Oh. Hey... It's me again. Some people call me "shawty", "ma," or on especially dark nights in big groups, "little mama," buuuut. You can call me Sister Ballif. It's fine. This week? Hilarious. Cat stories, ward Trunk-or-treat Minnesoooota-style, all kinds of magic.
-We stopped by a former and knocked our hearts out. No answer. Saw part of a stuffed animal halfway under the door. Got sassy and reached down to yank the rest of it out so I could have a look-see. Went to grab the stuffed animal. NOPE IT WAS A REAL CAT. Let your imagination take you through the rest of the story. You're not wrong. Hahahah. Oh my. Sister C and I were crying. Never a dull moment when you're Sister Ballif's companion. :/ Can't even do it.
-We taught a member referral this week, and the dad was SO not down. They've been to church twice and come to ward activities, but he told us, "I'm never going to convert. Ever. You can't convince me." Sweet, I won't. THE SPIRIT. By the end of the lesson, he was almost emotional. Got so embarrassed. It was so awesome. They're the sweetest family. (Their little girl has given me SO many leaf drawings. I'll probably wall-paper a wall in home someday. THANKS, cutie.) Anyway. He just said, "I have... a lot to think about." And I said, "YEAAAAAH! But also, to pray about." And he tried to play it off, (he's black with a great muuuuustaaaaaCHe.) by saying, "Yea', well. Flip a coin or somethin'." "Nope, say a prayer and let the LORD flip the coin!" (I bet everyone really regrets sending me English speaking.) He laughed so hard. And also committed to pray. Promise I'm not irreverent. It's fine.
-We were driving to a lesson and I pondered aloud how Halloween got started while speculating our glorious tracting success Thursday night. Trick-or-treat, it's the GOSPEL. STATESIDE. YeahhhhhBUDDY. Our joint-teacher then filled us in on how Anoka, Minnesota is the birthplace of trick-or-treating, and went on the most glorious Halloween-lore-filled-rant I ever heard. It involved missing the turn twice for our lesson and soooo many hand-gestures. And a Minnesota accent. I love these people. :) I am so lucky to be where I am.
-We taught one of our recent convert's roomates, and these sweet African ladies, (who call me "baby Ballih" and "daughter," because their kids are back in Africa) mention that they have only eaten rice for the past few days, and only one meal a day, and that they're completely out of food............... I knew it would be a minute before we could hop on bishop's storehouse, since it was a Saturday night pretty late... so on the way home, we stopped at an African foodstore. No idea what was happening. We just grabbed things that looked fun. Peanut oil. Fish in a bag. (Pronounced baaaage.) Come along. Went back and tried to just knock and run and leave it on the porch. Couldn't do it. They kept asking, "WHO IS IT?" And not answering. We tried everything. My African man voice got perfected, after like 6 tries, and they finally answered. They saw us driving away, though, and these two huuuuuge, beautiful African ladies leaned out the window and yelled, "Sista Balleh, I didn't know it was you, I was SCAAAAAAAAAA'ED!" Hahaha. Bless their hearts. It's not a serial killer, it's some killer cereal! Open up! Gash!
Welp, to be honest, I have been frustrated with our area for the past little while. (I feel like frustrated is an exaggeration. Nothing is ever that unhappy when you get to talk about the Savior's love on the daily. But. You know. Frustrated as in the way of meaning "stuck." Our progress is frustrated. That obese kid in the slide, is frustrated. Boom. English teacher. Bye.) I can't even express how hard it is to get back in with the African people. They are SO busy. They are working 3, sometimes 4 jobs, to scrape a living and help their families back home, so that eventually, they have the money to come be all here together, free from the wars and corruptions they experience back home. I feel like we have these amazing first lessons, people open up so much and the Spirit is there so strongly. We absolutely fall in love with these people. And then we can never get them on the phone or at the door again. And of course, never is an exaggeration. But the Lord is reeeeeally teaching me persistence through difficulty. :) I love it.
Our Zone Leaders called and gave us some correction about it.. and man. Hurt my little heart. They felt like we were all about numbers - teaching all these first lessons and sooooo many lessons, and then not seeing as much success as we should as far as progressing toward baptism. They felt like if we were more teaching to people's needs, we would be having more success. It made me so sad, because that's the main comment we get from joint-teachers or investigators. That we are genuine, that we get in the details of people's lives without prying, but just by lovin' on 'em. That they feel understood. I feel like I've never given a lesson on my mission. Only love. So... the tricky part about mission life is that you can't really talk feelings or explanations with elders, cause you have to keep it about ten miles back from anywhere emotionally-connected. So... conversations where people have the total wrong perception generally go like, "Mhmm... mhmm. Yep. Thank you so much. Bye." It's weird, to be honest. But it made me grateful for my good Zone Leaders, nonetheless. That they are so concerned about those in our area that we teach. That they are doing the absolute best they can to be proactive and helpful with what they observe and perceive about each of us. That's a huge blessing.
