This week has been good, and I am in a particularly good mood right now, probably because I got to Skype several of my favorite people yesterday!! It was so good to see all y'all!! Still can't believe that was my last phone call. Time flies! But anyway, I'll keep all the details in this email for those who missed out on the call yesterday.
Last Monday was rather enjoyable. We began the day by going to downtown Chattanooga for gourmet doughnuts. Be jealous. I had an apple pie one that almost killed me. But it was worth it! Then we went home and cleaned and packed so that's not terribly exciting. I probably got to sit down for a total of 20 minutes last p-day. But it's okay. 'Cuz guess what? We spent about 70 hours in the car last transfer. 70.
Guess what that adds up to? Approximately 36 days in the car. Over a month. 1/18 of my mission spent in the car. I'm gonna quit with the number torture now. I'm actually really grateful I don't have to ride bikes in a skirt.
Monday evening we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant with the Lindleys which probably wasn't a good idea because it was Cinco de Mayo and they were blasting country music to the point where I couldn't even hear myself shout across the table. At least the food was good! Then we tried to teach Bro. Morton's cousin again. It went about as well this time as it did last time. He did let me use his fancy recording equipment though! I got to record a couple piano songs. Not like I can do much with them but it was still fun. Then we tried to teach the Restoration but it kind of went all over the place. But hey, perhaps he'll be ready one day!
Tuesday we basically spent the day saying goodbye to everybody. It was hard on Sister Day to leave so soon. Like I said in my last email, this transfer kind of threw everyone for a loop. I guess we'll wait and see what God has in store for all of us. I'm really looking forward to it; it'll be a good transfer!
Wednesday was transfer day, and this time I didn't have someone in the office sneaking us information so I had no idea who my new companions were going to be. I was actually pretty sure one of them would be Sister Johnson, so I was really excited when I found out I was right!! MTC companions together again!! I feel so spoiled. :) I've had the best streak of companions. I've become best friends with practically all of them and I was already best friends with one of them before my mission. Woohoo!! God is good. :) My other companion is Sister Lee! I am very grateful for Sister Lee; she is incredibly driven, persistent, and hard-working. She gets things done, and she does it right. She'll help me keep pushing during this final stretch, and I'm really grateful for that! She's wonderful. Pictures to come! Eventually . . . I forgot my card reader today. Whoops.
So after the transfer meeting we had dinner with the Barrotts and then went to see Amy and Ethan. This time Shawn sat in on the lesson and it was awesome! Amy and Ethan were going to come to church yesterday but they had car trouble. :( Next week!! This family is doing great. :)
Thursday we had our first district meeting as a brand new district and then Amanda had her baptismal interview, which she passed with flying colors!! Easiest investigator ever. She is so prepared. I just love her and her family so much! Her baptism was awesome. Details coming soon. Give me a couple more paragraphs.
We saw Angela on Thursday too! We were able to teach her while her boyfriend Jesse sat in, and he agreed to take the discussions! Woohoo!! We're so excited to teach both of them! They're fantastic people and I love them a lot.
Then we saw Sherman! He is still trying to get settled but he wants to come back to church. He wasn't able to make it yesterday, but we're hoping to see him there next week! We also got to talk to his friend Phil, who agreed to a church tour this coming Wednesday. We're looking forward to that! That'll be awesome. :) Then Sister Phillips took us out to a Japanese grill where they cook the food right in front of you, which was delicious, then we saw the Yearwoods, which was also delicious, because it has been forever since I've seen those kids and I love them with all of my soul. Circumstances are still making it difficult for them to attend church, so we're just praying our hearts out trying to find a way for them to start coming again. I know miracles can happen!!
Friday was weekly planning! And it took about 6 hours to do it! Gotta love weekly planning with new companions at the beginning of a new transfer. After planning out all our exchanges and talking about every person in the area, we finally got out to work. We saw Amanda to do a final prep for her baptism, then we saw the Beards.
