Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Blind Leading the Blind (9/8/15)

This week is truly summed up by the title of this email. I was feeling rather queasy, shaky, and anxious on the 2-hour drive to Baton Rouge for transfer meeting, where I would meet my new companion, who had just arrived fresh out of the MTC. Well, Sister Kohler is a total sweetheart - 19, from Utah - who has a beautiful testimony of the Savior and of the restored gospel.

But alas, I am still a new missionary, and I am training a brand-spankin-new missionary. The stress and worry are so real. I don't want to fail Sister Kohler or the people of McComb, and definitely not the Lord. That's a heavy burden for little ole me to bear! Which is why I'm learning to practice what I preach and "cast [my] burden upon the Lord" (Psalm 55:22).

This experience of training is really helping me understand what humility is. It isn't just acknowledging my weaknesses and shortcomings. That's part of it, but sometimes I've let that way of thinking limit the faith I have in what the Lord can accomplish through me. I'm learning that humility is embodied by confidence in the Lord and his ability to make weak things strong. I need to remember to trust in HIS strength, not my own (or lack thereof). That's how I'm going to get through this. That's how this work is going to progress. Because I can't do it, but He can.

In other news, Mr. J is doing awesome! He's smoke-free, he's chuggin right along in his Book of Mormon reading, he's attending church every week, and he's right on his way to baptism next week! I am SO excited for him!

Well, that's all I have time for, folks! Pray for me, I need all the help I can get :)

Change Fixin' to Come to McComb (9/1/15)

To start off... transfers. We got a call from the mission president last night - Sister Kerr is being transferred and being called as a Sister Training Leader! Which means that I'm taking over McComb. Intimidating. He also told us that I will be TRAINING! I just finished training myself, and BOY do I feel inadequate. I'll learn REAL quick just how much I don't know. Dang, this will make me stretch.

This was a good week! We went on exchanges, and I had practice taking over the area with Sister Groesbeck. We got in a ton of lessons and had a great day! We met with D and taught her and ALL of her grandkids about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. Such a great, fun family. D has met with missionaries before but lost contact, and it's definitely not a coincidence that God has led us to her house two times this transfer - maybe she's ready :) 

We did some service this week for a family, and in the process of putting together a playroom for their kids, we also had the splendid opportunity to hunt mice that were living in the closet! Keeps ya on your toes. Real life whack-a-mole. 

Life is good. The upcoming weeks will be a challenge, but I'm excited to laugh about all the glorious ways in which I'll totally screw up. Change is coming. Change is good.

And I NEED to say the sincerest THANK YOU to all who have kept me in their prayers and thoughts! Your emails and prayers and letters and all that you do for me do not go unnoticed. I love y'all dearly.

As seen on a Baptist church sign:

"Sometimes God calms the storm... sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms His child."

Chest Pains (8/24/15)

Chest pains (along with headaches) are one of my most common ailments on the mission. A few experiences, both literal and figurative:

1) Some harsh doorstep rejections this week. (also accused of believing in aliens or something?? and that Amos isn't in the Bible??) Tracting in pouring rain is actually a riot. Way fun. I recommend it. 

2) We witnessed one of our favorite nursing home residents, Shirley, being rushed to the hospital with a blue face. She passed away. So many fond memories with that fine lady. She always said, "you're pretty," followed by,"I'm 77," in her raspy voice every time we came in to help with bingo. Rest her soul.

3) Mel's Ice Cream Emporium, owned by church members we're really close with, had to close down this week. We helped take everything down. No more free ice cream or lessons in the shop, and one of our favorite families is moving away :(

4) We drove over a speed bump while I was taking a drink of water. Choked so hard I gave myself internal whiplash. Literal chest pains the entire rest of the night. But no fear, I have made a full recovery. 

But with all the moments of discouragement, there are even greater moments of JOY! Pure joy, like when Mr. J made it SEVEN days without smoking!! He's well on his way to baptism next month. J is my spirit animal. I think that 58 year old man will be a true homie for life. I tease him constantly. And probably will for the rest of eternity. He says he'll cook us catfish next week. Score.

We found 4 new investigators this week! The hard work paid off! And we also found 3 lizards in our apartment. All named Yolanda. One was albino. We related well. 

Remember: "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle." As a missionary, I have the opportunity to see people fight their battles. Everyone has one. Be kind. Love hard. Be a disciple of Christ. :)

This gospel is so worth it. Worth a mission, worth sacrifice, worth hard work, worth discouragement. This gospel is everything. Treasure it. Hold on tight to it, no matter what. 

New Beginnings (8/17/15)

First off, congrats to my brother Ryan and my new sister Jennifer for getting married in the Nauvoo Temple this week! Eternal marriage - what a blessing. It was hard not to be there, but we kept busy and focused on... B & D'S BAPTISM!!!

