So, this week was sweet magic. I could take any moment from any given day this week and produce a Patronus. All my Harry Potter homies out there, give me a shout. Can you even believe that? THAT good.
This week, we got to help so many people! I know with all my heart that the biggest part of missionary work, is LOVE. And it's simple and it's elemental and it's the basic core of the gospel. Love drives the Atonement. Love drives change. Love drives hard work. Love creates understanding and bridges any cultural or lifestyle difference, any gap in age or span of experience. God works in simplicity. We kiiiiiind of like to make things a lot more complicated than they need to be. It always comes back to love. Love for God, love for others, and love for ourselves, to simply do what He is asking.
I.... for lack of a better word? Love? It?
So let's talk about this week. We met so many good people. They were coming out of the woodwork. We were busy all day, every day, all week. Which was suuuuper great in the heat wave. :/
(Cue pictures of us drenched in sweat, creep-smiling while we tract. But actually we never took them. Didn't want to break the camera. "Did you just fall in the pool?" Nope, just wanna come in your apartment and share the gospel, thanks a heap.)
I have about 800 things I want to say, but I'll share just a few.
One of my favorite things this week was being able to feel that God knows us and loves us INDIVIDUALLY. I mean, we know that on a basic level and we share it every day, but in every lesson this week, it was so starkly different from the last lesson in what we wanted to say. And we had no idea why. Know why? Not us saying it. Sweet.
R dropped us this weekend after slipping up with smoking again. It breaks my heart to see the discouragement people feel when they slip up, however large or small on the scale. This gospel is not for people who have never made mistakes. It's for people who need big help and deep healing. And every time we face a trial, a difficulty, or find ourselves in the midst of another mistake - because we WILL, we are human - we have a choice. We can succumb to the temptation to think that these feelings are forever, that this mistake defines us. We can let Satan make us feel like we can't try again. Or we can turn to God. We can recognize ourselves as divine beings, and, with His help, rise to that potential. He will make our burdens bearable, He will help us love the lessons we are learning and be happy in the meantime. And when the time is right and our heart is sufficiently changed, He will deliver us. I know that's true.
Literally, we walked up for our appointment and R panicked. "Yo, I can't DO this right now." Runs up the stairs. I felt like Arwen in the Fellowship of the Ring. You know, after Frodo's been stabbed by the Morgul blade and she's riding like outer darkness to try to get him to Rivendell so he can be healed by higher magic. (I tried to use this analogy with my companion. She shut it down by saying, "Stop that... I had friends in high school." Yeah, well. Know who didn't, probably? Sauron. All that hate doesn't come from nowhere. Anyway...) Anyway. In her Arwen voice, she's like, "FRODO NO! FRODO DON'T GIVE IN." Yeah. That. But in this situation.
I was pretty devastated just because I've seen him have a confirmation of truth. I've felt the Spirit with him, and I know what this can do for his family. But I also know, that if we have kept a faithful record of our time with R, and if I keep him in my prayers, whether sooner or later, he will be shown by Him who never forgets that he can try again. I know he'll find his way to this gospel. Whether this month or in twenty years. God won't lose track of him. He knows all of us where we are.
Plus, we'll keep trying. It's what missionaries do. ALL I'MMA DO IS TEXT YA TIL YOU'RE TICKED, CALL UNTIL I CAN'T, AND DROP BY 'TIL Y'MOVE. (But even after, too, cause the new resident might be interested in the message. Giddy up.)
We had so many good experiences this week, but one of my favorites was with our friend M. M is a Liberian woman with four children. Her boyfriend also has children with her sister, and the children are about the same age as her children. Missionaries have been working with her family for about 8 months on and off. It's just so hard for her to get out. It kills me every time we go over. Her boyfriend recently gave two-week notice to the office that they were moving out, but didn't tell M. He was planning on leaving her and not telling her she no longer had a place to live, but someone from the complex contacted her and asked her to confirm the two-week notice. And so now she and four kids are searching for somewhere to live. I can't describe the way my heart breaks for these people every single day. All I can say is, it's breaking and expanding in a way that makes me better. I feel so humbled that God trusted me with this area and allowed me to learn from these good people. They are mighty men and women, shouldering burdens most of us go our whole life without ever imagining.
In our lesson this week, we invited M to fast with us about her situation and come to church. When we went to pick her up, she answered the door sobbing and holding her face. I had nothing to say, but I felt the biggest and most powerful love for her. I just put out my arms and I held her for a while as she cried like a child. That image and that feeling stayed with me all through church, as we sat with our new investie J and her family (who are AWESOME and all set for later this month. I'll email about them soon.) during fast and testimony meeting. Several times in the scriptures, God urges us to be like a child. And we've talked about that with a lot of our investies this week. What that means to be like a child - submissive, meek, patient, full of love. I think it also means that quickness to forgive. That ability to hope.
As I reflected on the almost-parental feeling I had as I held this woman with sorrows more than I've ever carried and with years more than doubling mine, I thought maybe that encouragement to be like a child meant something else, too. Maybe it's in reference to each of our need to remember who we divinely are - WHOSE we are. I felt compassion for her as a daughter because she is God's daughter. I felt fierce love for her because she is my sister, and her elder brother is Jesus Christ. I got to feel both, because I'm a missionary. That responsibility and those feelings, even when they are heavy, mean everything to me.
M missed church, but as we met with her later, she sent her kids in the other room and poured her heart out. About the abuse from her boyfriend, about doubting her worth, about getting calls from his other women and about the misery in which she lives. We listened in silence, watching her profile as she stared straight ahead through the tears that fell on dark and storied skin. And then, she surprised us. She squared her jaw, and turned to us, and a new light came in her eyes. She said she had still fasted with us, and that she had hope.
And what had given her hope was the love of her oldest child, T, laying awake with her all night, holding her hand through the worst of her heavy heartache. She told us T turned to her and said, "Mommy, I'm gonna fast with you." And she did. She said that pure love, that trust, that fervent hope, and knowledge of God who can help, and the meaning of what we asked them to do, changed everything for her. They fasted together, and she opened to 2 Nephi 31. She asked to baptized as soon as possible, and the ward members are working with her to find an apartment and finally leave her boyfriend.
All because of the purety, understanding, and simple faith of a loving child.
And isn't what T gave exactly what God asks of all of us?
M called her children back out, and each of them hungrily listened as we read a chapter about God easing our burdens and helping our unbelief. All it takes is our trust, our complete loving trust. Those two steps forward in the dark, so our loving Father can flip on the light and flood us with good as we follow His will against seemingly impossible odds.
I LOVE these people. I love this area. The love here is so tangible. Quick flashes of white teeth in a dark face, a liquid gleam to smiling, dark eyes. The African people are the best in the world.
This gospel is real. It's so true. It can help with any darkness we face. It can help us when we feel overwhelmed, when we feel inadequate. But most of all, it can help us feel joy. :) And that, cuties, is exactly what we felt, at the end of our lesson with M. We went, in an hour, from a place of unreachable darkness to laughter and love, because of the gospel. I love it. I know God is in this work. I know He knows you and loves you!!!
Have the actual best week. Like if weeks are bacon, have Applewood SMOKED!