Wednesday, February 5, 2014

February 3: Cottage GROW-ve

Welp, it happened. I am leaving Shingle Creek. Transfer CAAAAAAAaaaaAAAaaaaaAAALLLS! Never thought I'd see the day.

So I'm off to Cottage Grove! My zone leader used to serve there, so I just got off the phone with him about it. It sounds wonderful! It's the best established ward in the mission. They have three sets of missionaries there. My new companion will be Sister B, and we'll be sister training leader companions over four sets of sisters in the Oakdale Zone. It's gonna be magical. Word on the street is, it's an adorable city. And although it squeezes my stomach and breaks my heart to leave all my beloved Africans, favorite less-actives, cutie-pants ward members, etc.... I know this is where I need to be. I feel peace and excitement about it. The Lord is so good to bless me with this change and this chance to grow. And while the good-byes will be sad, it will be miserable joy. The best kind of hurt. Because these are people I sacrificed for, people I got to feel a hint of Christ's love for. What a privilege. They have blessed me so much.

Annnnd, I don't know Sister B, but word on the street is, she believes in making forts and watching church videos after nightly planning on bad days. I am more than down. Off we go. :) A new adventure! Also, I can't say enough, how hard I have prayed for this for Sister T. I am so thankful that the Lord is blessing her with this growing opportunity. It's going to be the absolute best thing for her. :)

This week. Random things first:

-Last Monday we went and scampered around the Skyways for P-day to stay out of the cold. I loved seeing Minneapolis, city-walking and shopping. It was so good to spend time with the Hermanas. They're my best friends.  Hermana P and I have been apartment companions for eight months of our missisons! That's significant stuff. We got new clothes and post-cards and fro-yo and you know what? It was fun, but as soon as we got to go back to our area and see our investigator, I felt so much happier. Like. Nooo comparison. There is NOTHING that compares to how good it feels to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. F'real. There is nowhere else I'd rather be, nothing else I'd rather be doing.

-We found a little Thai place that looked so wrong, but tasted so right. I want to preface this story with the fact that my coat smells like an African kitchen at all times. (Which is maybe not the smell I'd wish on someone going to serve in a city of white people. But. I digress.) So we have some great Thai food, Sister T is in a whole new world, and we check out. We contact our waiter and talk a little about the gospel. I'm thinking, wow. He is a smiley guy over there! NO. We get outside, turns out, I had spilled curry ALLLLL down my coat. I kept looking down in shame and finding new dribbles. NO WONDER HE WAS SO PLEASANT. I made a stank face and said to Sister T, "I'm like Joseph." She said, "What?" I said, "Yes sir, Joseph and the amazing techniiiii-cultured DREAM COAT. I smell terrrrrible." She giggled so hard. I will miss her so much. I feel like my little bird is spreading her wings. There's no one I'd rather pass this sacred place off to.

-We go and read with Sister A, and she always gives us granola bars and General Authority quotes. Cutest. She's pretty elderly, so she loses things in her house a lot, so I decided to heart-attack her while we went over to read this week... and the only place I could think of that I KNEW she'd see it was the bathroom...? Soooo. I put them on the wall all around her TP dispenser. There's a sure-fire source of attention, AM I RIGHT? Hannnnyways. She came up in Gospel Principles, stood at the front of the class, and said, "Thanks for that note. That heart in my toilet. It was... it was my Valentine, wasn't it? That heart in my toilet?" Yes. Yes, it was.

-MOM! I have finally mastered your chocolate chip cookie recipe. I make a batch - I kid you not - every other day, and we deliver them by the masses. Crowd favorite. Makes me feel close to you. :)

It was a beautiful week to finish my time in Shingle Creek. PITCH-perfect. I can't tell you how good it has been serving here, learning persistence and patience and falling in love with these wonderful, spiritual people, over and over again. I have also loved seeing hearts soften in the ward. I have loved seeing time and again that this is the Lord's work, and that He loves us enough to let us participate in our small, human way. It has been a privilege working with these people and these ward members. I have spent allll morning just thanking the Lord with all my heart for blessing me with the past 7 or so months here. 

