Family! Friends! Fantastic Folks!
Greetings from Knoxville, Tennessee! It is a beautiful, clear morning and it's probably going to get hot today. Because guess what? It has hit 100 degrees several times in the past few weeks. 100 degrees. Paired with humidity. I know you're all secretly jealous of me. Y'all just won't admit it.
This week was really good! This one will go in chronological order again because my brain is so scattered this is probably the only way I will remember to include everything. Because lots of wonderful things happened this week and I don't want to leave anything out. So here it goes!
Monday we spent the day with the elders and sisters in the area playing sand volleyball in the elders' apartment complex. We also played get to know you games, and I learned all sorts of interesting facts about all my fellow missionary friends. The only interesting fact I could think of for myself is that I can whistle like a bird now. Later I thought of a few facts that are far more interesting, like having lived by dream by being a rock climbing model. I can never play those games because I can never think of something good on the spot. But hey. I can rest in peace knowing that all my friends know that I can whistle like a bird.
Monday evening we had dinner with a family in the ward with a ton of kids. I mean, a ton of kids. They have a pair of twins and a pair of triplets about 2 years apart. Their mother is a saint; she's amazing! They are such a solid family. The twins and triplets are 2 and 4 I believe. It was fun getting to know their family!
After dinner we had an appointment with one of our investigators named Christian, who has been investigating the church for quite some time. He is incredibly brilliant and probably knows more about church policy and history at this point than I do. It's hard for him to connect with the doctrine on an emotional and spiritual level, so we're trying to help him do that. That has been a challenge for me my entire mission; I can tell other people what faith is all I want, but helping them experience it presents a whole new kind of challenge. It has been really interesting though, and Christian is a wonderful kid. I kind of want him to meet Chelise because she could say lots of brilliant things that he would connect with.
Tuesday nothing really happened with the work in Pellissippi, though we tried our hardest. But! I received some excellent news at the Bishop's Storehouse while I was volunteering there! I was talking to an elder who is serving in the West Hills ward right now. He asked me if I had taught an investigator named Erica and I said that I had! Guess what?? She was baptized this past month!!! Quick flashback: We met Erica while we were trying to meet all the part-member families in the West Hills ward. Her husband was a member but hadn't been to church in years simply because he fell out of the habit. They are a beautiful family with two incredibly cute kids. Being new missionaries, we didn't really know how to get our foot in the door other than asking if we could "practice the lessons" on them. Note to future missionaries: don't do that. So when we asked her if she would read the Book of Mormon and stuff she was a bit confused because she thought we were practicing and we had failed to establish our purpose. However, we were able to commit her to take the rest of the discussions right before I was transferred. Now, one year later, she's baptized! Her husband was reactivated and he was able to perform the baptism. You just never know which of your planted seeds are going to grow!!! That piece of news made my life!!!
Wednesday we had dinner with another member, who told us about her conversion story. It was so inspiring; the moment she saw the missionaries on the porch she knew she wanted what they had. They asked her if they could come back and she told them no! Even though she knew that she needed them to! But after several years of moving around and meeting with missionaries, she and her husband were baptized. Those first missionaries who showed up on her doorstep probably still have no idea she was baptized. You just never know where you've planted a seed, and which of your planted seeds are going to grow!! That brings me so much comfort as a missionary. Through small and simple things great things really are brought to pass. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and sometimes another's conversion can be instigated simply by a knock on the door. Love it. The Church is true!!
Wednesday evening David had his baptismal interview and passed with flying colors! Elder Crestani, the District Leader, was really impressed with David's knowledge and testimony. I have a funny story from Wednesday as well! I was standing in the middle of the foyer reading a flyer about an open house at the Bishop's Storehouse. Suddenly, out of nowhere a hand extends into my peripheral vision. I look up to shake it and see a complete stranger wearing a nametag. I figured it was one of the welfare missionaries because they're everywhere and I never recognize them. He asked me how I was doing and I guess I looked kind of confused because he had to clarify who he was--it was President Griffin. I was so taken aback that the look on my face had the elders laughing for hours. So. That was my first impression on my new mission president. Score 1 for Sister Fox.
