Thursday, July 11, 2013

May 23, 2013 – The Empty Sea


So, week one of the Empty Sea, DOWN. This will be the only letter you get from me here because, by next Thursday, I'm in Minnesooota. Cool.

I think we can all agree those missionary emails that go day by day and hour by HOUR of their week are the hardest to read and not glaze over. So. Overall, just know that I'm learning so much each day. It's NUTS. And the church is true. Heeey. What could I have been doing the last nineteen years of my life if I had applied myself 14 hours each day? Cured cancer? Found Narnia? Ridden an Eagle? Figured out how to keep cats kittens? Welp.

First of all, thank you SO much for the mail. I love hearing from everyone. It's a good day indeed when the District Leader delivers me some love from the postal service. Also, shout out to mama for the prompt response to my SOS package plea. And to the Rasmussens for sending me some Tasty's love and that sweet note! I was District Mom of the DAY when I distributed those bad boys. The only person I shared a blueberry with was my zone leader. Cause let's be real. That's the highest form of respect I know how to give.

I have had so many good experiences here, and had SO much fun. It's crazy to me that I've been here a week. Everyone says that and you're always like, yeah, yeah, life in the MTC sounds WILD. But kind of it is. You do so much in a day that they feel like a week. But here are the things specifically that I wanted to tell you about:

One. Friday was the roughest day for focusing. We'd just had a 14 hour study day the day before, and our brains were like refried beanz, people. We were so frustrated with ourselves, and finally I asked if my companion and I could take a lap outside. While we were out there, these random elders came up and asked us how the MTC was going. They gave us some really reassuring advice and said exactly what we needed to hear. So. Boom. There's that. We ran into the other two sister companionships, also out on a lap, also unable to focus. We decided to pray, and we said how we all feel closer to God in nature. So we all knelt around this tree (which incidentally smells like it's been watered with straight-up cream soda for the last twelve years of its life, but that's another story) and the sisters asked me if I would pray. I just asked for help. I told him we needed peace and focus and assurance. And even as I said the words, we felt it. It sounds like no big deal, but it was so sweet. And as I kept praying, the lightest rain started to fall. It reminded me a lot of laying on a lawn in Fruit Heights back in like, ninth grade, looking at the stars and feeling mist on the wind from the sprinklers a few houses down. And I just remember the pressure in my chest and thinking how beautiful the world that God made for us was, clear back five years ago. And that feeling, and that random happy memory, were so comforting. It was just COOL. And the rain felt like a good memory for everyone else too. I don't know. I think that's tender.

The FOOD. Guys. The longer you stay here, the better it seems, but, like. It's not that bad but it's also... not that good, either. I live on the salad and wrap bar and also waffle fries and ice cream and I NEVER WANNA TALK ABOUT IT EVER BYE SEND HELP BYE.

My companion. Oh my word. There are so many things I want to tell you about my sweet companion. Basically, I have no idea how I got so lucky. Sister U. is the most Christlike person you can imagine. She's purely good. She's from Newnan, Georgia. M'little Georgia PEACH. I've learned so much about courage and testimony from her. She has been homeschooled her whole life, and she's never been away from her family. I know the first week was really rough for her, because every day was a new day of the week she'd never been without her family. But never once has she wanted to go home. You won't hear ANYONE complain about her effort or her attitude. She's the sweetest. She also struggles with dyslexia, and she works so hard. Comp study is way fun because we went and bought her a dictionary, and we go through words in the scriptures she doesn't know. I love it. You can't drop ANYTHING in a 300 foot radius of her, or she'll be there to swoop in and pick it up for you before you even bend down. She's got the world's cutest giggle that I love to make happen, and she's beautiful in every way a person can be. She holds doors, even for elders. And. I look up to her so much.

