Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A New "Day"

Sister DAY!!! SISTER DAY! I'm companions with SISTER DAY! Hurrah for Israel!!!!!!! I didn't even have to ask President in front of Sister Irion!! He knew we've been best friends since childhood and he still put us together because of inspiration!! God is good. :)
I'm a little excited about this.

Guess what? The library was totally open yesterday. Did I know that? Nope. I do now though.
So this week was nuts. Y'all remember that Fire and Ice poem by Robert Frost I rewrote a couple weeks ago? I was reciting it a lot in my head this week. This week the schools declared SIX snow days. In a row! How many days was the snow actually on the ground? Two. Maybe three. But hey, six. Better safe than sorry, I guess? Oh Tennessee. These people are so fun. :)

So . . . this week was all kind of a blur because all sorts of crazy things happened and left my brain kind of spinning in circles. But I'll do my best.

Monday we had our final p-day together as a district. :( It was fun though! We went disc-golfing (I learned that I'm *really* not good at disc golfing) and to Jimmy Johns. It warms my heart that Jimmy Johns is everywhere out here. Then we had dinner with a less-active who is not interested at all in coming back to church but she's very friendly. Then we went to Daniel and Olivia's so Sister Schwab could say goodbye. It was tragic because Olivia had the flu and had to stay with her grandparents for a week. We got to see Daniel, though, which was fun! He reminds me a lot of Nate because he's a ninja too. He has throwing stars, a bow staff, and a sword! He went outside and showed us some of his sword moves. Pretty legit. I love this kid. And now he holds the Priesthood! There is a change of atmosphere in their home already; I love seeing the difference the Gospel has been making in their family. It's the best. :)

Tuesday. Was. Nuts. So, once upon a time, the weather people are predicting 4-6 inches of snow. Tennessee, as we have established, is not used to that. So President decided to transfer all the leadership who live kind of far from the Mission home a day early. He called us in the morning and told Sister Schwab she needed to pack her things for an emergency transfer. It was so sad! We only got to say goodbye to about half the people she wanted to see, because we had to throw all our things in the car to get to Harrison Bay as soon as we could. After tons of phonecalls and coordinating, we decided that I would spend the night in Harrison Bay with Sister Hatch while Elder Hunt from the mission office would drive Sister Schwab and Sister Hatch's companion up to Knoxville. I spent the evening in Harrison Bay and it was pretty fun, though I was sad that I had been ripped from my other half a day early. We had a couple good teaching appointments, and then we had to drive with the Elders to Brainerd and back to pick up another sister who didn't have a ride to transfers. We were told we would probably be stuck in Harrison Bay until Friday, but Tuesdaynight we received a phone call that we would still be going to transfers.

So. Wednesday morning it was totally snowing and we went to the transfer meeting in Farragut anyway. Then I saw Sister Schwab. So Sister Schwab and I ended up at transfers, in Farragut, despite all the arrangements to transfer the leadership early. So y'all may ask, what was the purpose of all the craziness on Tuesday? Still don't know. But! It was an adventure! Just sad I couldn't spend one more day with Sister Schwab like we had planned.

It was really *really* hard to lose Sister Schwab. God is so merciful. I told myself before transfers that the only way I could handle losing Sister Schwab was if I was put with a companion that I was already fairly good friends with. When I found out it was Sister Day I almost passed out with relief and excitement!! Turns out that Sister Day also just came from a really solid companion, and they were really good friends too. She told herself the same thing; the only way she could handle losing her companion was if she was put with a companion she was already fairly good friends with. Quoting myself from about 6 months ago: Coincidence? I think not. :)I remember going to the temple with Sister Day about a week before we left for the MTC and she mentioned that it would be awesome if we were companions near the end of our missions at a time when both of us knew what we were doing. Who would've thought it would actually happen? This ROCKS! I still miss Sister Schwab, but I am so psyched to be with Sister Day. These next couple transfers are going to be good! :)

So after transfers we were told we weren't allowed to drive because of snow and such. So we spent the rest of the day in the apartment planning. Then the next day it totally looked like Narnia outside, and it was awesome and I took pictures. We finally got the clear to drive Thursday afternoon, so we spent the day introducing Sister Day to my favorite people. The rest of the day is kind of a blur.