So when we have lessons with the Beards, we usually just sit out on a swing in their front lawn when we don't have members to come with us. Usually the neighborhood is really quiet and it's easy to feel the Spirit. I don't know what was up with that lesson. One of their friends came over and he must be some future general authority or something because the adversary was trying everything he could to distract him from the lesson. We were trying to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but we couldn't get anywhere. First of all, there was a random group of neighborhood kids throwing football, and they kept missing it and throwing it on top of the truck that we just happened to be sitting next to. It even hit Brother Beard twice. Then another random neighborhood kid brings out his pet python and asked us all if we wanted to pet it. Then this random woman comes up with her pet pit bull because she wanted it to play with Beards' puppy, which happened to be playing in the grass right where we were trying to have our lesson. She finally left after about 5 or 10 minutes, but then she came back with pit bull number two. Then she left and came back with pit bull number three! And the entire time I'm thinking, "Is it really necessary to have all three of your pit bulls play with this random puppy while we're trying to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ over here?"
I love the South.
Next time we're bringing members so we can go inside.
Then we saw Janet and recommitted her and her family to take the discussions. And that was the end of Friday I believe.
Saturday we were on Conference Calls for two hours, then we sang at the Health Care Center, visited Shirley and Phil, then went to Amanda's baptism. It was such a good service! We had an amazing turnout; she invited a ton of her family members and they were all there! Once again, the familiar feeling of inexpressible joy filled the room as she was baptized. While she was getting dressed, my companions and I gave a quick presentation on the Restoration of the Gospel, and the Spirit was so thick after Sister Lee gave the account of the first vision that you could cut it with a knife. We got a lot of comments on it afterward. The feeling, as always, was beyond words. I love baptisms! I love being a missionary! And I love Amanda!!!!
After the baptism we saw Charla and had a really good discussion with her about keeping covenants, then visited a part-member family and got three new investigators! Woohoo!! This area is picking up and the Church is true!!
Yesterday was Amanda's confirmation in church and she received one of the most beautiful blessings I have ever heard. And then she had the opportunity to bear her testimony to the congregation. The satisfaction that comes from hearing your recent convert bear his/her testimony for the first time is beyond what words can describe. It. Was awesome. She talked about how she first came in contact with the Church, how it felt like home, and how it filled an emptiness that she didn't know was there. Now she feels whole and complete, and she feels like a completely different person. She is perfectly amazing! We're going back tonight to teach her about Family Home Evening. It's going to be great!
And that was my week! It was so good! I feel so much more energetic and happy, and I am more than ready to sprint to the finish. I have no idea what lies in store for the next 11 weeks of my mission, but I'm going to make the most of each and every day.
The spiritual thought this week comes from Jacob 5, actually. Before my mission I had read that chapter over and over and just didn't get it. As I've read it on my mission, I have gained a whole new appreciation for it, and it is now one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. It shows just how much God loves us and has a plan for each and every one of us. As I was reflecting on it this past week, one phrase kept sticking out in my head: God knows how to maximize His returns. It's so easy to get discouraged as a missionary. You look around and you see so much suffering. You see all these people who have been planted in "poor spots of ground." Sometimes it seems as if their upbringing hinders their ability to make correct choices. Sometimes I've wondered why I was born into the Gospel and others have gone without it their entire lives. My thoughts always come back to Jacob 5. The Lord of the vineyard knows what He is doing. Sometimes He will plant His children in a less desirable spot of ground, but He knows how to nourish them and help them grow. He reaches out to every individual in personal ways, and He wants all of His children to return to Him. He knows how to help people change and bring forth good fruit. No matter our status, or our circumstances, each of us has the potential to live with God again. He does everything He can to help us along the path. The most touching verses to me are the ones that mention how the Lord of the Vineyard weeps and asks, "What more could I have done for my vineyard?" when the trees become corrupt. He is working and reaching out His hand all the day long. We just have to trust in His plan for us and for the ones we love. He is always working on His children. He knows how to maximize His returns. :)
Well, that's it for this week! I love you all, and thank you all so much for everything you do for me! Your support and prayers do not go unnoticed. You are all in my prayers! Love y'all!!