Tuesday, December 3, 2013

October 21: Promise-keeping and the Purpose of Pain

This week. What??! MISSIONS. 

So, this week was a doozy. Each week is so full, has so much, that it feels like a year. I love how much life we get to LIVE. Probably, I'll just extend my mission for another five YEARS. How's that, Mom? :) Yes? No? Pray about it.

This week, I exchanged with some sisters in my sister group who are really struggling. Neither sister wants to be here, both struggle with the rules, with attitude, etc. It makes me so sad for them, because I want them to feel the happiness that comes when we give up our will and embrace God's. It's the best thing I've ever felt. It's only unhappiness when we don't. It's a constant conflict between what you want and what the Lord is asking, and it rubs you raw. I don't want that for these sisters. They have remarkable talents and both have the potential for great good in this mission, and also, ALL THEIR LIVES. I want so much to help them. We all learned a LOT from exchanging, and I'm so happy to know them. I'm also thankful that Sister C is my companion. She has such an ability to lift and motivate those around her. I know it was a big help to those sisters. I lucked out. She trained herself. 

One thing I especially loved, was seeing how much purpose there is in the pain in our lives - earned, unexpected, or uninvited. It's all for a great and simple purpose - to provide us with an opportunity to be strengthened in Christ and guide others to do the same. We taught about ten different people over the course of the exchange; obviously, each had such unique needs and questions. And in every situation, something came to her mind or my mind from our lives - something that caused us a lot of pain, something we didn't understand. And in all these lessons, all these people NEEDED our pain to understand Jesus Christ. 

And it's like... in that moment, when you see understanding cross someone's face, when you see them glimpse a hint of this huge plan God has for them, personally.. it's like you would do every part of that excruciating experience, every moment, all over again, just to lift them up. It's a miracle.

Another miracle? Taught a Muslim man an entire restoration lesson. That's unheard of in our area. Muslims always want to teach YOU. They do NAT want to be taught. Hahaha. It was such a rodeo. We're talking about prophets and I take my pencil out of my bag and next thing I know is he's going on a rant about multiple wives and treating them all equally and the ups and downs of communicable diseases and I was like WAIT SO PROPHETS. Hahaha. I love talking to different people! Mom, Dad, as a special heads-up, I feel like this is a good time to say I have given about 6 different Muslims our home address at this point in my mission. They've promised a package with a covering and a Qur'ann. Keep a weather eye OPEN. 

Other favorite day this week:

M and her family, our investies who were on track to be baptized Oct 6, finally let us in this week. They've been dodging us like a fat kid and gym class. We had a lesson that absolutely broke my heart. We talked about God's love and she began ranting and laughing about how God isn't even there and no matter what we read, said, prayed, or listened to, she was so hardened and angry. As we sat with her, the impression came to my mind to share with her the scripture in Alma 32, about the desire to believe. She said she felt the desire. Then she said God wasn't answering her prayers. Sister C bore beautiful testimony about humility and God's timing and love, and M's son, who wants to be baptized so badly, came over and handed me a tissue, and sat close on the couch, patting my back. He'd seen me getting teary-eyed as she mocked us. As we talked, all her children gathered in, sitting close to us and listening with wide eyes as their mom denied the faith she had had only a month ago. As I looked at the pure, Christlike light in their faces, and the darkness of their situation, I was overcome. I felt like the Lord of the Vineyard in that one scripture, for just a moment, and I wept. M listened to my testimony, and to the honest call to repentance and to the Savior's love through my tears, and said nothing. 

I know these experiences are part of the mission, and afterward, I felt such gratitude for that kind of unselfish heartbreak - the kind that doesn't come from dating or a scholarship or from wounded pride, but that very real and genuine ache for someone as they turn from truth. There is a privilege in that pain and that understanding. And for a moment, we experience the love and devastation of our Savior and our Heavenly Father, every time we turn from what we've been shown. I know she will find the truth, if not now, again. And her children will remember the love they felt as they listened to the message.