Friday we met with Barbara again and taught her the first half of the Plan of Salvation. She has been so prepared. She already pretty much believes the same things that we do. We had a good discussion on the importance of opposition in our lives to make us stronger, and she really connected with that. I found myself bearing testimony that if we were to ask anyone about a time in their life when they felt the most growth, they would probably talk about a trial they had experienced. It gave me something to think about afterward. You know you're teaching with the Spirit if you're learning from things you're saying. But it's true; if we trust in God to strengthen us and make us whole during the times in our lives when we feel broken, we become so much stronger, and our weaknesses turn into strengths.I love Ether 12:27. That's a popular one. Satan as a tendency to do two things with our weaknesses. He will either blow them out of proportion and make us feel like terrible human beings for having them, or he will tell us our weaknesses are no big deal and will lull us away into carnal security. I love that in Ether Christ tells us plainly and simply that He will show us our weaknesses the way they are. And then He will help us overcome them and turn them into strengths through the power of His Atonement, as long as we take the steps to access those powers through living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are no weaknesses we cannot overcome through Christ's Atonement, and as a missionary, my testimony of that principle has increased tenfold.

Saturday all our plans fell through again. It was another one of those "going after the Lost Sheep" days. We found the Lost Sheep. He is a less-active who we've been trying to get to church for three months. They're a small little family, just a father and son. We've put a lot of effort in trying to get them to church; we've role played for them, studied for them, and prayed for them, and it finally paid off! We took a Laurel in the ward over there and had one of the best lessons about church attendance that I have ever experienced on my mission. The answer we were looking for this whole time was the Atonement. Plain and simple. The doctrine of the Atonement touches hearts. It changes lives. It inspires people to change their desires and behavior. We talked about the powers of the Atonement and the blessings that flow into our lives when we take the necessary steps to access it, like taking the Sacrament. The Spirit was so strong. At the end of the lesson, he said a beautiful prayer thanking God for the peace that the Gospel brings into his life, and I almost broke down on the spot. He has never opened up like that before. He came to church the next day!! I almost cried when I saw both him and his dad walk through the door. I. Love. Working. With. Less. Actives. There are no wounds that are too deep for the Atonement to heal, and no one is too far off the beaten path to use the powers of the Atonement to come back and have a change of heart. That's what the Gospel is all about; it's about change. We are here to change into beings who are more like God. We should never feel like we are "stuck" a certain way. "I'm just this way" is never an excuse. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can change and overcome any fears or weaknesses that we've had our entire lives. I've experienced it on my mission, and because of it, I can bear more solid testimony of it. God lives, He loves us, and He is willing to make us into masterpieces if we let Him.

We shared a very similar lesson with Daniel and Olivia this week. We talked a lot about the Atonement and how it can help us overcome those obnoxious weaknesses that keep us from our potential. That seems to be the theme of this week. The Atonement gives us a clean slate. Every day is a new day. We should never let the fear of failure hold us back from trying to change and become the people God wants us to become. Change is possible. I know it because I've experienced it and seen it.

I really connected with a scripture in Alma this week. Alma 29: 9-10. Seeing this change is the joy that comes from missionary work. Alma says, "I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy. And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me."

It really is the best feeling in the world. For those who are preparing to serve missions, don't be afraid. It may be hard, but every day is worth it. I have never had such profound love for a calling in my entire life, nor have I felt so fulfilled and so full of joy. Every day is a joyful walk, even when it's hard, because we are out doing the Lord's work, and miracles follow us wherever we turn. Nothing is better. I'm so sad I only have 4 transfers left, but I'm so determined to give the Lord my all every day. I never could have anticipated the love I would feel for my mission. I was so terrified to go. Now my heart goes out in gratitude to God every single day for having a mission be a part of His plan for me. I can't say it enough, nor can I find the right words to describe it. It really is the best thing ever.