I LOVE President Griffin though! He is fantastic. But I'm not quite there yet because I didn't get to know him until Friday. So on with Wednesday evening.
Wednesday evening we had an appointment with a set of investigators that turned to be a bit disappointing. We thought they were a lot further along, but it turns out they have a lot of qualms with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and one of them openly admitted to reading anti-mormon material on the prophet and to believing Joseph to be a con artist. Appointments like that are always very upsetting to me. I have a strong testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and every time I hear someone speak out against him I take it as a personal blow. But, all you can do is bear witness of his divine calling, which we did. I know he was a prophet of God, and he has done more, save Jesus Christ only, for the salvation of man than any other mortal who has lived on this earth. I just pray for both of them that they will gain a personal testimony of the divinity of Joseph Smith's calling through reading the Book of Mormon. If that book is true, then so is everything else!
Thursday our plans were a bit shaky, but we ended up at the home of a certain less-active by no coincidence. She struggles with depression and was having a particularly rough day. Luckily our team-up that we brought with us was good friends with her, so she offered to clean her house. We threw open the blinds, let some light in, and deep-cleaned her living room. She was so grateful that she offered to say the closing prayer and thanked God for sending us to her that day to brighten up her day. You just never know who needs your help! There are people to bless every single day! There's a new philosophy I like to go by: every good thought is a spiritual prompting unless proven otherwise.
Friday we had our Zone Meeting! This is when I can tell all y'all about President Griffin. He is from Spring City Utah (I think that's the name) and he has a beautiful family. He brought three of his daughters with him out to Tennessee, and they are 15, 11, and 9 or something like that (now all y'all are probably starting to wonder how closely Sister Fox was paying attention). I love President and Sister Griffin so much. It's a little strange adjusting to a new mission president after having President and Sister Irion my whole mission, but it has strengthened my testimony of priesthood keys. The moment I sat down with President Griffin for our first interview I could see that he had the mantle of a mission president. I could already feel his love for me, and I knew instantly that he was here to help me for the last few weeks of my mission, and that his advice would help me for the rest of my mission and for my next phase in life. He and his wife are both incredibly nervous, but they have a strong desire to serve and I am so grateful for them being here.
Friday was also my last Zone Meeting. :( It ended on a good note: the trainings were great, and I had the opportunity to bear my testimony as the meeting came to a close, as tradition holds in the TKM. I love these missionaries so much and I will miss them dearly. We also had the opportunity to perform the same musical number that we had performed at the Irion's farewell, which was fun. I will miss all the special musical numbers. Those have been a huge part of my mission.
Oh yeah, and Friday was my birthday. Y'all know what's funny? I kept forgetting it was my birthday throughout the whole week until someone else would bring it up. But all day Friday I remembered. I'm not that brain-dead. My lovely companions gave me a friendly little reminder at midnight on Friday morning that it was my birthday. It went like this:
Random voices in the dark: Should we do it? No. Maybe we should do it tomorrow. No we should do it now! What if it scares her? Let's just do it.
Me (in my head): What in the blazes is going on in the middle of the night . . . ?
Companions: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!!
And so on and so forth.
And then I found myself being sung to in the middle of the room at Zone Meeting. And I'm sure it happened again several times after that, but I didn't commit it to memory.
It was a good birthday! My lovely companions and fellow missionaries made me french toast, we decorated the apartment to look all festive, and I had two packages to open (one from Mom and the other from Marissa--thank you both so so so much!!!!!) full of food!!!! The cliff bars are already gone. :) Yeup. I love cliff bars.
It is also tradition at Zone Meeting to have a zone activity after the meeting. So after it was over we played kick ball. Which is the sport I probably dislike above all other sports. Actually, omit the word "probably" and replace it with the word "definitely." But! We played Tomahawk right after and I love that sport. And guess who made the winning goal??? BIRTHDAY KARMA! And there was much rejoicing. :)
They tell you on your mission you discover your talents. I had no idea that some of my talents would include whistling like a bird and being able to throw a football into a basketball hoop.
