This week. HERRROOOO! Miracles. Fattest tender mercies of my entire mission, right here, right now. (I feel like I want to start this post by mentioning that it's negative FORTY OUTSIDE. Hahahahah BYE. Dead.) But anyway. Miracles. I'll try to budget my time WISELY this time so it's not long-winded and suddenly GAME OVER like every other email I've ever sent. Sorry about it. Thanks. Thanks for playing. I should probably pick two.
Every Tuesday, we go and we work at CEAP - Community Emergency Assistance Program. It's wonderful. I really love teaching people the gospel, but sometimes it's also just as satisfying to see people's temporal needs met as well. That takes about four hours every Tuesday, sorting food cans, packing food orders and delivering them to cuties in the waiting room (Oh... how'd that Mormon.org card fall in your Wheaties... Oh. It has our number...? I can't... wait. Oh? I guess?) and so on. (They let us label the boxes for the cans when it's our shift. I always write captions like, "Tomato THINGS" and "Pasta Stuffs" and "Bea...ns...?") It's a great time. So, we are allotted about five service hours a week as missionaries, ten if our area is slower. Welp, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center is not what I would call slow. Rather, there are people everywhere, every day, all the time. It's the best. (I feel like we can't go anywhere without teaching or contacting someone! Sometimes I tell Sister T that I picture us in overalls, just... throwing seeds out in the snow. We are sowin', WE, are sowin'. Word.) So even five hours a week can feel like a stretch, because we need every minute we have here.
Well, in our ward, our ward mission leader's wife was putting on Gifts of the Heart Exchange. It's an annual event that she's done since college where she collects donations upon donations of clothing (sans underwear. Ain't nobody want nobody else's DRAW'S.) and household goods. Then, all sisters on her committee or members of the ward who sign up come and sort them into tables and racks by size and gender. It's all set up in the church gym, and Sister J puts flyers out in shelters, immigrant-populous apartment complexes (so, the whole area). She has pastors of other faiths advertise it over the pulpit, and people from all walks of life come by. Anyone can come take anything they need, totally for free.
Turns out, we prayed and felt prompted to sign up for both the set up and the actual event. It felt like a lot of time, but we knew it was also a way to serve, and if our goals weren't met this week and our number of lessons was crap, at least we were where we needed to be.
And then we go. And we start with a prayer and read a little about service as a group. And then we're setting up tables and sorting through donations and rubbing shoulders with the wonderful women in our ward, and this feeling of joy just bubbles up in my chest. Just total joy to be serving side by side with our sisters. And we're sorting through donations and I'm picturing all the people who will be blessed. Serious, straight-up happiness rolling through us as a companionship being there.
Next day? 200ish people file through. Kids hungrily grab at Dora the Explorer coats and moms get misty eyed holding up pairs of jeans. It was the most intimate, beautiful, tender thing to observe. I loved hearing each of their stories and seeing each of their easy joy and sincere gratitude. There was so much humility and just total faith and charity up in there. Turns out that combo is a lot like onions, because my eyes were a-mistin' like it was my JOB.
So the event ends, and all the leftovers are boxed up haphazardly to go to Goodwill or Africa. And that's that.
Fast forward to Sunday. We get a text from the Hermanas that we live with (who are our very best friends) and they tell us that one of their investigators, who has five children under the age of 12, had a house fire. Burned to the ground. Lost everything. They ask us about sizes and ask us to look. We ask Sister J, and I can tell she is exhausted to death of sorting and packaging and repackaging. She tells us the boxes are getting hauled off right after church, and that nothing is sorted, so we'd have to dig through fifty or so boxes and bags to even look, and it's probably not going to happen... Which is totally legit. Fast forward five minutes. We were sitting behind her in Relief Society, and you could visibly see her listening to the Spirit and discerning direction. All the sudden she passes back her planner with a little note. "What size and what ages? I'll see what I can do." We check the text, write back, and she's gone without a word. We look at each other, make sure our investigators are with their fellowshipper friends, and peace out right after her. We find her in the gym, on the stage, shoes kicked off, just rifling through the boxes with the remaining half hour.