Well friends and family, that is all for this week. Thank you so much for the Valentine's package and the tasty treats! Daniel and Olivia liked the Skittles. ;) Don't worry; I inhaled the rest. I have a thing for chocolate in the wintertime. And cliff bars. I will always inhale cliff bars. :) Oh, and I keep forgetting to mail the Insanity DVD; I will be going to the Post-Office next p-day.

I love you all! Your letters are so inspiring and always give me the encouragement that I need every week! Thank you all for your prayers on my behalf and on behalf of the people I work with every day and love dearly! I can't thank you enough!!

Oh and we found Sherman! He called us. He's been up working in Dayton but wants to come back soon once he finds a place to live. Yay!

Much love! Have a great week!

-Sister Fox

Monday, February 10, 2014

There's Nothing Like It

Hello friends and family and other fantastic people!!

This week was so good! Ups and downs, as usual. But the ups were the best kind of ups you can have. I'll get to that later! We'll start with Tuesday.

Tuesday felt like a really long p-day for some reason. Tuesdays are the new "Mondays" so I guess they're always long, even if your p-day falls on one. It was a good p-day though! After emailing Sister Schwab and I didn't know what to do next. We looked across the street and what did we see? Chuckie Cheese. So what did we do for the next hour? Ski Ball. You are never too old for a good game (or like . . . 20 games) of ski ball. I've really improved my ski ball skills! Because, you know. That's a life skill that's really important to have. You get things like . . . tickets! Which I ended up giving to a little kid. He'll probably be baptized one day. Nothing makes a kid's day like receiving a bundle of free tickets at Chuckie Cheese. Chuck-E-Cheese? I don't even remember how to spell it. I'd look across the street but I'm too lazy to go outside right now.
So anyway. After that we played basketball again with the elders. It gets a little old after the 54th time. Missionaries need to think outside the box a little bit more on p-days. Like spontaneous Chuck-E-Cheese escapades. End of sermon.

Wednesday we did exchanges with the Cleveland sisters. Sister Whitehead was just barely released from being a Sister Training Leader, so she knows her stuff! We had a great time learning from each other's experiences. And this exchange was a lot more eventful than the last one I hosted. We went up to the nursing home in the area to volunteer, and we talked to Shirley again! I don't know if I've mentioned Shirley. She has been a member since childhood, but for some reason her records were lost and she disappeared. One member of our ward has been looking for her for a long time, because his mom knew her really well. We found her! Singing hymns in nursing homes. I have a testimony of service! Anyway. We talked to her about her faith and it's still so strong. She just doesn't have anyone to take her to church. But we talked to the member who was looking for her and he said he would take her every week! Have I mentioned that I love members? 'Cuz I do. A lot.

After Shirley we had a really good lesson with Austin. To refresh y'alls memory, Austin is the one who thinks he is an athiest, but he's willing to try this out. He has been praying and he wants to come to church. Sadly he didn't make it yesterday because everyone got sick. I would blame it on January but it's February. Let's blame it on Winter instead. Silly Winter. Its name is Silly Winter.

We saw Tori three times this week! Hallelujah! We haven't been able to teach her anything because her kids are very distracting, but we have been able to let her know we love her. We kept making return appointments but they all fell through due to family members getting sick or trips to the emergency room. That seems to happen a lot. I think maybe it's just not quite time to teach the lessons yet. But we'll keep visiting her and see how we can help her progress. She goes in for surgery this week so keep her in your prayers!

After Tori we saw Angela, who is a recent convert. We had a pretty good lesson with her, but it felt different without Sister Schwab. We were talking about it later; Sister Schwab and I have gotten so unified in our teaching that we feel an actual difference in our teaching on exchanges. We both felt a little off. Kind of interesting. Let's hope I click really quickly with this next companion!

