Monday, April 28, 2014

I Got Shot! What's Your Excuse?

Hello Friends and Family!

No, I did not get shot. Stop panicking.

This week was much better. The Lord has been extremely merciful on me and Sister Day, and we have felt the strength that comes from all the prayers given on our behalf. So thank you all so much for your prayers and support. It means everything to us!

I am just so unbelievably grateful for Sister Day. She is a wonderful companion. All the stress from last week left me feeling fairly ill last P-day. I started cleaning the apartment and she hissed at me like your average angry cat and gestured toward my bed. I finally complied and told her to wake me up after 30 minutes so I could help her clean the apartment. She agreed, and I took a nap. After 2 hours later she woke me up after she cleaned the entire 2-story apartment by herself. I just love her so much!! I also felt a lot better after that nap, and after a few days I completely recovered. Tender mercies everywhere!

Monday evening we had a fantastic lesson with a family of less-actives. We've been working with them for months and walls are finally starting to come down. Sister Day and I were talking about how difficult the past week had been and I mentioned that it would allow us to connect with people. She responded, "I hope so." What happens 30 minutes later? We have the lesson of a lifetime with these less-actives. We went in there hoping to teach them about the importance of keeping covenants and then walls came down and they opened up about having problems with anxiety. The Spirit led the conversation the entire time, and we were able to give them guidance and direction using the lessons we had learned through the trials we faced the previous week. It was nothing short of miraculous. They loved it, and we're seeing them again tonight! This family is so coming back to church. It's only a matter of time! =D

Tuesday we had another lesson with Amanda, who I would now like to refer to as our "miracle child." Her story truly is miraculous. Sister Larose was good friends with her in high school, and after she learned Amanda had moved into the neighborhood the Spirit prompted her to invite Amanda to church. Turns out Amanda had been praying to know which church to join! She has loved every minute of it. We taught her the Plan of Salvation this week, and she soaked it all in like a sponge. We asked her if she had the chance to read and pray about the Book of Mormon and she told us she had been up until 4:00 in the morning reading and pondering about the things she had learned. She knows it's true! She is going to be baptized May 10, is already inviting all her friends and family, and has been looking for people with whom she can share the Gospel! She's amazing!! She's about Chelise's age, and she is super bubbly and excited. Her husband, Justin, grew up without a Christian background but has come to Church with her twice in a row! He's thinking about taking the discussions too, which Amanda says is a huge step for him. It truly is a miracle! Before this happened I felt a surge of faith one night and as I knelt down by my bed I prayed sincerely to Heavenly Father. I told Him I knew He was preparing hearts, we were trying our best to find them, and I asked Him to help us find them. Just a few days later we got a call from the Larose family telling us to expect a family of four at church. That's how we met Amanda! Miracles happen in missionary work every day!!

Tuesday evening we had an open house but sadly we didn't get the best turnout. We had three nonmembers there, but one of them is the wife of one of our previous investigators. There's potential there! The happy news from Tuesday (aside from committing Amanda to baptism of course) was that Ethan passed his interview with flying colors!! We saw him and his mom again on Wednesday. His mom has softened so much; it's amazing to see how the Gospel changes people. The extended family was worried that Ethan wasn't going to get family support, but she promised she would take him to church every other Sunday (she works every other Sunday) and she is actually really excited about it! I can tell she's ready to come back. She's nervous, but she wants to help her son, and she remembers how going to church blessed her as a child. It's a miracle to see that change in her. The Gospel softens hearts and it's amazing to see how blessings begin to flow into people's lives once they accept it. Her countenance is brighter and she acts so much happier. Blessings always follow those who live the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Thursday we were commissioned by President to take a road trip down to Knoxville to run an important errand. It took up almost the entire day, but Sister Day and I found it rather enjoyable. On a side note, we discovered that the car actually has a timer that you can set and it will run every time you turn the car on until the time you turn the car off. We've used this timer to figure out, on average, how much time we spend in the car during the average transfer. The transfer ends in a week and a half. Guess how many hours we've spent in the car? 50. Which means that by the end of my mission I will probably have spent around 2-3 weeks in a car. Delicious, no?