We take off our boots and start digging as well. About four more sisters from the Relief Society walk by, and ask what we're doing. Sister J relates the story of this investigator family, and each sister, without a word or further comment, slips off their high heels or boots, checks the sizes, and digs in as well. And I was just overwhelmed by it. It felt like pioneer times, when people help push each others handcarts. Just by the sheer goodness of all these sisters, who were no doubt sorted and serviced out, we ended up with about twenty bags of clothing for this family with nothing. Miraculously, pretty much all of it left was in the specific sizes and ages and genders that we needed. All of us wanted to cry. I was amazed at what we accomplished and the good things we found. The Spirit of love and urgency for this family, who were strangers, was exquisite
And what are the odds of that, you know? Of that clothing exchange, that weekend, when they had that need. Of those sizes, being the only ones left. I'll go ahead and tell you, the odds are impossible. Because they aren't odds at all. They are evidences of a loving Heavenly Father, who has a plan of personal relief and healing for each of His children. Not one of us is lost to Him. Not any trial we have is insignificant.
Our eight o'clock fell through, and we were able to go with the hermanas to deliver the clothing to the family. The drive over, most of our vision was obscured by blowing, drifting snow at 40-45 mph winds. Wind chill was in -20s. The hermanas were packed into our backseat by bag after bag of donation, frozen and totally cramped. And none of us could've been happier.
Until we actually got there.
These beautiful Hispanic kids were hopping up and down, and holding dress after dress up, just giggling. They stomped around in their new shoes and teased each other as they couldn't zip jackets fast enough. And watching them absolutely devour that show of mercy from the Lord testified to me that God knows us and loves us. His plan and His love are so perfect. So individualized. There is nothing we can do to lose that love and that help. Even when we make mistakes. Especially when we make mistakes. It is there for us. It does not change. It does not end.
We met a woman this week who I know without a doubt I was supposed to find. She's part of why I was sent to Minnesota and why I have stayed in this area. I know it. After the initial contact, we had Relief Society sisters, each of whom had a perfect experience for her concern and pain in the lessons. AHhhh. Like how does this even work out?! But it does. Lakisha is going through the process of a divorce after ten years of marriage. Her husband shows no interest in her or the kids, and comes home when he has no place else to stay. We knocked on her door by total inspiration. We had passed it many times. And we visibly SAW the Spirit prompt her to let us in. Usually she's very private and protective. But Heavenly Father told her she could trust us.
She has two young children and is going to school to become a midwife, while also working as a CNA. She was unable to come to church because her replacement didn't come in, and her babysitter brought her kids to the hospital while she was still on shift. Right?! I wanted to go help. Gall. She texted us and was heartbroken about missing church! But so excited for the lesson Sunday evening. Seeing her embrace the gospel so quickly and seeing how very much she needs the Atonement has been a huge blessing to me. She is hungry for the truths in the Book of Mormon. She GETS that it is how God is trying to heal her. We left her with Mosiah 24 and listening to her apply it to her pains and testify that the Lord could make her burdens lighter was incredible. She is working towards baptism March 1. She is incredibly humble and good. All her friends and family are in Chicago and she feels so alone. The Relief Society sisters have just circled around her already. There is so much good going on in this ward!!! I am SO excited about teaching her! Being able to help someone come closer to Christ, in the midst of a divorce, is a huge testimony and gift to me that Heavenly Father knows the pain of those we love and how badly we want to help them. I love all of our investigators, but I can see His hand in helping me better understand and empathize with Sister L. I can feel her pain, and I can see the Lord help her. I love that. I LOVE how the Lord works. It is a privilege to be a part of His great work. We are so blessed!
With all these extra things, we somehow increased our average lessons per week by 50 percent and had four cuties to church. The Lord has been so good to us! I testify that this is His work. I love it. I can't believe this is the last week with Sister T. I love her!
And I love you GUYS. Happy week, eh?! Stay warm.
PSYCH YOU'RE IN UTAH. Gall. Love you!!