Hello Family, Friends, and Followers!
The Church is true!!!
Can I just say transfers are bizarre? Each time I'm transferred I find myself trying to adjust to a new ward, new companions, and new perspectives on how missionary work is done. I am in my fifth area and it feels like I've served five different missions. Each place is so vastly different but incredibly special in its own way. Each area becomes a sacred place to me, because each one stretches me in different ways and transforms my character into something more Christlike than I could have imagined. I'm excited to see what this new area will teach me!
Where am I, you may ask? CHATT BRANCH! I got transferred to downtown Chattanooga!!!!!!!!!
Just kidding. :)
I am in Pellissippi! I actually came here once before on exchanges with Sister Cady over a year ago. The Pellissippi ward borders the West Hills ward, so I feel like I'm back in my second area. It is also quite surprising how close I am to Farragut. The mission office is only about 5 minutes away; I've never been this close to the mission office before. I have two companions again! We are in another trio. Companions #11 and #12, Sister Gotchy (Go-chee) and Sister Leifson (layf-son). Everyone pronounces their names incorrectly so I thought I would throw the correct pronunciation in there. Everyone gets mine right, though! =D
My companions are awesome. Sister Leifson was actually a missionary serving down in the Philippines but had to transfer to the states for health reasons. She's been out for about 7 months. Sister Gotchy goes home the transfer after I do, so we're all pretty seasoned missionaries.
Y'all would not believe the apartment. It's actually not an apartment; it's a condo. I feel perfectly spoiled. It's the size of a house! Huge kitchen, two floors, 2 bedrooms, 2 studies, 3 bathrooms, and a 2 car garage to house our 2013 Chevy Cruise.
Yes. We are spoiled.
GUESS WHAT? Because our apartment/condo is so huge, we share it with another set of missionaries. So I have two extra roommates! Sister Clark and . . . Sister DAY! They live upstairs and we live downstairs. It has been so fun!! Having Sister Day here as I finish my mission will be a huge help to me, and I'm sure it will be helpful for her as well. It's nice to be surrounded by amazing people!!
So! This week, like most weeks, was awesome and perfectly difficult. Change is always hard, but it builds character. Missions teach you to adjust to change, that's for sure. Once you get comfortable they boot you out to another place! But everywhere you go, you know it's where the Lord wants you. That's what is so fantastic about the mission. You know, without a doubt, that wherever you are is exactly where the Lord wants you to be. It's an incredible blessing.
Monday we had Family Home Evening with Dominique again. We taught the Plan of Salvation and talked about baptism by Priesthood Authority. It definitely gave her something new to think about, but she's open to finding out for herself if these things are true. She left town, so Sisters Lee and Johnson won't be able to teach her for a couple weeks, but I hope they find success.
Do you know what's great about a mission? You get to meet so many people and hear all their amazing stories. Do you know what's hard about a mission? You have to leave people right in the middle of the story so your life becomes a series of endless cliffhangers. Like Lost.
Tuesday we spent the day saying goodbye to all my favorite people and it was hard because I love them like I love my own family. The Hixson ward truly became my family and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to spend such a long time with all of them. I'm coming back to visit! It's happening.
Funny story about saying goodbyes, I went to say goodbye to Sister Adamz, one of the older widows in the ward. She is a sweet old woman but she's not afraid to tell you how it is and what's on her mind. Every time we visit her she sends us off with ice cream, pie, cookies, brownies, you name it. She sent us off with pie this time and I said, "Sister Adamz, I'm going to miss all your delicious stuff!! . . . And you, of course. I'll miss you more." To which she replied, "Well I'M delicious STUFF!!" I don't think I stopped laughing until I went to bed that evening. Seniors are the best. :)
Tuesday we also said goodbye to Shirley, and that was a tough one because I've grown really close to her. She is so close to feeling well enough to come to church, and she said she would come if we got her a ride. I hope she came yesterday! #cliffhangers. I'm just grateful for the opportunity I had to teach her, and I'm excited for her to go back to the temple and be a fully active member again. I can already tell it has brought her so much peace and joy. That is what the Gospel does, you know. :)
Tuesday evening I said goodbye to the Smiths, which was also hard because I love that family. They are progressing pretty well, and they said they would come to church. So. I hope they made it yesterday. #cliffhangers.
I'm not coming back to the area for another year; I feel like I'm waiting for the next Harry Potter book or something.
