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 .
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.
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 ! 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.
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.
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 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.
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 morning to prepare me for Su evening. morning strengthened my testimony of the Gospel and eternal families so much, which prepared me for what came next. 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 ). 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 !
God bless you all,