In our lessons with our progressing investigator, JC, she's been a little nervous, and for the first two, she just wouldn't speak. Welllll, here's the deal. I'm not about to keep talking and deny the investigator the awesome experience of hearing her sweet testimony. So I just let the Spirit simmer until she finds the courage to jump in. Because when she does, it's always pure gold. And it doesn't matter a THING what I have to say if I'm not listening to her and our investigator. I love teaching with her. Also, just I love teaching in general, which I was REALLY nervous for. But then it turns out... you just have to listen to people. And I love that. And then, based on your preparation, the Spirit brings to mind aspects of that planning that they need. But anyway. Back to Sister U. I want so badly to build her up, and to help her see all the great things she is. I have no idea how I got so lucky to have her as a companion, but dayaaang, I'm feelin' blessed! She really struggled with homesickness and confidence in the first week, so I asked my District if we could all fast for her. It was such a good day, and we all felt like we could receive inspiration a lot more clearly because of it. But also, fasting until 6:30 p.m. is an eye-opener. My stomach made more comments in class than I did that day. :/ My FAVORITE part of the day, though, was seeing the tangible change in Sister U. She was happier, more confident, speaking up more. Ahhhh. Yes. It was so good. She has this gift when she talks, where no matter what she says, or if she fumbles the words, what you FEEL is so strong. I don't know. Just she's great. And she takes great care of me and makes me smile everyday. I've been senior companion this week, and every day I have told her how excited I am for her to be senior companion tomorrow when we switch. I... think it kind of freaks her out. But it ain't no thing. And it'll be great to see her step up even more and grow in confidence. She's headed to the Ogden, Utah mission, and they will LOVE her. Or I'mma cut them.

We watched this incredible talk on Sunday by Elder Bednar that's only available to missionaries in the MTC. It's called the Character of Christ. Hi. Friends. If you are heading to the Empty Sea this summer, please use your Sunday film time to go see it. It is life-changing. Throughout the talk, Elder Bednar shares how the character of Christ means that in times of adversity, we always turn outward. He gave several really powerful examples about how the Savior does that in scriptures. Like in the Garden, when he asks the apostles to stay up just an hour, and they don't. And then he's betrayed by a kiss, by one of his dearest friends. And then his other dear friend is so upset that they're arresting him that he chops the guard's ear clean OFF. And what does the Savior do? What is Christ worried about? Healing the guard's ear, and then going peacefully as they arrest him. He doesn't guilt trip the apostles or anything. Or have you ever thought about his last words on the cross? Making sure someone would watch over his mother, and asking God to forgive the people even as they crucified him, for they knew not what they were doing. THAT is the character of Christ. Continually turning outward, when everything inside of you is begging to turn inward, to think about the ways you've been wronged, about the things you want, about what's hard for you, about your set expectations for a relationship or a meeting. I don't know if I explained that very well, but it's a goal I have for the next 18 months and my whole life. To always turn outward.

OH hi. My District. I love them. The sisters are hilarious, we're all in a room together, and they're spiritual giants. Sister S. is a quarter Italian, incredibly giving, makes creepy faces/voices right on par with mine, and is the Sister Training leader for our Zone. Sister B., you already know. But I love her. She's the weirdest person ever, but also beautiful and kind and yep. I like her. Sister R. Quite possibly the most chill individual I've ever encountered. Total tomboy. Total outdoors freak. Sometimes we take walks and smell dirt. I mean. Eh. We just want to hike. Sister F. is great as well. She's had a lot of health issues and seems to have a lot on her plate emotionally, but she has a story for everything and loves sharing. She's great.

Our Elders. Oooooh, the Elders. The first few days they wouldn't look at us or talk to us. ELDERS, your 18 YEAR OLD IS SHOWING. Then they got a talking-to about it. And I was like, YEAH, don't date me, BUT TREAT ME LIKE A LADY. So now we're all homies. Elder C. is our Zone Leader and looks so much like Daniel Murphy. I haaate it. But love it. They just have the same gestures and similar voices and it's bizarre. Elder M. is in his mid-twenties and just an all-around interesting guy. I always enjoy talking to him. He has some unique perspectives. Elder F. reminds me of James Collard, pre-advanced theater. Just quiet and slightly sarcastic, but every 8 hours, I so look forward to whatever hilarious one liner he'll mumble out. Elder W. is so great. He's from American Fork and worked at a burger joint, so when the food is bad, we mix our own sauces. Any friend of sauces is a friend of mine. Can I get an amen? Elder L. is our District Leader, and he's just a complex guy. Everything he says is like the Da Vinci code where it just boggles your mind and enlightens you and slightly horrifies you in the best way possible. So. Elder B. He's like my mom. He looks just like Kylie on Fantastic Mr. Fox. Hahaha. We laugh at all the same stuff. He's from Texas and loves blowing things up. He also loves to tell me about it. But he's a tender little guy. Like when we were fasting, Sister U. is hypo-glycemic, so she couldn't fast, so I'd go sit in the lunchroom with her, so he made the Elders leave study time and come sit with me while we all didn't eat for solidarity. Also, I've been coughing a lot in class cause I have a cold, and this week he comes in and plunks a huge jar of Vitamin C on my desk. No words, except, "Take one with every meal." Hahaha. I love him. He always hears my mumbled comments. These are the things I like about him.

