Hahaha. Mom is already embarrassed about the email title. Let me explain! I have a lot of little African homies, as I'm sure you can imagine. I love these little people. Dark-skinned children really ARE more beautiful. It's a fact. I'm going to be ruined forever more. If my kids don't have brown eyes, like my Chinese students or these African kids... I don't know about it. I just don't KNOW.
Anyway, we were in a lesson with our investigator A this week and her son, T, came up and was talking to me while Sister C helped A to read. (She has some crazy cornea business going on that I don't even preTEND to understand. She's such a trooper.) T brought his Bible reader because he knew we were learning about God, and showed me pictures of the stories. I love how easily children can feel the Spirit and WANT to learn. It amazes me daily. As we were talking, the following conversation went down. Keep in mind, this is all in whisper tones.
Sister Ballif: "T, what's your favorite color?"
(Speechless with disbelief and sheer delight. Is shart a word they USE in the Virgin Islands?! I can't. I need to move immediately.)
T: Yeah, shart. (shrugs)
Sister Ballif: "So... your... favorite color is shart?"
T: "Yeah. Shart."
The lesson continues and I'm just a-WHIRL with delight at this kid. But then he pulls out a toy shark and points to its blue color. "See?" he says, all dark eyes and authority. "SHART."
So.... that African accent. It'll get you every time.
ANOTHER great one this week was S, one of my favorite kids in the ward. She's Liberian, and tiiiiiiny. World's best smile. She was really cold in church (we actually attend in an icebox. It's cool.) and so I gave her my cardigan. It still had my name tag, and she was THRILLED. For a solid 7 minutes, she ran up and down the length of the walkway outside as people left church chanting, "I'MMMMM SISTER BAAAAAAALLIF, I'M SISTER BAAAAAAAALLLLIIIIIFFFF!" It caused quite a stir. Cutie.
UGH. I love African babies so much. And our ward. One of the best parts about the mission is getting to know the ward. Stepping into people's homes for a little while, feeling how their family operates, and knowing you're there because they want to serve you and help you... there's honestly nothing like it. This week, we had a dinner with a family and they gave us marriage and parenting advice for like twenty minutes after we shared our message. It just made me happy. These people take such good care of us. I want to have that kind of home.
One miracle was in seeing the progress a non-member husband of a woman in our ward who has just returned to activity. This brother was able to see the changes Sister M and her companions helped his wife to make, and having talked to missionaries in the past, he became open again. Their family is going through great financial difficulty. Their daughter is an avid horseback rider (something we have in common) and their son has many health challenges. My heart aches for him and I want so badly for him to accept the Atonement and to feel God's love. I know, having worked with my peers with autism and other challenges, that the only true remedy IS that Balm in Gilead. It's the Savior. I have never seen a special needs kid happier than they are in seminary. Really and truly. It's the hope of this gospel. No matter their mental capacity or challenges, the Spirit is something everyone can feel and understand. Because Jesus Christ understands us.
Her non-member husband's need to take care of her, their children, and their growing financial burden, has caused him to reexamine the foundation of faith, or lack thereof, he has laid in his life. I think it's absolutely incredible to see the way the Lord humbles us so that He can help us with things that matter most. I think of the talk, "Whom I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten." The Lord loves this family so much. And they have been brought extremely low. Last transfer with Sister M, we saw no progress with this man. He felt pushed, he felt defensive, and essentially, he was at a standstill. He held us at arm's-length and sat suspiciously, arms folded over his chest, in every lesson.
This transfer, he has come to church multiple times, is almost through 2 Nephi due to daily scripture study, and he and his wife have kept the commitment we extended to have a nightly prayer, together and as individuals, every single night. Seeing the changes it has already brought is so incredibly beautiful to me. Their circumstances haven't changed, but through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, THEY have changed. They have felt His love and they want to continue on the path, really the only option for those who want hope and happiness. They want the gospel.
This week, we invited this brother to be baptized on September 28. He agreed to pray about it. Last night, as we taught Gospel of Jesus Christ, we talked a lot during faith. We weren't able to teach all the principles of the lesson, and it didn't even matter. Sister C taught faith so well, and we were able to ask questions that led him to receive his own revelation. I was so happy. She's seriously doing AWESOME. Cutie little trainee.
We asked him what the next step was after having faith, and he listed everything he's been doing - praying, reading, etc. We asked for the next step. He was quiet for a long time and then said, "Well... I guess. Baptism." And then he just sat in silence, his lips forming almost words. This went on for about five minutes. When he finally looked up, his eyes were shining with tears and with the light of Christ.
He took a breath like he would speak, but then, simply smiled. And we all knew.
I LOVE when the Spirit teaches an investigator what they need to know. It's so much more meaningful when the experience is theirs and not something we tell them. Something I've also loved this week is seeing how every experience in our life is tailored so that we can help someone else. Everything that has happened to me has prepared me and changed me so I can better help someone else, to have hope, to have happiness, to change. I've always had a testimony of that, but it gets so perfectly synched up with the people you meet on a mission that you truly can't deny God's plan for you and awareness for His children.
Also, we taught a new investigator, A, while this guy S sat in this week. SO, S's been taught by the elders and us. (Trust me, not on purpose. We only found out on accident one district meeting. S didn't tell either of us. He's about 5.2, constantly drunk, lessons are always WILD. It's great.) We taught the Restoration to A, and since S has had it twice, he like said it along with us... but then drunkenly.. and not quite true. And it was the funniest lesson of my mission. Maybe you just had to be there. It was unreal. Like that one friend who tries to sing along when you show them a new song... and they're always just a millisecond behind. Soooo good. Hahaha. I was dying. The first vision was not MEANT to be said as a round.
I LOVE being a missionary.
Also! Fourteen investies to church this Sunday! We were SO happy. That's so many people. And like happens with Africans, they were all looking around, and they were like, "Hey, dat's m'cousin. Dat's my uncle" all through sacrament. Hahaha. YES.
I love my mission. And I love alllll of you. Have the absolute best week!!!!!