Anyway.

Sister Day and I had a really good conversation on our way back from Knoxville. She asked me what was the most important lesson I had learned thus far from my mission. Wow. I had to think a long time about this one. I have learned countless life-changing lessons as a missionary, and it would take hours to number every one. But I finally came to the conclusion that the most important lesson I have learned as a missionary is the role that desire plays in one's salvation. That is something I've been pondering since I first came out, and it really dug deep into my heart last week through all the struggles of trying to help someone who had no desire to be helped. We work with so many people who are at so many different levels on the "desire spectrum." Some claim apathy, others desire the blessings of eternal life more than anything else. Some desire the blessings of the Gospel, but this desire does not lead them to make the necessary sacrifice that faith demands. For months I have tried to study how desires change. Until our desires change and we align our will to God's, He cannot help us reach our potential. This is still a process I'm trying to figure out.

As I've tried to learn the role that desire plays in our personal salvation, I have done a serious study on the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. Their story is absolutely incredible. If y'all feel so inclined, read it from Alma 23 and Alma 24. These group of new converts are profoundly inspiring. They changed from a wicked and violent people into people who would rather sacrifice their lives than break their promises to God. It wasn't until my 3rd read-through of the Book of Mormon since the beginning of my mission that I realized that they did not decide to physically bury their weapons of war until after they knew there was an army approaching and their lives were in danger. Yet, in Alma 24, not only are they profoundly grateful that they have tasted of the fruits of the Gospel (receiving a remission of their sins), but they would rather lose their lives than break the commandments of God, fully knowing that God would reward them with eternal life for their sacrifices.

We have shared this story with tons of recent converts and less actives this week, and the results are showing. One would think that the possibility of losing one's life would be a legitimate excuse to break a promise to God, right? They didn't!

My little brother sent me an email several weeks ago about someone who had gotten shot by accident when he was 16 years old. I remembered hearing that story when I was a child. Though this accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, he didn't let this handicap phase him. He went on to play wheelchair basketball for four consecutive Olympic Games. As he spoke recently at Lone Peak, he stated, "I got shot!! What's your excuse?"

I've thought about that a lot. Missionaries certainly hear a lot of excuses as to why investigators are not keeping their commitments, or why converts/less actives are not keeping their covenants. This story about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis has taught me that there really are no excuses that justify breaking promises that we have made to God. When we truly understand the joy of eternal life and the nature of the covenants we make with God, we lose the desire to make excuses to break these covenants in the first place.

Now we all have weaknesses, and we're not perfect, and we all fall short. I always tell myself that God knows the difference between weakness and rebellion. Will we let the things of the world prevent us from keeping our covenants? What is more important than living the Gospel and partaking of the joys of eternal life?

"I got shot! What's your excuse?"

End of sermon.

One more piece of excellent news! Ethan was baptized on Saturday!! And it was a beautiful baptismal service. Everything fell into place, he had tons of family support, and he was so excited! He loved it all. After the service we had lunch at Ryans and Ethan decided to take a crack at the claw machine. He won a bunny!! He said, "It's because I got baptized today! I have good luck!" Baptism is good for your karma. I love that kid!! He was confirmed on Sunday and his whole family came to church! Woohoo!!

And I got to play a beautiful rendition of How Great Thou Art in sacrament meeting yesterday, which I got a lot of positive comments on, and I felt very validated. :)

That's all for this week!! Thank you all, again, for your prayers and support. They have definitely been making a difference! We get transfer calls this Saturday and we'll find out who stays and who goes. Change is hard, but it always brings growth. Sister Day and I are both doing well, we love this Gospel, we love our companionship, we love this ward, and we love the Lord!!

I love you all so much!! Until next week!

-Sister Fox

Friday, April 25, 2014

Because He Lives

Hey Y'all!!

I was relieved to read a lot of positive letters in my inbox this morning, because the tendency for the quality of my week to reflect in the weeks of friends and family sometimes makes me feel uneasy when I have a week like this one.