A funny tale or two. The first night, we all slept terribly. The alarm went off and Sister B. said, "Did we even fall asleep?" None of us knew, except that I was in a panic about a dream I'd had. I guess I was like, "GUYS THE DAD FROM FULL HOUSE WAS HERE. HE CAME IN HERE, HE WAS HERE." And they were like, "Bob Saget?" Anyway. I completely forgot the dream until they brought it up at lunch that day. And now whenever things are weird, we blame Bob Saget. He climbin' in yo' windows, he snatchin' yo sistas up. Terrifying. We got a new batch of babies in the zone last night, heading to the HI, and we had to go over rules with them in the dorm. They didn't seem pleased, so I told the tale of Bob Saget the dormroom intruder to lighten the mood. I really think it worked. Soooo. Welcome. We also use him as a cuss word or a threat now. BOB SAGET. I know. We're weird.

Also. I introduce myself as Elder at least once a day. But wait. Why...?

Lastly, I want to tell you about G., our TRC investigator. G. is the most amazing man. So in TRC, they are actors. I know that. But they are encouraged to use their conversion story, and the things you feel for these people are real. G. is from Santiago, Chile, and he's this adorable old man who just LOVES God, loves his family, loves praying. I could talk to him all day. My favorite is just asking a question that we know will get him talking the rest of the half hour. Anyway. Second lesson, I brought El Libro De Mormon, because I know he speaks Spanish as well. I thought maybe he'd be more comfortable with that. We had him read the last two paragraphs of the introduction to the Book of Mormon and talked about Joseph Smith. He loved it. He just kept saying, "Wow. Wow. Too beautiful a story to be true," in his heavy accent. "But not impossible. With God, nothing is impossible." So then I felt prompted to ask if when he prayed, he felt like he'd ever received revelation. He busts out this UNREAL story about his son, who we've talked a lot about, who loves basketball. One day his arm started hurting, and then his leg. And then he got sicker and sicker, and the doctors couldn't figure it out. They said, growing pains. But he got sicker and sicker. It was killing G. to see his son like this. He said, "I felt my son was dying everyday. Everyday he was dying, and I was dying too. I didn't know this, but you can die for love." So then, he's at work, just praying and praying in his heart about his son. He hears a voice that says, G. Go home. Your son has cancer. And G said he just said, shut up shut up shut up, don't think like that, G. But the voice came again, and it wasn't from him. So he left work early, and took his son in. The doctor came out an hour later and said, "I'm so sorry to tell you this, but your son has cancer."

He said he knew God told him so they could save him, or he would've died, maybe even that very night. His son is now healthy and happy and playing basketball again. :) Ahhh. It was so great. So we had him pray aloud, and we all knelt down. He gets nervous to pray aloud with anyone but family, but the second lesson he felt comfortable. Third lesson we went back, had a way funny chat, and started the lesson. He'd been reading the BOM and loved the testimony of the witnesses. He talked about how much that touched him. So then we talked about his feelings about the book as he read. He said he couldn't wait to read the whole thing. So THEN, I felt prompted to ask if he'd be baptized. He said, "Yes, this I will do. I know it's only the beginning. And that it's between me and God, not just me and you." Yessss. That's all I wanna hear. So I asked him if he'd talk to us about his Savior. Ummmmm. He lets out the most beautiful testimony ever. Talks about the Atonement. I look at him, and I say, "In your story you shared last time, about your son. You said you could die for love. That's exactly what our Savior did." He starts bawling, I start bawling, and we just sit. He finishes up, we have a great talk, and as we're leaving, he makes jokes about how we both have allergies to the Holy Spirit. (I'M A CRYER, SUE ME SIDEWAYS AND SHUT ME UP FOREVER). And he just kept saying he loves God, he loves God, he loves us.

I just love him. And I am so excited to go and have experiences like that. Our investigator JC is a whole other bag of jazz, but I'm excited for experiences like that, too. :/ Just anything to make anyone's life better. I love this gospel. I love all of you. I am so happy to be here! Christ lives. Life is so good. Hi.  

With all my heart,

Sister Ballif

No comments:

Post a Comment