I s'pose I should say that we officially found out transfer information. Sister Schwab, indeed, is leaving me. We're thinking she's going up to Oak Ridge (A discovery made by a complex process of elimination and whatnot), which is right next to Pleasant Ridge, my birth area. I'm sure she'll love it there, and her next companion is lucky to have her. I'm pretty sad. I feel like I'm losing my other half. But I'm determined to love my next companion just as much, and I'm sure it is going to be a good transfer. By process of elimination I've narrowed down my potential companions to 4 different sisters, and they all seem pretty awesome. So I guess y'all will find out Monday! Unless Chelise cheats and tells y'all earlier. Not like it matters because nobody knows the sisters out here. :)

Anyway, where was I? Angela. That was a good lesson. After that Daniel and Olivia had their interviews and passed!! Woohoo!! Hurrah for Israel!

And then we exchanged back and then went on exchanges with Dayton the next morning! This week was tiring. Exchanges take it all out of me, and doing them back to back is a bit of a challenge. It's so fun and rewarding though! I love the Dayton Sisters; they are in our district. I went up to Dayton to spend the day with Sister Goates (Fox and Goates . . . I'll give y'all three guesses as to how many puns we heard that day), who was Sister Schwab's MTC companion. We had fun and it was quite the learning experience. We both decided to work on patience, and when you decide to work on patience, the Lord will give you PLENTY of opportunities to exercise it. We had a pretty tough lesson with a stubborn investigator, and we didn't get too far with him, but we did learn a lot about the relationship between patience and hope. Romans 8 tells us that "if ye hope for that ye see not, then ye do with patience wait for it." That really clicked with Sister Goates. Patience comes down to hoping that God will fulfill His promises to us, and in the meantime not getting angry, frustrated, or anxious when we don't see things working out the way we would like. That is the Christlike attribute I want to internalize next. I've been praying for it but have asked God to be gentle because I'm kind of a pansy. So we'll see what kind of experiences come up in the next 6 months. :)

I got one yesterday! But that's for later.

Friday we had one final pump-up lesson before Daniel's and Olivia's baptism. We talked a lot about the Priesthood because Bishop told us he wanted to interview Daniel for the priesthood right after his baptism, and he didn't really know what that meant. We had a really good lesson on the importance and power of the priesthood.

Saturday was the BEST. DAY. EVER! We went back to the nursing home in Soddy Daisy and this time we visited Barbara. Refresher: Barbara is the one to whom we sang "Families Can be Together Forever" and she asked us how. So Saturday we told her how! We went back and sang to her, and we didn't actually have the intention to teach the whole Restoration because we didn't have too much time on our hands, but she wanted it right then! So we did! And it was awesome! The Spirit was so strong and she believed every word. She's so great! I just love her. So much. She's gradually losing her eyesight so we're fixin' to get her a BOM on cd (Oh heavens I'm turning Southern. . . ).

After we taught Barbara we headed to the church to set up for the baptism! It was one of the best! Daniel and Olivia were a little late, but the only reason they were late was because they went with their mom to pick up a non-member friend who wanted to come! And both sets of grandparents came (one set isn't LDS)! It was such a good service and we had a really good turnout, thanks to the faithful members who came to watch. We heard a fantastic talk, which was followed by the actual service. The Spirit was undeniably strong. I love baptisms. It is the happiest feeling in the world, and, without a doubt, the best experience a missionary can have. There's nothing like it. After the service Daniel's and Olivia's mom, Melanie, came up to me and pulled me into a huge hug. With tears in her eyes she thanked us both for doing this for her kids. She is reactivated! And her kids are baptized!! Their grandma came up to us as well (Sister Sparks, she has been working really closely with us as we have been working with them) and thanked us for everything we did for her grandbabies. It was the sweetest experience to see this little family come closer together, and move one step closer to eternal life together as a family. Words can't describe it. It was the best thing ever.

