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?
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!