It was SO humbling to see their journey from gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon to entering into the waters of baptism to make that covenant with the Lord. And when they received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the spirit in the room was so strong it seemed as if you could reach into the air and grab it. I am so excited for them! Baptism is not the end goal as a missionary, just as a wedding isn't the end goal for a couple. It is a new beginning, the first step on a beautiful path - one that requires continuing effort and faith. I wish we as missionaries could take credit for getting them to this point, but it wasn't us at all. It was ALL the spirit, and the work they put in after we leave their home. Testimonies really are built on our knees in prayer and in sincere study of the scriptures - as well as living the commandments and attending church. No lesson can even compare to how well the spirit teaches and converts.

This week, Mr. J also agreed to be baptized next month! Such a big step for him - he's come such a long way.

I have become aware while on my mission that many people believe the gift of tongues to be something far different from what I've ever imagined. On Friday, we ran into an elderly man named Lynn THREE times in THREE different places. He was super sweet, and said that he felt the spirit so strong with us that he just couldn't hold back his tongues. Then he just went for it. Unless you've heard it before, there's no other way to describe it other than gibberish. We were excited to finally hear what people had told us about down here about the gift of tongues. He proceeded to interrupt us while we were contacting someone, calling us his "angel girls." Which reminded me of the verse in Alma 29:1 in which Alma says, "Oh that I were an angel." Like Alma, I wish I could just get everybody to realize how beautiful and true the restored gospel is - ideally, everyone would accept our message! But we know that doesn't happen. Although expected, it is still disappointing. But I'm learning to accept God's will and his process.

We've also accepted 3 lizards into our home. They didn't really ask, but now they're family. Hey, the more the merrier.

Here's a challenge for y'all this week - make a list of ways the gospel has blessed your life - then go out and share it! We're all missionaries :)

Sufficiently Humble (8/10/15)

If missions are good for any one thing other than spreading the gospel, it's humbling the missionary. I had a good dose of that this week! Forgive my frankness. I BIFFED it on my bike this week. Sister Kerr literally asked one of our investigators for ice so that my foot wouldn't swell up. I also laughed so hard at our apartment that I literally peed my pants and shamefully had to wipe it up, but still laughing of course. Painfully humbling. Hope y'all enjoy that. Also, I had to get out of the car in the middle of the highway to help Sister Kerr back up into oncoming traffic. Also humbling. Being in the poorest of neighborhoods is humbling as well. But really, the biggest humbling comes from the realization that I am nowhere near where God needs me to be in my personal progression. I am SO weak, so prideful, so self-centered, so far from who I need to be. Being a missionary really gives you an opportunity for some hardcore self-evaluation and gives you an even more hardcore desire to follow Christ more perfectly. So that's what I've been focusing on this month - humility! "Could ye say...that ye have been sufficiently humble? (Alma 5:27)" I'm working on being able to say yes to that.

Missions are so eye-opening. You're exposed to things you could never imagine. People tell you things you don't want to know. You see things you don't want to see. You really understand people and their hardships. Tragedies - UNREAL tragedies - are all around. I won't go into detail - but there is so much suffering that we can't imagine. Be grateful for what you have - count those blessings like it's your job!

But still, this world is a beautiful place. This work is a beautiful work. This gospel is beautifully simple. Jesus Christ lives - that's the most beautiful truth there is. I can't explain how much I LOVE these people!

I also love that there are tornado sirens all around here. They went off this week! Everyday is a new adventure!

Lose Yourself (8/3/15)

This week went fast! I'd like to think that means I got lost in the work. It's only when we turn outward to help others that we find ourselves, probably because there's more of ourselves to find. That can be hard when it's hot and you're exhausted and drained, body and spirit. But you've gotta do it. The times when we're truly stretched are the times when we truly grow and learn to lean on the Lord.

One way to endure the hard times is to LAUGH. We need it. We laugh all the time, but usually at insignificant little things, and it really does make a huge difference. Find joy in the journey.

Miracles this week in the progression of our investigators! D and B both bore their testimonies during one of our lessons, saying that they knew that the church was how they really came closer to God and how they were so committed to changing their lives to align with God's will. D even got up and bore her testimony at church. They're in it for the long haul. I'm so excited for their baptisms on August 15th! They are amazing people and truly a blessing in my life.

Mr. J has finally decided to quit smoking and so we're working with him on a one-week program to help him - he's exercised a LOT of faith. He finally made it to church! Lots of progression there!

It's been a good week. Nothing incredibly monumental, but it's the little things. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass (Alma 37:6-7). Step by step, day by day, choice by choice.

Keep laughing. These ARE the good ol' days WHILE THEY'RE HAPPENING. Drink it up, y'all!