After the acutal service Sister Schwab and I talked about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and performed a piano/flute duet. After the closing prayer some members took us to Krystal. Oh Krystal. There is nothing like it. In fact, that is the slogan, "There is nothing like it." Because it's true. So, background on Krystal. It is the fast food hype of Tennessee. And by hype I mean all the missionaries kept telling me, "Don't go to Krystal, it is food poisoning on a stick!" when I first came out here. But people native to Tennessee tend to like it. Well, some of them. It's a burger joint; they're famous for these tiny little burgers (like sliders), but they don't really put anything on them except pickles, mustard, and onions. It actually was pretty nasty. But Sister Schwab was acting like a little girl in Disney Land and took pictures of everything in sight. She didn't think it was that good either but she was milking the experience for all it was worth. You can't leave Tennessee without eating at Krystal, so everyone tells us. I'm glad that part of the Tennessee experience is over. ;) There's nothing like it.

Sunday morning was wonderful!! Daniel and Olivia were confirmed members and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost in sacrament meeting. The Spirit was, once again, so strong. Then during Relief Society/Priesthood Daniel was ordained to the office of a Priest!!! I didn't see the actual ordination, but I did see Melanie and her mom come into Relief Society with tears in their eyes. They cried the entire hour. At the end of Relief Society we sang "Families can Be Together Forever," and I watched as Melanie and her mom (Sis Sparks) hugged eachother and sobbed. It was one of the most touching experiences of my mission. Moving away from the Krystal sarcasm, there really is nothing like it. There's nothing like seeing a family draw closer together in the Gospel. There's nothing like seeing a mother come back to church and feel the hope of the Gospel bless her life and the lives of her children. There's nothing like seeing a grandmother, who has been praying for year after year after year, finally see her grandbabies get baptized. There's nothing like seeing the light come into the eyes of two precious children of our Heavenly Father who have entered in at the gate and have begun progressing toward eternal life. There truly is nothing like it.

And I truly think I needed that experience Sunday morning to prepare me for Sunday evening.  Sunday morning strengthened my testimony of the Gospel and eternal families so much, which prepared me for what came next.Sunday evening we had dinner with a member, and her son-in-law happened to be there. We shared a message about the hope that comes from living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bore testimony of eternal families. I did not anticipate what came next. After asking a couple innocent questions about our beliefs, this man started to verbally tear apart the Book of Mormon like nothing I have ever before heard. From geological, historical, and other scientific standpoints he tore it apart and for 35 minutes told us why he thought the Book of Mormon couldn't possibly be true. I wasn't quite sure how to react. I've talked to a ton of people who have questioned and challenged my beliefs, but something about the things this guy was saying just cut me to the core. I got. SO. Angry. Tried not to show it though. I feel like every time I think I have a lot of the Christlike attributes down, God reminds me that I lose about half of them when I run into bible bashers. Finally when he let us speak, he said that we could bring our "ammo" next time and duke it out. I firmly stated that that was against our purpose, and our purpose is simply to invite others to listen and come closer to Christ. Sister Schwab and I decided afterward that we handled it pretty well, though she did tell me that I sounded really really angry when I told him what our purpose was. Whoops. Well. I prayed for patience.

Though I always emerge from situations like that with a deeper and firmer testimony. Funny how that happens. When someone starts attacking my roots, they dive so much deeper into my heart so that they cannot be uprooted. I see a common thread among all these people who challenge and lie in wait to disrupt. At least all the ones I talk to. They always take it from a scientific standpoint. They want data. That's all they look for. They claim it couldn't possibly be true but they won't openly and honestly put it to the test. I have gained a profound testimony of the importance of having faith. If God wanted to be found through scientific means He would provide us with scientific data that proves the divinity of the Book of Mormon. But he doesn't. He wants to be found through the qualities He wants to cultivate. He wants to be found through faith. Moroni gives us the formula at the end of the book. He says nothing about looking at the data and seeing if it matches all of our scientific findings. He says, "ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true" (Moroni 10:4) Sounds like more of a spiritual experiment to me.