But! The Church is still true and God answers prayers. And all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.

I'll be completely honest, this week was the hardest of my mission. But I also consider it a pivotal point not only in the way I view my calling, but in my own character growth and the direction I want my life to take. It's humbling to see that during the hardest of times you discover strength you never knew you had, and your character grows in ways that surpass any understanding you previously had about your own potential.

The greatest blessing of all is how close you feel to the Savior in times of turmoil. Granted, you should always strive to draw near to Him, but the things you learn about His character during the trials of your faith are precious gems that you carry for the rest of your life. In preparation for Easter Sunday and the commemoration of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this week was excellent timing to learn more about the Savior's character and what it means to me that He died and lived again.

So now that I have been incredibly vague, I will share the details of the week (as much is appropriate, anyway) along with the lessons I learned--or was reminded of--about the Savior's atoning sacrifice.

Because He lives, hope can be restored to those who feel that all hope is lost.

We met with a less active this week who had high hopes for her son. He had been mingling with the wrong crowd, but one of his friends just got baptized, and his mother hoped that as soon as he met with us he would want to change his life around. We showed up for the appointment but he wasn't there. Turns out he had been involved in gang activity, had run away from home, and had the cops chasing after him. Trying to console his broken mother broke my heart. I opened to the scripture in Mosiah 27, verse 14, which talks about Alma's experience with seeing an angel after his father had prayed for him. I told her to never underestimate the power of prayer from a concerned parent. I saw hope come back into her eyes as she realized that there was still a glimmer of hope. I wish I knew the end to this story, but I do know that all that is unfair about life can be made up through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that He understands all fear, pain, and sorrow.

Because He lives, those who mourn shall be comforted. Those who are sick, afflicted, or broken can be made whole.

Tuesday my heart broke again as, once again, a person very near and dear to my heart uncovered a spiritual wound that was too deep to heal without professional assistance. This left Sister Day and I completely heartbroken. What made matters more heartbreaking was that this person grew 'comfortable' with her miserable lifestyle and didn't want any assistance. The only reason I found out was because as I had been praying for her I received a strong prompting to ask her about it, and she trusted us enough to open up. She had carried this burden alone for years but intends to continue carrying the load alone. She feels as if God has abandoned her and has ceased answering her prayers, so her testimony has begun to dwindle. I have never seen anyone so broken as this woman whom I have come to love here in Soddy Daisy. I felt that there was so little I could do. As I watched her sob, I just walked up to her, put my arms around her, and cried with her. The scriptural charge to "mourn with those that mourn" took on a new meaning to me in my efforts to help this woman. Many loved ones may seem broken beyond repair, but a certain strength flows to both of you as you mourn together. I believe that's why Jesus wept for Lazarus's family. He knew everything was going to be okay. But he understood the heartache of losing loved ones, and the tool He used to comfort His sister was empathy; he wept with her. God will allow us to break so that He can create a stronger whole. No matter how distant He may seem, He always stands ready to heal our broken hearts.

Because He lives, we can be instruments in His hands to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:8).

Thoughts of this woman have stayed with me all week. I have prayed for her, fasted for her, and have done all I could to persuade her to seek assistance. After she opened up about feeling abandoned by God, I found myself kneeling in prayer that evening and crying out to God, "Where are you??" The answer came almost immediately, "I am in you." The reality of my calling hit me with surprising force. I felt more humbled than ever as I realized that God has sent me here to this person to help bear her burden until she would be fully healed, whether it be in this life or in the next. God calls upon angels in heaven as well as on earth to help us in times of need. I have been blessed with heavenly and earthly angels throughout my life, and I am profoundly grateful for this chance to help ease the load put on the shoulders of the people whom I love so dearly. The opportunity to bear the burdens of others has been the most fulfilling experience of my life, though witnessing this suffering breaks my heart. I have felt so much closer to Jesus Christ as I have reflected on His atonement. He understands the pain of emotional and mental illness. He understands all the pains of mortality. He knows exactly how to help ease the burdens that have been placed on us. Even though He may not always take the burdens of our loved ones away, He will call upon us to lighten the load in times of need. That is how much He trusts us. And that is how much He loves us. And as we cling to the hope of His resurrection, we can find peace in the reality that one day every burden will be lifted, and God will wipe the tears from our eyes.