Wednesday was transfer day. Sister Phillips drove us 2 hours to Farragut, where we all met for our transfer meeting. This one was particularly tough because President and Sister Irion had to give their departing testimonies. I will miss them so much, but I am excited to meet President and Sister Griffin. What's cool is that the mission president is in the ward that shares our church building, so I ran into President and Sister Irion yesterday, and we will be throwing them a goodbye party this weekend. So I will get to see them again!! It's awesome.
Wednesday evening we went to see a couple of investigators, David and Bethany. They are a young married couple with very strong testimonies about the restored gospel. They're amazing! They know it's true, but they're facing a lot of opposition right now. They're so solid; David's favorite thing is to look up old General Conference talks online. He'll spend hours reading and watching Conference talks, studying up on Church history, and learning as much as he can about the Church. He was even reading Conference addresses given back in the 1970s. He is going to be baptized next Saturday! Best birthday present ever!
Thursday we had our weekly planning, we met with the Ward Mission Leader, and we started to familiarize ourselves with the area. This ward is pretty big, and we are the only set of missionaries. This is the first time on my mission that I have had a ward to myself; I've shared my 4 other wards with at least one set of missionaries, sometimes 2. So, we have plenty to do! It's quite nice. The people are amazing and incredibly helpful. They refer to this area as the Promised Land; I believe it! It's fantastic.
Friday we had our first district meeting and I love my district already. The missionaries in this area are incredible and I'm excited to learn from them. This is going to be an amazing transfer!
Saturday we had our Sisters Conference Call. We have it once per transfer to build unity among the sisters in the mission. We hear the testimonies of the new sisters, the testimonies of the departing sisters, and whatever trainings President and Sister Irion want to present. This time there were 14 departing sisters so the entire call was dedicated to them.
I mean us. Because. I'm one of those. :(
It was an incredible call though. Because hearing testimonies takes a little too long, Sister Irion had us answer this question, "Are you happy you served a mission? Why?" She also sent out a little text saying that if we aren't happy we served a mission we could text her and she wouldn't call on us.
I was happy to see that all 14 sisters were called upon to share their thoughts. :)
Why is that? Because missions are *amazing*. This was one of the hardest testimonies to put together for me. How could I possibly sum up why I'm happy I served a mission? Given time and paper, I could write a book of reasons why I'm happy I came out here. But I had to sum it up in two minutes.
My mission has been hard. Leaving behind the life I loved and everything that I wanted was the hardest thing I've ever done. For almost 18 months I have struggled against the power of the adversary, facing heartache after heartache as people I love have failed to make the changes that would bring them the happiness that I enjoy. I've been laughed at, ridiculed, and screamed at. My faith has been targeted and torn apart like it never has before. My heart has broken on so many occasions as I have had to watch people that I love struggle under the weight of the world and give into temptation. All 14 of us faced these challenges and more. Was it worth it?
In the end, it was worth it to each and every one of us. More than worth it. There was no question. Of course I wasn't going to send a text to Sister Irion to ask to not be called upon. And as I listened to the conviction of those other 13 sisters who came out to the field with me, I pieced together in my heart the reason why.
Every single sister talked about the Atonement.
Missionary work is centered on the Atonement. Our purpose is to help others change through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In the process, we, too, are changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The first lesson I learned as a missionary after a really rough night in the MTC ( I would elaborate but I don't have time) was that your mission is not about you.
The wonderful paradox of serving a mission is that it really is all about you. Our missions are tailored to our personality and character to help us experience the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Every single experience I have had, both challenging and easy, has pointed me toward my Savior Jesus Christ. I have overcome weaknesses I never thought I could overcome. I have been able to weave Christlike attributes into my character like I never have before. My testimony has been fortified like it never has before. No matter how challenging our lives may be, each of these challenges can point us toward the Atonement if we let it. That is why my mission has been so sacred to me. Though challenging, it has helped me experience the Atonement. It has made me so much stronger. It has helped me develop a commitment to the Gospel that I will never lose. It has helped me understand that change is possible for anyone, no matter where they are on the path. It has helped me see how the Gospel--how the Atonement--changes people. Words cannot describe the blessings that flow from serving a mission. It is something I will always hold sacred and something I will never ever regret.
It is the hardest thing I have ever loved to do. :)
So I used those two minutes to testify of the healing and sanctifying powers of the atonement, and the joy that comes from seeing it in others and seeing it in myself. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything, even the times I found myself sobbing on my knees. Each experience has shaped me into a person I have truly come to love, and has helped me come to love and trust my Savior in profound ways. I love this Gospel. I love this work. It is absolutely and perfectly worth it.
Serve a mission. :)
I love you all!! I hope you have a great week and I will update y'all on my adventures next Monday!!