The world is growing increasingly dark. It is starting to polarize. The wicked grow more wicked and the righteous grow more righteous. After this encounter I started pondering on the importance of keeping our faith strong. Especially those who want to serve missions (so pay attention Jason ;) ). It is so vitally important that we gain a deep, profound, unshakable testimony of the Book of Mormon. Because before we know it, people will be targeting our testimonies left and right. They will throw arguments at us that we have never heard before. And when they provide us with scientific questions that we cannot answer, we have to feel comfortable with leaning on faith. We have to feel comfortable with saying, "I don't know how it adds up, but I do know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is the word of God." Do we truly know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God? Do we really have that testimony? Do we truly know this Church is true? How do we know this? These questions are so vital to our being able to withstand the lies and the darts of the adversary. He is crafty and cunning, and it is so easy to fall into his traps. I am always comforted by the words of Helaman: "Remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation, that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of this rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation wheron if men build they cannot fall" (Helaman 5:12). As long as we are rooted in Christ, our testimonies cannot be shaken by the forces of darkness out to tear us down. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the truth. He never fails. And neither will we, if we take our stand with Him.

Family and friends, this Church is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. I know it, I know it, I know it. I will forever be grateful for my mission, which has helped me develop a stronger testimony than I ever could have imagined. I love being a missionary. I love my Savior. I love serving my Lord and King. There is nothing like it. There's nothing that makes me happier than this Gospel. I love it with all my heart, and I know that it is true. Thank you all so much for your testimonies, your words of encouragement, your prayers, and your support. They keep me going every single day. I love you all, and keep you all in my prayers as well. Have the best of weeks, and I'll talk to y'all next Monday!

God bless you all,

-Sister Fox

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Let it Snow! Let it Sno..Wait. No. Make it Stop.

Some say the world will end in fire.
Tennesseans say in ice.
Since ice has ripped me from desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate,
to know that destruction ice,
is a huge pain.
Make it stop.

Hey y'all!! I'll give y'all three guesses as to what kind of weather we had in Tennessee these past couple weeks. Ok. Weirdest cultural phenomenon ever. So, in 1993 (if I had a nickel for every time I heard 'the Blizzard of '93 this week . . . ) apparently there was this huge snowstorm that shut down the state of Tennessee for 2 weeks, leaving thousands without electricity or transportation. The roads here are skinny, and because it is so humid, ice freezes fast to the roads and makes them hard to drive on. They have no snowplows, no salt for the backroads, nothing. Every time it snows the schools shut down, so they have to plan for 20+ snowdays every school year. It's the craziest thing I've ever seen! Even if the snow sticks just a little bit, the entire state shuts down. Restaurants close, schools let out, work lets out, people run to the nearest grocery store and empty the shelves of staples (mostly milk and bread) and shut themselves inside. What does that mean for missionary work? A whole lot of sitting inside and wishing that everyone learned to drive in Utah. :)

But it wasn't all bad. We actually had a really good week this week considering all the time we lost to the icy weather. Monday we had a fantastic p-day followed by a fantastic lesson with Daniel and Olivia. I love these two with all my heart. Can't say it enough!

Tuesday was the real adventure. It started snowing early in the morning, but that wasn't going to stop us Utah drivers from going to Knoxville. So we drove to Knoxville for MLC. I look forward to MLC like Christmas, so no weather was going to keep us from going. We drove down with the Zone Leaders and had a fantastic meeting with the rest of the mission leadership. After the meeting we walked outside and the snow was piling up on the roads. Which isn't very common in Tennessee. It doesn't snow all that often, and when it does, it doesn't stick like this. But it was totally stuck to the roads. So we were shuttled to the mission home for a warm dinner and got to stay the night! It was so fun! The missionaries who lived within an hour drive had to go home, but all of us missionaries who were about 2 hours away got to stay! One of those was Sister Day, who happens to be in Asheville, so we got to spend the night together! It was so much fun. We played games, laughed, talked about our missions, and had a fun time catching up with the other missionaries. It was like one giant sleepover of pure joy. And we got waffles in the morning! Bonus! I feel spoiled. Usually only goldens and missionaries who are going home get to spend the night in the mission home. :)