Because He lives, we can find hope and joy through the darkest of times.

God has blessed Sister Day and I this week with incredible strength. I have been so impressed with Sister Day's ability to laugh in the face of adversity. After a particularly rough night, we found ourselves walking through the church parking lot, where the entire sidewalk had been torn up for construction. I commented that this would make our church look bad for the open house we're hosting on Tuesday, and Sister Day replied with a high-pitched hostess voice, "Welcome to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints! Don't mind the sidewalk, it's just here to show that we're all a work in progress!" We laughed at that one for a really long time. Throughout the week we have laughed at the dumbest jokes and have done what we can to keep morale high. I am so incredibly grateful that she is my companion.

Because He lives, blessings flow every day, from tender mercies to miracles.

God has blessed us with so many tender mercies this week to compensate for the heartache. We were able to put together a program for Ethan's baptism, and it's always a joy teaching that child. We had the opportunity to see Shirley, who always brightens our week with her happy attitude and her desire to make herself worthy to attend the temple. We saw James and Hayes twice, who openly told us that their lives have been changed from our visits. A family in the ward threw us a huge Easter dinner on Friday, and another family threw another one on Sunday, to make sure we were taken care of during the holidays. The sunshine and the blossoms seem more beautiful than ever. God has given us the constant reminder that He is here.

Because He lives, many lost souls are finding the truth.

This is my favorite part. :) We have had a lot of success in what little proselyting we have been able to accomplish this week (another long story). James and Hayes came to church!! We didn't have time to see them because they left so quickly afterwards, but it was so awesome to see them there!

We also got to see Ronnie twice this week. We told him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon, because it was only through the Book of Mormon that he could truly come to know that the Church is true. When we followed up with him during our next visit, he said he had prayed about it and knew it was true! Woohoo!! He is so excited to be baptized, and is humbly accepting everything we teach him. Though the work in Soddy Daisy has been slow, we have been reminded that God is still preparing hearts, and will lead us to those people once they're ready.

Speaking of, the greatest miracle this week is Amanda and Justin. They just moved in next to some members in the ward, and Amanda has been looking for a church. We taught her last Thursday, and I have never seen such a hungry soul. We asked her what she wanted to get out of her visits with us, and she replied, "Everything!!!!" We taught her the Restoration and she soaked it in like a sponge. We showed her the video and she was rooting for Joseph Smith the whole time, and even got mad at some of the characters who didn't believe his story. She is so solid! Justin, her husband, wasn't able to make it to that lesson because he was taking care of their sick baby, but he came to church yesterday and loved it! We'll be teaching them both again tomorrow evening. Amanda is the most excited investigator I've ever taught, and it felt so refreshing to be able to teach a hungry soul.

Yeup! The Church is true, God answers prayers, and He is always there. :)

So. Poof. There ya have it. Even though this week was the toughest of my mission, I can also honestly say it was one of the most life-changing. I wish I could put it into words, but I simply can't. Nor can I include too many details because of the personal nature of the problems we faced this week. But I can say that Jesus Christ lives. I know He loves us. He still leads us, guides us, and walks besides us. He is the only way to true and lasting happiness. He will never allow us to be tempted above that which we can handle. He trusts us. He wants us to bear one another's burdens. The messages from this past conference burned in my heart this week as I reflected on what it means to truly love someone, and how much Jesus Christ truly loves us. Though the latter is still something I cannot fathom, I am eternally grateful for my knowledge of His life, His death, His resurrection, and the path He showed that leads to endless happiness and rest from all trouble, care, and sorrow. I love Him more than words can describe, and I love the ministry to which He has called me. Know that Sister Day and I are doing well and are well taken care of. We are in the best of hands because we are in His hands. And I pray each day that all my family, friends, and loved ones will also be in His hands.

