Greeeeeetings from MinneSNOWta! Hi, hi, hi!
Today, there is a wind chill of -20 to -30. Snow big deal, guys! It's fiiiiiiiiine. As an interesting fact, every time the temperature drops, we get a degree more hilarious. We are having so much fun. Hahahah. It's UNREAL. Also. I've never been more painfully aware of each individual nose-hair in my LIFE. Why? Because each has its own icicle after the first inhale outside. Giddy on up!
A Minnesota fun-fact is that when Lewis and Clark paddled on up the good ol' Mississip and SAW this place, they declared it uninhabitable and turned their canoes back around, paddling the HECK out of here. My roommate Hermana P really likes telling that one. It was her birthday this week! We bought her a majestic tiger print fleece-blanket a la WALmart and told her to "Stay regal." Yes sir. She and I spent the whole day together at Mission Leadership Council to celebrate! Aaaaand, that's basically how we've spent the whole week. In MEETINGS. My gash. They've been wonderful meetings, but three conferences in one week? Not a quicker way to a stir-crazy sister. I don't care if it's -9 outside. Get me. out. doing. missionary. work. So weird to sit inside for that long!
So, in all the cold weather and meetings, there were about 5 million miracles and tender mercies. And tender mercies, I'm coming to realize, are what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It's how the Book of Mormon starts, remember? (Come on. We've all been through 1 Nephi chapter one more times than we'd like to admit. We're friends here.) After describing a trial, the prophet says, "But behold, I Nephi, will show you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith..." Elder Bednar and I are on the same page about them. He said, " I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ. Truly, the Lord suits “his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.”
So, let's review tender mercies this week. Wednesday this week was New Missionary Training in Bloomington. It was also an incredibly big storm, which kept even lifelong Minnesotans inside and home from work. Me? Nope. I was the designated driver for a group of five missionaries to Bloomington. Ask me if I sharted myself. Well. I didn't. But. I wanted to. So, the tender mercy about that was, even though we had absolutely zero traction and even though a 20 minute drive took an hour and ten, we had a super spiritual drive there, and drive back. I was so nervousy, so I made every elder in the backseat tell us their favorite mission stories - horror stories, hilarious stories, and heavenly stories. The Spirit was so strong, and as we all prayed for safety in the storm and sang hymns and shared stories, I just felt the Savior's love and presence. Where two or three are gathered in my name. It's a real thing, people. It was honestly prrrretty horrifying, and I felt totally calm by the end of the drive. (Once we reached home, we were grounded for the night, as the rest of the mission had been for the whole day. Roads were wild. We also found out that there were four fatalities on the road home that we took. We are SO blessed to have had that experience, and to have come out okay.)
Another tender mercy about that day? Driving home, we stopped at a Subway. There were SO many missionaries in that Subway. There was a little girl in line just crying and whining, and I felt so much love for her. I mean, it was totally our fault that her wait was long. So I went over with a pen and paper and just kneeled down and asked her if she would color me a picture. She colored me two! She ran across the restaurant so excited. Her father came over and thanked me after, and we were able to talk about the gospel and how it strengthens families. I gave him the assistants' number, but it was one of my favorite contacts of my mission. It was blessing to me, to feel love from that little person, to feel gratitude from him, and to feel love for their family from Heavenly Father.
Tender mercy again? One of the less-actives I've been working with my entire time in this area FINALLY CAME TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY. I about jumped out of my skin. We had such tender lessons this week about repentance and prayer. She trusts us now. And listening to her share experiences with us this week, it was such a tender gift to us. Her heart visibly softened throughout the lesson. I love our soon-to-be-actives. (Optimism. Pass it on.) There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we retain the fruits of our efforts. The end. Amen. As a sidenote? If you are reading this, please, please grab a ward list and go hit up some less-actives. It's not weird like you think it is, I promise. These people are starving for love and for spiritual uplift. They're missing something. There's a REASON they stopped coming, and no matter who they are or what they say, it's not just laziness. Go love them and figure it out. Please and thank you.