Wednesday was absolutely crazy. The snow seemed to melt pretty fast off the roads in my opinion, but nobody else from Tennessee seemed to think so. It was a clear drive from Knoxville down to Chattanooga and we made it with no problem. The ice was almost gone, just a rough patch here and there. Nothing compared to the ice in Utah. But EVERYONE was too scared to set foot outside. It was crazy. I've never seen anything like it. Every single appointment called and cancelled because they didn't want us out on the roads. So Sister Schwab and I weekly planned and then took it upon ourselves to go out and walk to the nearest neighborhood (Pres. Irion said no driving mission cars that day either). We tried to see Tori but she has some people living with her who really don't like us. One of them came to the door and swore when she saw us standing outside and left us out in the cold. Sister Schwab and I turned around and concluded that it was okay because we like the cold and she's still a child of God. Needless to say, we haven't been able to contact Tori at all. We did get in the door of a less active though! And we made some great progress with her. We talked about the importance of personal prayer and scripture study and she began to open up to us. She came to church last week! Wooohoo!! I love it when that happens. :)

Wednesday night we also had a huge tender mercy. So we walked to the nearest neighborhood, but it was actually 2 miles away. And by the time we left aforementioned less active's house, it was dark outside. And I wasn't about to walk home in that. We went to see the Adamz family *snap snap* and I concluded that Sister Adamz is the best human being alive. She let us warm up by her fire and then whipped us up a delicious meal in about 20 minutes, then drove us home. I. Love. Members. SO. Much.

Thursday we had a really good lesson with Angela, who is a less-active. She has hit a rough patch in her life lately and we taught her the importance of receiving revelation through the Book of Mormon. My mission has given me an entirely new perspective on the Book of Mormon. Even though it was written thousands of years ago, each of us can relate to it personally at every stage in life. We talked about moments we have had where we were able to find our own stories in the Book of Mormon. I related an experience when I found my own story in Alma 31. We challenged her to find her own story in the Book of Mormon, and I think it will go well!

Do you know what I love about Tennessee? Is that Tennesseeans will take their useless junk and put it on the side of the road and they don't care what happens to it next. Do you know what this means?? Free stuff for missionaries!! You know what they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Sister Schwab and I were trying to contact a less-active when we found an abandoned banana chair on the side of the road. It was pretty much in the same condition that mine is in back at home. So needless to say, we totally stuffed it in our trunk and now we have a banana chair! Today we're gonna take zebra duct tape to it. And we're really excited about it.

Friday we got a new investigator! There is a member in our congregation, Sister Ward, who is basically related to everyone in the city of Soddy Daisy. We go on team-ups with her a lot because she loves missionary work. She introduced us to her sister in law, who has been going through a rough time due to the recent death of her husband. We talked about the doctrine of eternal families and how the power to bind families together in heaven has been restored. She loved it and wants to learn more! We'll be teaching her later on this week. We're excited!

Friday night we had another awesome lesson with Daniel and Olivia, and we went over the practice interview questions. Passed with flying colors! They will be baptized this Saturday! Guess what?? The Leadership Conference Call this Saturday had to be rescheduled because the mission is going to be having 25 baptisms!!!!!!!! Woohoo!!! We're hearing rumors that there's supposed to be a huge snowstorm Friday night, so if that happens, the entire state with shut down Saturday. Prayers from the West Coast would be greatly appreciated. :)

Saturday we went back up to Knoxville to Elder Perry's leadership conference. Oh heavens. It was amazing. Words cannot do it justice. Elder Perry has an incredible presence, and when he speaks, you can truly feel that he speaks with the power and authority of God. The conference was two hours long and I wish I had time to include every thought, but here are some things that really stood out to me.