I love you all and thank you so much for your prayers and support. May God be with each and every one of you! Until next week,

-Sister Fox

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hope Returns

Hello Friends and Family and other Fantastic Blog Readers whose names I do not know unless you send me a letter and tell me!

This week was pretty good! And I don't have much time to write about it because I got carried away in my novel-long responses to individual emails.

That does not mean y'all should stop sending individual emails because I live for those.

What happened this week? Not much, actually. But it still *felt* good. And that's what made the difference I guess. As for the work, it has been painfully slow still. This week I discovered how a difference in attitude can change your entire experience, even if you are experiencing the same mundane events every single day. Pretty cool, huh? We'll get to that later.

It wasn't all mundane though. Oh heavens. Buckle up as I tell you about my Chatt Branch exchange.

Chatt Branch. So you know how I told y'all that Chatt Branch was similar to Salt Lake City? That was a filthy lie because I didn't want to scare anyone. But now that I'm 99.5% sure that I'm never going back there I can say that it was a very exciting and slightly terrifying exchange.

Ok so that sounds a bit dramatic. It wasn't that terrifying. Only when we went into the ghettos to hunt down some less actives. Luckily everyone who saw us walking down the street left us alone. I truly believe that missionaries are divinely protected. And the only reason I'm writing all this is because I have a pretty cool experience.

So, we're in the ghettos, right? Well it's 5:45 and Sister Button has the feeling that we need to leave the area ASAP. I actually felt pretty safe, because Sister Button did some law enforcement before her mission and was planning on entering the academy upon returning home. #cop. She could take on just about anyone. But she receives this prompting that we need to get out of there NOW. This is a bike and bus area, so we took the bus about 15 miles away from home and just walked around looking for less actives. Sister Button checks the bus schedule and the next one is due at 7:00. The Spirit doesn't want us to leave at 7:00. The Spirit wants us to leave now. Sister Button whipped out the phone and started calling members left and right, but NO ONE is answering the phone. Well now we're feeling kind of uneasy. But after a quick prayer, guess what happens? We turn around and here comes this bus. Out of nowhere! We thankfully get on and it takes us back to downtown, where we enjoy a lovely dinner at Jimmy Johns and a member picks us up to take us home. Sister Button checked the bus schedule three times over and could not find that bus anywhere on the schedule.

Coincidence? I think not. I thanked God on probably 50 separate occasions that night for that bus. Everyone is surprised that sisters are serving in that area, but I know they are divinely protected. I've heard story after story of miraculous occurrences that happen over there to keep them safe. Prayers of family members and friends are definitely working! So thanks y'all!

Wednesday morning we had a cool experience at the Health Care Center we volunteer at. They through a volunteer breakfast, where we had the opportunity to mingle with all the other volunteers. Turns out that most of the people who volunteer there are associated with different religious groups. It was cool to all come together and talk about the blessings that come from serving others. I even had a really good conversation about eternal rewards with a Presbyterian. Sometimes it can get frustrating when I'm trying to share the things that I know and love with people who have their own philosophies already. But I truly love the South. I love how good and devout people are here. In the end, we all believe in Christ. We all understand that it's time we reach out with love and service one toward another. There are so many good people down here, and it's a true blessing to serve among them.

The rest of Wednesday was particularly dead. As characterized by this conversation I had with the Zone Leaders after I called an emergency correlation with our Ward Mission Leader after all our plans had fallen through:

Bro Adamz (WML): I'm grateful that we were able to meet tonight.
Me: I'm just grateful for something to do.
Zone Leaders: That's why we make *backup* plans, Sister Fox.
Me: We DID make backup plans! They fell through too!!
Zone Leaders: And the backup plan to the backup plan is always . . . ?
Me: FINDING! That's why I CALLED this meeting!!

Sister Day and I have had to resort to a lot of tracting lately. At first I couldn't stand it, but it's starting to grow on me. Like I said earlier in the email, attitude really is everything. Tracting can be super fun or perfectly terrible depending on your attitude that day. It's all about perspective.