After Zone Meeting we tried to meet with a few people but it was the 4th of July so nobody really wanted to meet with us. However! We had a member in the ward sign up to feed us, and he took us out for dinner at Chiles! It was perfectly delicious. :) And he secretly told the staff it was my birthday, so I got free ice cream and a little song that sounded something like:
HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FROM ALL OF US TO YOU! WE WISH IT WAS OUR BIRTHDAY, SO WE COULD PARTY TOO! I felt pretty validated.
THEN! We had nowhere to go for fireworks. At least at first. Then David texted us five times and called us twice while we were in an appointment to invite us to go downtown with him and Bethany and watch fireworks!!! They have no idea how much that meant to me. I was kind of worried I wouldn't get a good fireworks show, because I haven't really gotten a good show in a couple of years and I was starting to miss it. They were an answer to a prayer! I talk about David and Bethany a lot because they are the sweetest couple ever and I feel close to both of them already. Bethany told me several times that she had hoped that I was having a good birthday, and that really meant a lot to me. They made it amazing! They took us to downtown Knoxville to a park right by the Sun Sphere, and there we enjoyed funnel cakes and good company. Then we made our way to the top of the parking garage, where we had an excellent view of a spectacular fireworks show. I got it all on camera! It's probably not as cool on camera but at least I have it. So poof! There ya have it. Best birthday ever.
Saturday was David's baptism! Best belated birthday present ever! It was an excellent service. David was very excited, and afterward he said that he felt so much spiritual energy he felt like he was vibrating. I haven't been here very long and I haven't taught either David or Bethany very much, but I am still so grateful to be a part of their story. I felt so much joy as David came up out of the water and hugged Brother Moss. Now all David wants to do is share the gospel with everyone, and it is incredibly inspiring! He received the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday and he is incredibly happy. Missionary work is the best! I love being able to witness events like this. :)
What is so cool about their story is how they came in contact with the church in the first place. When they were looking for a place to go, they thought about trying the Mormon church because Bethany had worked with a couple Mormons and was impressed with them. You never know how your example will help in the conversion of another soul down the road! It builds my testimony of the importance of always being a good example to others, and treating them as Christ would.
Another cool little story that happened Saturday involved a letter I received in the mail from a fellow missionary from the Chattanooga zone. Flashback: As a Sister Training Leader I made it a goal to write a letter to every sister missionary with whom I had gone on exchanges. I wrote a letter to this particular sister and had every intention to give it to her at transfers. But! I left it in the car and forgot about it because I'm a space case. Then it got lost among all of my random possessions. I found it several weeks later while I was unpacking, and I felt a bit sheepish, but I sent it off anyway with a little prayer that she would benefit from it somehow, even though it was really late.
Flash forward! I get a letter from this missionary saying that my "late" letter had actually come right on time; she had been having a really tough day and had just had an emotional breakdown before checking the mail. Her companion was praying that someone would say something nice to her, and that's when she got my letter in the mail! She said it helped her a lot and that it had come at just the right moment.
You never know which of your good deeds will end up blessing someone's life! You never know which seeds you have planted will grow. It is a testimony builder to always act on a good prompting, to never get discouraged if it seems like your seeds aren't growing, and to trust that God can take your small and simple acts and use them to bless the lives of others. Because you never know what is going to happen. All you can do is do your best to show charity and Christlike love to the people around you. You never know who will be touched by your good deeds.
To end, I would like to include a poem that President Thomas S. Monson included in his latest General Conference address:
I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind,
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.
My challenge for all of you is to pray for charity this week and go out and serve somebody. The Lord will multiply your efforts and you will be the means of blessing lives and bringing people closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As you do, you will feel an increase of His love for you.
Thank you all so much for your love and prayers on my behalf, as well as the advice. I feel so much love coming from everyone back home and it means so much to me. It means a lot to know that the things I am learning are blessing people back home, and I am also blessed by the things that all of you are learning and sharing with me. I love you all and hope you all have an excellent week! Until next week,