One especially hard part is that they felt like I wasn't doing enough to help the sisters I am over, especially the sisters in our district who are struggling. The Zone Leaders came to our District Meeting and the set of sisters in our district was super quiet, so they thought that was because they're intimidated of me or not getting love from me. That was a rough one to swallow, too. I love my sisters. I pray for them so many times a day, and am in contact so much. It's hard because again... the tricky thing is, what you can't say in District Meeting is, are you nervous for your doctor's appointment? Or how is your new medication? How can I help you stay happy and healthy and working throughout the day instead of crying and missing home? They're just not generally things you bust out in a District Meeting with all elders. Just feelings in general, also. These are delicate situations. These are people's hearts and feelings. Sometimes, you show people love by letting them feel, however they are, and listening later. When someone's blown up to bursting with stress, sometimes it's not best to prod them and pick at them in a group setting - especially if you know they'll call you one-on-one right after.
It was all just a lot on my shoulders, but it made me really grateful for my companion, and my cute hermanas (the Spanish sisters we room with), who help me remember that no matter people's perceptions of us and our missions, the Lord knows our heart. He knows the work we are doing. In every situation, that's enough. You just have to put yourself in people's shoes, recognize that they're doing the best they can, with what they know, and that they're doing it because they want to help, in whatever way they perceive they can or will. You just love 'em and let God show you how it is. It's such a peaceful, happy lesson to learn.
So. Miracle City. Let's take a trip:
At the end of last week, Sister C went through and made an organized list for us to refer to of who is in each building, so that as we meet with those who do keep appointments, we can stop by those whom we've lost. We set goals to move forward. She's wonderful. I love her so much. This week, we saw many potentials. To be able to connect with these lost sheep, and to know that the love and the lessons the Spirit taught them as we spoke before had stayed with them, was such a blessing. We were able to get a man, L, to church . We hadn't seen since Sister C's second week here. Another man, one of my favorite lessons of my mission, whom we had never gotten ahold of again, let us in this week. We caught him just in time. He goes to school, works a full-time and a part-time job, and has a one month old baby, and a four-year-old daughter. He told us he literally only has 15 minutes a week, but now that he has a number and we can get in touch, he wants to give that to us. He attended the church back in Liberia, and loved it. He is so eager to learn more. His name is PC, and his wife T, is so down as well. (The only tricky part? She doesn't ever change her vocal tone. I... never have any idea how our lesson is going and suddenly she's teary eyed and also breast-feeding. Hahaha. AFRICA. I love you.) I am so grateful for that miracle, the tender mercy of a reminder that these people, are so, so willing, and so good. We just have to be extra, extra, extra, months-and-months, persistent in working with their schedules and understanding their sacrifice and their spirits. I love them so much! I'm grateful for the Lord's patience working with me as I work with them.
Our investigator T, with sickle-cell anemia, who kind of started to fall of the face of the map, came to the Halloween Party! She missed church Sunday, and so we went in with the YW and had a lesson on Christlike love and service, in remembering and looking for the one - befriending and fellow-shipping those who are on the fringes. One of the YW who is 16 picked her up for the party, and afterward, when T was locked out because her mom was out with her boyfriend, the YW seized the opportunity and had a movie night together!!! She has already had a change come over her in the three days since. She feels comfortable and capable and most of all, she feels the Savior's love. That's something she's never felt in her life. That's something that we, as members of this gospel, know and can provide. We can all offer that to other people. I love these girls and am so proud of the work they are doing for this girl, this lost sheep.
All right. Challenge time. We met with our bishop this week and went through an updated version of the ward list. One third of our ward is active. That's right, people. For every person in church, there are two people at home. Two lost sheep. That's 210 people in a ward NOT going. There is one bishop. There are four missionaries. It's not enough. The Lord needs all of us. Our recent convert, Brother B, is a member because for 20 years, members of the ward reached out to him and his family. There was never even a hint that it affected him, but every day, it did. We can all reach out and rescue someone. There is no one who is lost to the Savior, and therefore, no one should be lost to us, as a people who bear his name.
So this week. Visit someone who's struggling with their testimony. Pray about who is feeling lonely or anxious. Bake some cookies and anonymously love on someone. Or non-anonymously sit on someone's porch and pray they let you listen. We can all make that journey, however short and simple, to rescue a lost sheep. Every effort counts, and no matter how it is perceived or what comes from it, the Lord knows your heart. He knows your work. And He has rescued us all, in so many ways. :) It's the least we can do, am I right?!
I love you and I like you. Seeyaaaaa soon, then!