We did meet a new less active on Wednesday! Her name is Charla. She is super friendly and open and won't come back to church and won't tell us why. She wants to meet with us though, so it'll be fun to start working with her again! Because we're losing so many investigators, it has been a blessing to meet a few more individuals whom we can work with. There's always at least one person in every area who needs your help. Granted, you work 60 hours a week (yeah we calculated it. This doesn't include meal time or study time) proselyting, and you can't spend it all on one person, so it's easy to feel like your area is dead, but it's always a blessing making a difference in the life of another person.

Thursday we had district meeting and a relief society activity and that's all that I can remember.

Friday we saw Nina again! We read Alma 40 with her and taught her the rest of the Plan of Salvation. That is my favorite lesson to teach. It helps people see how merciful God is and how His plan is truly a plan that is meant to make each of us happy. Heaven is so attainable! All the commandments He gives us are for our benefit and prepare us for eternal joy. This Gospel is so purely fantastic; teaching it is the best thing ever.

Saturday we met with Shirley again, and then we dropped in on Angela, who has been super busy as of late. We did other things too, I know it. I just. Don't remember what they were.

Sunday we had a baby blessing, so there were a lot of visitors at the church. One huge tender mercy of this week was Amanda. She just moved in by Sister Larose, and it turns out that they went to highschool together! Amanda has been looking for a church and she came with Sister Larose yesterday! And loved it! They want us over to teach the first discussion on Thursday. Fingers crossed!!

Sadly we didn't get to see Ethan this week but hopefully we'll be seeing him tonight. Teaching that kid is the highlight of my week.

We've been seeing Ronnie too, and he came to church for the first time yesterday! He loved it too. We talked about the Plan of Salvation in Gospel Principles and he loved it. He's excited for his baptism! Right now we're trying to help him quit smoking, so if everybody could pray for him that would be fantastic!!

And that's all for this week. There were a lot of long days, but Sister Day and I have been exceptionally happy. I attribute the newfound attitude to the perspective I've obtained from my morning studies. I decided that I would start studying hope again. The change was surprisingly dramatic. I didn't realize I had lost so much of what I gained 3-4 months ago when I began studying hope. It was like visiting a long-lost friend. Y'all have probably noticed in my last few emails that Sister Day and I had been fighting a battle with discouragement, and it was looking pretty dismal. But as I started studying the joy of eternal life, and the hope that comes only through Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, my attitude completely changed all over again. It surprised me how quick we forget some of the principles of the Gospel that will change our lives only if we put them into practice! It really is all about perspective. What this world needs is hope. After Conference especially, people all around us have been expressing their fear left and right about the terrors that this world has to offer. It's true, it is frightening. But we must always remember that the victory is already won. Jesus Christ conquered all fear, sorrow, pain, and even death so we could taste the joy of eternal life. He truly is the source of all hope. When we turn our thoughts toward Him, hope returns. Elder F. Enzio Busche once said, "Put all grumblings, hurt feelings, and frustrations into the perspective of eternal hope. Light will flow into your soul." I can testify to that. The results are immediate. Like when Alma the Younger almost completely surrendered himself to the despair and the horror that came from his sins and misdeeds. Once he remembered Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice, he cried out for His mercy. Light flooded his soul as he felt the incomprehensible joy that only comes from being healed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This joy is available to all who repent and come unto Him. Christ is the only source of hope that will never fail us. The eternal perspective that comes from reflecting on Him, His plan, and His atoning sacrifice will help us overcome any challenge or obstacle. I can testify to that because I have seen it over and over, especially over the last 15 months.

Speaking of, I'm at least 15 kinds of tired. But I'm super happy about it.

That is all for now! I love you all and hope you all have a fantastic week! You are all in my prayers, and I know God is watching out for you. Until next week!!

-Sister Fox

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Call to Become More Christlike

Hey Y'all!!

So the other day one of the older members of the ward grabbed hold of me and said, "You march to the beat of a different drummer, Sweetheart. Just enjoy it and let it go!!"

I have no idea what she was talking about. But I think she was telling me to own my insanity.