We were having kind of a slower day afterward, and we drove past an apartment and knew we should stop. The door was open, and there was a girl sitting on the stairs. She looked pretty young, and we often avoid teaching teenagers until we've at least met their parents. (Situations have gotten TRICKY in the past. We're not from MySpace. We're the Mormons. It's FINE.) We both felt prompted to talk to her. So, we did. Cue the littlest acknowledgement possible. We invited her to church. She shrugged. We both felt prompted to teach her the restoration. So, we did. She barely made eye contact and was so not feeling it. I felt like, what are we doing here? Am I gonna end up on YouuuuTube? Come on. We extended the baptismal invite, and she just nodded. Stilllllll felt the need to linger. I had no idea where it was going or why we were both feeling like that. So I asked her if she would pray. (We'd asked her earlier.) She nodded again without looking up. I asked her if she prays often. She said she did. I asked what she prays about. She said, "I pray for strength for me and my family." Something about the way she said it just pierced me. I sat down on the step below her and looked up at her, so she'd have to look into my eyes. I asked her why. She then told me how her favorite cousin was shot six times, and died last week in North Minneapolis. ("There's a boatload of gangs at this school." - Napoleon Dynamite. But. Really.) She told us how her family is breaking, how she goes between her mom's house and her brother's apartment. 

I honestly have no idea what I said to her, but it wasn't me. We had a good talk, and she agreed to pray. She paused for about two minutes at the beginning, and after, let out the deepest sigh, like she'd been holding that in for a hundred years, and continued on with the most beautiful, heartfelt prayer. We sat in silence for a long time before she brought her eyes, all liquid and brown, up to meet mine. And her tense little shoulders, her arms wrapped around her knee, relaxed, just a little. The smallest smile played across her lips. I said, "K, have you ever heard the poem Footprints?" She shook her head, trying to hold the tears back. 

"It's about a man who looks back on his whole life," I told her. "And he sees his life like a beach. And all throughout his life, there are two sets of footprints on the beach for the places he's been. But he notices something that really hurts him. He sees that in the hardest times, there is only one set of footprints. And he asks Jesus Christ, 'why, when it was the hardest, did you let me walk alone?'" Her eyes were huge, staring straight ahead with this juxtaposition of complete disinterest and painful vulnerability. I went on. "And Jesus Christ told him, 'those times in your life where you felt alone, where they were the hardest, those were the times I carried you.'"

"I like that poem," she finally whispered, the smile coming back. We sat in silence for a little bit. The Spirit was SO strong. After setting up a time to see her again and meet her family, I gave her a hug. What broke my heart, in the best, best way, was that every time I went to let go, she clung tighter - this girl who had nothing else to hang onto wouldn't let go of me. I absolutely love her. There was so much privilege in that pain.

Afterward, we found someone named E. She LOVED the Restoration. She was clapping her hands, and after we said the first vision, she was in tears and sunk like a mile into her couch. (She was also Nigerian and wearing an oversized beanie. It adds to your visual.) She gripped the arm rest. "WOW. No. Wow. No. No. WOOOOOOOOOOW. Wow." She starts fanning the air. Hahaha. I LOVE teaching Africans. She got emotional and asked, "What happens to people of other faiths? What do they do? They don't know? Why don't people KNOW this?!" Aaaaaaamen, sista-friend. We are really excited to go back and teach her. She accepted baptism for the next month, so we will keep you posted. :) The thing I loved, was that as soon as she was happy, she was sad, for the people who didn't know. That her husband hadn't listened in to the lesson. And she loved feeling that pain, because she understood what he was missing. She told us, "I've known God and Jesus Christ my whole life. But this. This." She put a hand over her heart. "This is different. Ohhhh, I hope my husband listens."

And as we shared these experiences, the what of the pain, we realized, or re-realized the why. Every hurt, every pain, is to help us become someone, who can then help others - who can truly be that understanding representative of Jesus Christ. We have a responsibility to shoulder the smallest fraction of His burden as we bear His name. And not just missionaries have that name on them. It's everyone and anyone who has every been immersed in a baptismal font. It's a promise, we made with God. I LOVE that! We are given trials to help us, help Him, help someone else. :) What in life is better?

Well, I've got to run. Today's District P-day. The elders finally let us plan. Call me crazy, but, watching them play basketball and tackle each other isn't quite my ideal get-away. Soooooo. Gospel charades, soup and biscuits, mandatory-letter to their mamas, and a pumpkin-carving contest to see who can whip up the best likeness of President Clements. Pumpkin Clements. We'll send him the photos so he can judge. AND SISTER C AND I BOUGHT MATCHING MAJESTIC GOAT TEES GET READY. They were on clearance at Walmart. The majestic blue color and pose of the goat were too much for me. I had to do it. I feel they will add to our craftsmanship. Sorry I went to Spirit TOWN on this email. I'm still normal I promise. Schoobidy-doop, apple-a-day, when-in-Rome, seeeeeeya.

Have the happiest day!! :)

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