We were in meetings all this week when the C family was available, so we don't get to teach them again until Wednesday. Aw, man. We stopped by with cookies, and little A, who is six, was like, "Sista Ballif, I forgot to TAYELL you. That crumble cake you dropped off last week, that stuff was fanTAStic. Did you put the gospel in it?!!" Hahaha. WHAT. I shrugged and said, "Well... the secret ingredient was love." He said, "Mmmmmm, I know DAT's right." Hahahah. This FAMILY. I love them!
We are also working with a Hispanic family. We've been meeting with them for about three weeks now. They came to church Sunday! THAT was a tender mercy. Yeeeeee-hooooooo. So happy. The V family has some of my favorite kids in the world. They always draw us thank you notes for coming. ALSO. Their baby wears onesies and gold chains on his neck and wrists. I can't even do it. I was in the middle of teaching about the Law of Chastity this week, and he comes over and grabs my nametag with one hand, my face with the other, and swoops in and KISSES ME ON THE MOUTH. How do I even TAKE that? Hahahaha. We were all so weirded out. He's TWO. Get outta here! So funny. Laughing about that together was a tender mercy.
There were lots of little things. Aaaand, I'm running out of time. Curse these long-winded tendencies. OH. Okay. Biggest miracle though, was yesterday. We were behind on restorations and we wanted to find some awesome new investigators. We have two well-progressing families and we're SO happy, but helping two families doesn't somehow help everyone else out there waiting and aching for this in their lives. SO. We felt prompted to stop by Sister K - a RC, and one of my favorite friends. She's in her sixties, and she's from Zambia. We had a good visit, and she went to walk us out, and we said, "You know, we actually want to try knocking your building." She got so excited, and clapped her hands together, just beaming. She wished us good luck.
We walked up the hall, and I asked if we could pray. In my prayer, I asked the Lord to open hearts and open doors. We literally weren't done saying amen when the door to our right opened. Two little African kids said, "Did someone knock? Thought we heard a knock?" Yeah. NO ONE KNOCKED. But we were about to! And we said that. They went and grabbed their mom. We talked for a little about Jesus Christ and about God's love for us. Then we sang I'm a Child of God. The Holy Ghost was going to town on her. (Thank goodness, though. Have you heard me sing? Yikes a million.) She got a little emotional and invited us in. She said her family has been searching for a church. Her sister has tried to get them in her church, but it hasn't felt right. Everything we said, she just said, "AMEN!" After the first vision, we just let the silence simmer. The Spirit is a much better teacher than I am. She just smiled and smiled. Everything about the Restoration made sense to her. She asked how soon we could come back. She agreed to baptism. She can't WAIT for her husband to hear the message. As we knelt for our closing prayer, she both asked to know if it was true and thanked God for the confirmation from the Holy Ghost that it is. WHAT.
We were literally flabbergasted. I wanted to cry after. I had so much joy in her! As we left, she seriously just held us in long embraces, like old friends and kept thanking us. I feel so much gratitude to the Lord for allowing me this experience, in letting me assist in my small and humble way, in His mighty work. He knows who is prepared. He knows what doors and hearts are open. He could do this work on His own. He doesn't need my efforts, but oh, how I need to give them. This time is the biggest blessing to me. There is no where I'd rather be than here, in Shingle Creek.
And as we walked back to the car, with my companion trudging in front and paving the path through the feets of snow, I got teary. Or I would've, if they hadn't frozen. She walked first because her boots are taller. She showed me true charity, and as we walked to the car, Sister K showed true discipleship by calling out, "Deed you fin' someone?" We said, "Yes, a family!" She shouted, "GOD BLESS YOU SEESTAS!"
I love my Africans. I love their view of the gospel and on Jesus. It's about the joy. They understand that.
I love you allllll! Happy Christmas season.