First, he said that we are so honored and blessed to be a part of the most important era in church history. He said that there have been some incredibly important events in the history of the church, but this era is the most important. The Lord is truly hastening His work, and He has given all of us the opportunity to be a part of it. This conference was for all leadership in the surrounding stakes, so he wasn't just talking to missionaries. He told us to never underestimate the power and authority that comes from our callings. We should always carry on with the assurance that God has called us to this position and this time for a reason. He wants us to help Him build His kingdom, and it is the most glorious work we can be a part of.

I loved his focus on individuals. He had one of the Relief Society Presidents stand up and he asked her how many members of her ward were in Relief Society. Then he asked her how many were less active. She said, "About . . . " before he cut her off. He asked another one and she said, "Approximately . . ." He called both of them out. It is so hard to keep track of less-actives out here because there are so many, but he said that we need to know every single one of our members by name. No more abouts, no more approximates. He also talked about how the work of salvation goes all the way to the temple. It's not just about find, teach, and baptize, but to help these people endure to the end. In each of our congregations are members who need someone to reach out to them and take them to the temple.

After his remarks we had a 1 hour question and answer session with Elder Perry, Elder Kopischke, and other members of the quoroum of the seventy. It was so revelatory. So many people asked questions about how to contact less-actives who have turned against the church, how we can get members to be less apathetic toward missionary work, and how we can combat discouragement. The univesral problem solver that came up again and again was enthusiasm. The leaders of the church need to be enthusiastic about their callings. All of us, might I add, need to be enthusiastic about our callings. Elder Perry said enthusiasm is contagious! We should all come out of our ward councils "like we've been shot out of a gun," in the words of Elder Perry. He told us that enthusiasm, patience, and perseverance will help us see success as we strive to build up our wards. He is in his 90s and he is full of energy and vitality. He drilled again and again how amazing it is that we get to build up zion during this period in history, and we should be excited about it!
He ended with the most incredible testimony I have ever heard from an apostle of the Lord (which is saying something). He talked about experiences he has had with the quorum of the twelve in the temple, and bore solemn testimony that we are not alone. He said with emphasis and vitality, "No man leads this church." God is with us, and He is in control. We must always trust that He has put us into our positions for a purpose, and He intends for His church to always be growing.

Like I said, words can't do it justice. I wish they would've broadcasted it worldwide, but I hope something in the summary above is penetrating.

Yesterday was awesome! I was so flippin' tired though. Can't complain, just had to get up early a few times this week, leaving me completely drained yesterday. We had an awesome Zone Conference though, followed by a fantastic lesson with Daniel and Olivia. We talked about the importance of going to church, praying, and reading. Church, Pray, Read, CPR. It clicked really well with them. Sister Schwab then asked why they wanted to be baptized, and Olivia said, "Because I want the church of Jesus Christ in my life" and Daniel said, "because I want to be closer to God." I just about exploded with happiness. It was the best feeling ever. Missionary work is the best thing ever. Can't say it enough!

We also have another new investigator! His name is Ethan, and he is 9. He wants to be baptized!! So we set a date with him yesterday for March 1! Awesome. We are so excited! I love how much I've been able to work with kids and youth on my mission. Teaching them is my favorite thing on the planet. I'm so grateful for my opportunities!

And I am so out of time! But I hope y'all know how much I appreciate the love and support! I have the best family and friends ever. :) I feel the strength from your prayers every day, and it means the world to me! So thank you!!

Saturday we find out about transfers. I have a gut feeling Sister Schwab is leaving me because she has been in the area for six months. :( But I also have a feeling that my next companion is going to be awesome, and I'm determined to see Hixson continue to grow! Next Monday y'all will get to hear the news, and the following week we will see who my new companion will be.

Love y'all! Have a fantastic week!!

-Sister Fox