Spring has sprung!! Spring in Tennessee is absolutely gorgeous. All the trees have exploded with white, pink, and purple blossoms. It's gorgeous! We have had a lot of heavy rain this week too, which has replaced the blossoms with thick, green leaves. It's so nice to see some color! It's beautiful! Woohoo!

AND . . .do you know what's great about spring in Tennessee except not really? It's the allergy capital of the United States. So for those of us who have escaped the evil grasp of allergies in Utah, we fall prey to it in Tennessee. But. It's worth it. 'Cuz Spring is still the best season ever.

So this week was one of feasting but not much feeding. That happens. I do love feasting though. Tuesday we had MLC all day, and sadly it was probably my last one. It's a bittersweet feeling, really. I have loved being a Sister Training Leader, but my introverted personality tends to tire out quickly in the process of conducting 5-7 exchanges every 6 weeks. President Irion made it sound like I would be released at the end of this transfer and spend my last 2 transfers as a regular missionary. Certainly can't complain. It has been a fantastic calling, but I am super tired. I've been in this position for half my mission. It rocks. And I'm tired. But anyway. I'm going to miss MLC. 5 hours of pure feasting. We received some amazing trainings on the principles of leadership and having the vision to baptize. My favorite part, as always, was the legendary dinner we had at the mission home. Sister Irion certainly knows how to cook delicious things! And I got to see Sister Schwab! I love and miss that girl. She's the best.

Wednesday we had a pretty fantastic exchange with Signal Mountain. With MLC immediately following P-day, it was hard to plan out an effective exchange. We saw a lot of tender mercies during our exchange; we ended up having plenty of people to teach. I was with Sister Rindlisbacher (say that 10 times fast) in Hixson for the day. The best part about exchanges is learning from the sisters you work with. She is a firecracker, and it was so fun to see her enthusiasm and her love for missionary work. Good times.
Thursday we had Zone Conference. I guess this is where most of the "feeding" occurred during the week, because Sister Day and I gave a training. It was one of my favorites, though. We trained on how to prepare investigators for baptism, inspired by the 1st principle listed in chapter 12 of Preach My Gospel. Speaking of, one of the speakers in Conference talked about every member of the church obtaining a Preach My Gospel. And said that missionaries would love to hear insights about Preach My Gospel from family members and friends. I can testify to that! That would be. So legit. Just sayin'.
Anyway.

As missionaries we run into the same problem all the time with less actives and recent converts. They struggle with activity in the church because they do not understand the covenant they made at baptism. Using the inspirational story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's, we talked about the amazing conversion that occurs when people truly understand their promise to God at baptism, as well as God's promise to them. I read it through carefully and was amazed at the faith and devotion of these converts in the Book of Mormon. I didn't realize that they chose to bury their weapons of war after they already knew the Lamanites were upon them. We hear excuses every day about why people don't come to church. Too early. Too much time. Too far. Going back to the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, I would think that their lives being in danger would look like a pretty legitimate excuse. But they chose to die rather than break their covenant to God, because they knew that they had become clean, they knew that if they broke their covenant they would come under condemnation, and they knew that if they kept their covenant they would receive eternal life. I love, love, LOVE this story. What lengths are we willing to go through to keep our covenants? Granted, we're not perfect, and we will make mistakes, which are made up through our efforts to access Christ's Atonement. But are we willing to sacrifice everything in order to keep our promises with God? Food for thought. Addressed a couple times in Conference, I noticed.

Conference. Conference, Conference. I LOVED General Conference this weekend. It really is Christmas time for a missionary! Favorite talk? You guessed it. Elder Holland. I don't know if it's okay to have favorites, but he has been my favorite apostle for years, and is one of the many people who influenced my decision to serve a mission in the first place. I loved how he talked about the price of discipleship. I felt for that sister missionary. Thankfully I have never been pelted by mashed potatoes. And if something like that were to happen, I would never write home about it. It's never gotten that bad. Mostly we are pelted with verbal attacks, but the effect is the same. You wanna just turn around and say, "Excuse ME??" But you just take it. This is the price of discipleship. There will be times when we will be called upon to stand alone. We will have to take verbal abuse, suffer acts of the greatest hypocrisy, and pay the price of discipleship, but it is all worth it. When we do, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the One who suffered every act of injustice so that we may go free. It truly is a privilege to stand as a witness of Jesus Christ, especially in the face of opposition.

