glory of God. I knew He must have wanted us to focus on someone else. During weekly planning we found that someone; we got a text from a recent-convert saying that she was going through a really rough time. Her activity in the church has been faltering a bit. What's funny is that text wasn't even meant for us; she meant to send it to a friend of hers. I knew that us receiving that text was no accident; we offered to have the elders give her a priesthood blessing. She was hesitant at first, but she accepted. It was harder than we thought; we had to find a time and a place where all of us could meet up and we had to find transportation for everybody. The whole endeavor took the entire evening, but it was necessary. We finally ended up at the church after hours of planning and coordinating, and she received one of the most beautiful blessings I have ever heard. I felt a sense of peace that our evening was supposed to go this way. We had to have three appointments fall through for all of this to take place. And that is how the Lord works. He is willing to leave the ninety and nine to go after the one. I learned that serving with an eye single to His glory means to let go of your own will and plans and follow that which the Lord will have you do. I was humbled and touched by God's love for this daughter, as well as His love for all of His children. He has all the time in the world to focus on us and our needs, and somehow He helps everything fall into place for us every single day to maximize our chances of learning and growth. And nothing feels better than knowing that He used you as part of His plans one day to strengthen one (or more) of His children. Every day I grow more and more overwhelmed as I come to learn just how much God loves us. It's enough to make all of us fearless every single day, if we truly understand. 1 John 4 comes to mind, "For God is love . . .There is no fear in love . . . for perfect love casteth out fear."

It was fun to write "every appointment fell through" in my tender mercies journal that evening. :)

Saturday was good! We volunteer at a nursing home every Saturday and it is the highlight of my week. We visit all sorts of people. This week we obtained a list of people who haven't had visitors in a long time. We talked to each of them and sang them a hymn. I love watching their eyes light up when they are reminded that they are loved. We even met a Mormon! She hasn't been to church in years, but she recognized us when she saw us. Her records disappeared somewhere. I love finding the long-lost sheep!
Saturday night we went to see another less-active who knows she needs to get back in church. She came Sunday!!! With her less-active friend!! Victory! I believe in miracles and the Church is true!

And guess what happened yesterday? All our appointments fell through!! Trying to keep the same mindset I had on Friday, we went out looking for the one. We found her! She is a less-active who hasn't been to church due to health reasons. Her husband isn't a big fan either; in fact, she's the only member of the church in her family. Well at first she wasn't home. But just as we were pulling out of her driveway she and her husband pulled in! Coincidence? I think not!! We got to talk to her for a few minutes and learned that someone had taken her Book of Mormon. She begged us for reading materials. We just happened to have a whole box of Book of Mormons in the car!! We gave her one and she started to cry. She was so touched, and she knew that God had sent us to her that day. She really needed us. She is so solid. It doesn't quite make sense how she can't make it to church every week; there has to be more to this outfit than meets the eye. But I knew that we were supposed to see her and remind her that God is mindful of her. I feel like that characterized my whole week. We didn't have a single day where our plans stuck. But in the process we were led to those who God would rather have us bless. It's so humbling to be one of His servants and be led by His hand every day. Just another testimony that this church is true. If it wasn't, we wouldn't receive this kind of divine guidance from day to day. But the church is true, we are divinely guided, and the Gospel blesses lives. I'm a witness!

So, all in all, good week. Now for the challenge. It's been a while since I've given out one of these. It's easy to fall into a mindset in Utah that there aren't very many missionary opportunities; I know I had that mindset growing up in Utah. But to all who are reading this, even those in Utah, there is someone who needs you this week. One of the ninety and nine needs you to reach out to them and remind them that God loves them. I challenge each of you to pray for inspiration to find who it is. Be sensitive to promptings and see God work His miracles through you as one of His servants. I promise you that you will be able to touch someone this week if you pray for the opportunity. Your life will be greatly blessed in turn. And let me know how it goes!!

That is all for now! Thank you all so much for your letters, prayers, and support. I couldn't keep going each and every day without them! Also, quick note, due to a conference with Elder Perry on Saturday (AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we had to postpone our Zone Conference to Monday, pushing p-day toTuesday, so basically next week y'all won't be hearing from me until Tuesday. So don't freak out when there's no email on Monday. :)
That is all! I love you all so much and you are always in my prayers! Until next Tuesday!

-Sister Fox

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