I have loved every inch of it. 

We had three wonderful lessons with N this week! N is a cutie Liberian investigator we picked up from the elders. They've been working with her family since September. The family has kind of fallen off the map, and there's a lot of unhealthy communication. The mom especially has some serious issues, which makes things really hard for everyone else. The elders went over to teach with President a few weeks ago, and N, their 16 year old, had run away from home. The mom had gotten police involved and was flipping out. So President told the elders to call us and send us in. WHAT? Ask me if I was horrified. So we go. And somehow, praying our guts out and relying totally on Heavenly Father, all these communication exercises and conflict resolution techniques are brought to my remembrance. Literally, no idea where they came from. It's so humbling. I had no idea what we did or said, but by the time we left, this place of yelling and betrayal and suspicion had turned into a place of prayer and study. It's incredible what the Lord can do. Afterward, N and her family asked that we teach them instead of the elders. (Ask me how awkward I felt. Prrrrrretty awkward.)

N is the most progressing in the family, and I loved her lessons this week. The first was with a sister in the ward who served a mission in Arizona. She's the most BOSS joint-teacher. We talked about fears she had about praying to know, talked about revelation and different ways we feel the Holy Ghost. (She's only been to African churches, where people "catch the Holy Spirit" and jump around screaming and falling to the floor. Don't even get me started.)  We loved seeing it click for her, that not only was it something we shouldn't fear, but that it's something she already feels. Realizing that she wasn't broken or disconnected, but that she can feel and recognize the Spirit, changed everything for her.

Our second lesson was on baptism and repentance, with one of the YW testifying about the blessings of the baptismal covenant. Aftewards, we gave her her study journal and asked what the Spirit had taught her. She said, "That I need to get baptized, REAAAL quick." We all laughed and I wanted to cry. A miracle! Someone who is ready after laboring with all I could for the last 5 or so months and seeing NOTHING. The Lord just threw her in our path. This truly is His work.

We left her with two dates to pray about. And I wish I could language the sweetness of sliding into the church bench next to her on Sunday and having her lean over, all smiles, pushing back a handful of her long blonde and black cornrows, and whisper, "I got my answer. It's going to be February 26th. I have permission, and I asked Brother E to baptize me." 

Our new investigator L continues to progress well, although she couldn't meet or make it to church this week because of double shifts, mediation, and clinicals. She is reading in the Book of Mormon and is in frequent contact with her fellowshippers in the ward. Also, we went classic 12-year-old and heart-attacked her door to brighten her week. :) Sister T and Sister A will continue helping her work towards March 15. What a blessing it has been to me to see two choice souls with courage and love of the Lord press forward despite adversity. I would do every exhausting, disappointing, heart-wrenching day the past few months all over again to feel the amount of Christlike joy and love I felt hearing N's answer this week, or taping flimsy foam hearts to Sister L's door. I'm so happy Sister T gets to be here to see these baptisms. :)

I feel like I can best sum up my feelings today by plagiarizing Alma. You know how it is.

 9 I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.

 10 And behold, when I see many of my brethren truly penitent, and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, yea, even that he hath heard my prayer; yea, then do I remember his merciful arm which he extended towards me.

 11 Yea, and I also remember the captivity of my fathers; for I surely do know that the Lord did deliver them out of bondage, and by this did establish his church; yea, the Lord God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, did deliver them out of bondage.

 12 Yea, I have always remembered the captivity of my fathers; and that same God who delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians did deliver them out of bondage.

 13 Yea, and that same God did establish his church among them; yea, and that same God hath called me by a holy calling, to preach the word unto this people, and hath given me much success, in the which my joy is full.

I know what God has asked of me, and I love it. The same God of Moses and Noah, the same God who appeared to Joseph Smith has called me here. He has blessed me with the past five transfers in Shingle Creek. And now, He is calling me to Cottage Grove. To Cottage :/ Sorry I'm tacky.

I know I'm where I need to be. I know that every time I see someone come unto Christ and feel His love, I am reminded and re-reminded of the immensity of what Christ has done for me. So, off to Cottage Grove. That I may be in an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance. 

This, is my joy.

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