One of the themes I noticed about General Conference was how to respond to opposition. An increase of love, courtesy, and compassion is critical during those times when we will be targeted for our beliefs. It's easy as missionaries to respond in a courteous manner because we have the name of Jesus Christ showing on our badges for the world to see. For those who don't, it is still necessary to show love and courtesy. You may not be an official representative of the Church, but you did promise at baptism to stand as a witness of God no matter the circumstances. I feel that  the opportunity to stand as a witness of Christ will come to each of us individually. Will we be ready to show our discipleship? Another theme: defend your faith while loving others in the process. You don't have to get into an argument or start ridiculing others, but you shouldn't be silent, either. Elder Nelson: Let your faith show! Richard G. Scott: love people enough to share your conviction and let them work out the details on their own. Elder Hales: be motivated by the love of God. Elder Zwick: Never speak in anger, doubt, or blame; own the truth and use compassion. President Monson: we cannot fully love God without loving our fellow man. So good. It's time to be courageous and it's time to increase our love for others. Only that will pull us through the spiritual whirlwinds that are going to rip through this world.

I guess if I were to sum up General Conference in one phrase, I would say that it was a call to the world, especially to members of the church, to become more Christlike.

And this call was sorely needed this week. Sister Day and I have been struggling with a lot of things these past couple weeks. Investigators continue to drop left and right, people keep feeding us excuses, and we are watching our work slip through our fingers yet again. Every question and concern that I had this week was addressed in some way through General Conference. I know that this Church is true and that God still speaks to us through His living prophet. I loved Elder Holland's conviction as He testified of the restoration of priesthood keys. I wish my investigators had been there to see it. Only one investigator pulled through from the dozens that we invited to conference. She came to theSunday afternoon session, and all her questions were answered by Elder Corbridge's fantastic talk on Joseph Smith. But she didn't feel the Spirit and dropped us. We lost two more investigators this week for the same reasons: they feel comfortable where they are at and do not believe in the divinity of this church.

Like I said earlier, I feel for that sister missionary Elder Holland mentioned. Sometimes being a missionary is really kinda hard. We pay the price of discipleship every single day. It is tiring. Excuses push you to the edge of your patience. You pour out your whole heart and soul into helping these investigators embrace the Gospel, constantly battling the adversary in the process, and they still fall right through the cracks. But, echoing the words of Elder Holland, it is worth it. It is worth every minute. Like Elder Anderson's tree analogy, the more opposition you see adds to your strength of character. Making sacrifices for the Savior, who sacrificed everything for me, has helped me grow closer to Him. And when success comes, I feel the sweetest and most exquisite joy. I have learned so many things that have changed my life for the better. It is the best decision I have ever made.

We saw a lot of good things this week, too. We finally saw Nina again and recommitted her for baptism. We saw Ethan twice, and he has been making excellent progress. His mom's heart softens more and more each day. Ronnie is growing more and more excited for his baptism. We watched a movie about the temple with the Smiths and they feel excited to attend someday. And I'm best friends with my incredible companion. That is always a plus at the end of the day, no matter how hard or easy it has been. :)

So, there ya have it. The Church is true. I know it is. Now more than ever. The Book of Mormon is the word of God, Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God, and President Thomas S. Monson is now God's chosen mouthpiece for the world we live in today. No matter how hard it will get, if we yoke ourselves to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through keeping our covenants we will not succumb to the weight of the evils in this world. We will not fall as long as Jesus Christ is our foundation. I love this Gospel with all of my heart, and I will keep declaring it until my time in Tennessee will draw to an end. Because it is worth it. :)

I love you all! Thank you so much for your emails, letters, prayers, and overall support. I love you all so much and hope you have an incredible week full of miracles!!

-Sister Fox
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