Happy St. Patty's Day, people! Today is transfer calls and the verdict is: Still in Cottage Grove. Still with Sister B. Still having the best day of my life, every day. What the? I KNOW. :)
This week was as epic and climactic as the combined trek made in ALL THREE additions of Lord of the Rings. Think about that for a minute.
Our story starts this week with a burrito betrayal. That's right. Food poisoning. Chipotle barbacoa, you done me wrong. I was up allllll night Tuesday. :/ Got maybe an hour of sleep. But no worries, because the next morning was ZONE TRAINING and we had a 20 minute training as well as an hour-long sisters' conference afterwards. Literally, have no idea what I said. All I can say is, guidance of the Spirit is real. Also, I have never seen the elders weirder. "Is food poisoning contagious...?" ...NO. Hahaha, GALL. I've never gotten so many handshakes out of concern in my life. We're talking multiple times in the conversation. THIS IS AN ALTERNATE REALITY. ARM PATTING IS UNACCEPTABLE WHEN CONCERNED. But I got a blessing and all was well.
PLUS. We had the best training on asking inspired questions to discern and find needs. Oh man. If I typed it all out, it wouldn't even impress you, but we were being SPIRIT BOMBED up in there.
I loved Sisters' Conference! It is so cool to see them grow. We had each of them study a different talk on the Atonement, and then we had a wonderful discussion. It was so tender to see how the Spirit had directed us to choose a talk that could teach each of them what it was that they needed. I know that learning comes from Heavenly Father, and not at all from us. It was a blessing to see it! I love these sisters so, so much.
We got to do lots of service this week, in particular for our friend J, who has been meeting with the missionaries on and off for a YEAR. He's a flightly little guy, but we love him so much. He's so anti-norm. He's like the original hipster. I think I told you he's like Ron Swanson, and it's true. Anyway, this week, we worked in his junkyard with him. I USED A SLEDGEHAMMER TO DEMOLISH AN OLD ARCADE GAMING SYSTEM. Then I learned about screwdrivers and electrical wiring and took it apart. Unreal. But also, his love languages are definitely quality time and service, so it was so good. This information will be important later in the email. :) His heart just visibly softened over the course of those few hours. I love him so much! I love seeing the change in people when they really just feel loved. No alterior motives. Just Christlike love. Everybody's walls go down, because everybody's soul is yearning for that.
Also, maybe we took some selfies with his German shephards while he grabbed us tools. I'm not even mad about it.
We also found some Africans in Cottage Grove! The Lord does hear prayers. We knocked on the door of a potential I stopped in the library parking lot when I was backing Sister B a couple weeks ago, and SURPRISE. A jackpot of hilarious men from Camaroon. We didn't even get to teach them anything because they kept interrupting and laughing so hard and also quoting Bible verses. Oh, Africa. I have missed you. I was laughing so hard. The one kept coming in the back of the discussion and being like, "What's the address of your church?" Walks by again two minutes later. "I put it in my phone. It's 10 minutes away." Walks by again. "What time on Sunday?" But never stays still enough to be taught. Hahahaha. It was pleasant. Again. This is important later.
We got to visit with the P family this week! I don't know if I have talked about them yet, but they're the sweetest little African American family. Brother P is a baker, and is a single father of two teenagers, M and M. (M is 16 and I love her more than I know how to say.) We found them visiting a less-active. We felt like we should go knock upstairs in her complex, but didn't have much time, so we had to be really prayerful about picking the right door. And the Lord led us to the Ps. :) We got to share the Plan of Salvation with them this week, and they gobbled it right up. THIS IS IMPORTANT LATER.
We had a lesson with J, who was feeling super willing to meet after the service. J had a traumatic accident a couple years back and so as a result, has terrible short-term memory. That's been the biggest thing holding him back. That, and that HE WON'T PRAY. So anyways. We had a lesson with him on the Book of Mormon and faith, and he kept saying, "I try to read and I can't remember what I read. Why isn't God helping me?" And we were like... welll..... did you ASK him...? And he's like, "doesn't he just know?" So then I shared something I've learned a lot lately. That the Lord wants to counsel with us in ALL our doings. It's not selfless to only pray about the big things or to only pray about things you think He wants to hear. It's selfish. Because in reality, He knows everything in our hearts and minds every minute. And don't you think it hurts His great heart to see and feel these thoughts on our minds all the time, and then when we DO talk to Him, hear nothing about it? That has really hit me lately. And that really hit him. We promised if he'd ask, God would change his memory and help him remember what he reads.
SO. We stopped by to have him look at our bike-rack (no big deal, all the missionary cars have them. By their bike racks, ye shall know them. Only ours got broken in the car-wash... so.... Eh.) and asked him how reading went. He said praying went great. That he talked to the Lord for so long. Then he told us all about Alma 32. You know. THAT HE REMEMBERED. :) God does answer prayers! I hope I never forget how good it felt to hear that, to feel the Savior's joy at J's humility in asking. As we sat on his porch and shelled peanuts together, talking gospel, I just thought, yep. I hope this never ends.
We had a wonderful lesson with our investigator C this week about the Word of Wisdom. When we began teaching C a couple weeks ago, it was verrrrry apparent that she had Word of Wisdom issues. Her shelves were lined with alcoholic beverages and empty bottles, her counters with coffee, and she smelled like smoke. We were so stoked to finish the Plan of Salvation and invite her to receive these blessings! C is a single mom of a 17-year-old (whom we are working to get involved as well). After the death of her father especially, C suffers from depression and deep pain, which she self-medicates with addictive substances and false cheerfulness and ditzy-ness.
I wish I could express what a tender blessing it has been to see her embrace the gospel and to see those facades fall away as she relies on her Heavenly Father for the joy and strength she needs. When we began the Word of Wisdom lesson, she told us she'd never give up coffee or anything else. However, she connected perfectly with the joint-teacher, and by the end, we were hefting a moving box of alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee to the car. The faith of this woman made me want to bawl. She's like King Lamoni. She's giving away all her sins to KNOW Him. SHE GAVE UP EVERYTHING. She was radiant. Someone had given her the Gospel Principles manual, and she's been cross-referencing the Pearl of Great Price, the Old Testament, and the Book of Mormon...!! The ward is really reaching out to embrace her. We love her, the Lord loves her, and she is getting baptized in April! Oh man. She is seriously Mormon already.
P.S. Friday night, we have these little step-tracker things that help us track how frequent and far we are walking, because physical activity is linked to brain health. It also tells you how many calories you've burned a day. The research is being sent into Salt Lake right now, but every time we talk to an elder, we hear where they're at, and then we try to out-step them. Friday night, we were soooo behind on steps. So we came home and literally ran two miles of circles around the house. For like an hour. In our proselyting clothes. It was the weirdest, funniest thing ever. What's even better is that our member-mom joined us, and ran with us for that long. We were dying. Dipping around the coffee table. This cutie 50 year old is laughing and saying, "ooh, a new route!" as we run through all the rooms in the house. Maybe you had to be there. But. I like this place.
Okay. Now, Saturday. Biggest trial of our faith. We had a church tour? Fell through. No less-actives that we had prayerfully planned for were home. We'd feel the Spirit about somewhere, go there? Nothing. We drove all the way to Wisconsin. Nothing. But we stayed happy. We stayed positive. We kept praying with gratitude for the miracles that were coming. For the blessing it was to be guided, even if we didn't know at ALL why. We got to have a lesson with H again, and he's living the Word of Wisdom. (We snatched his coffee, though. I mean just in case...) He said the best closing prayer and prayed for a baptismal date. HELLO. Highlight of our long, wild-goose-chase-day. But still. Hard day.
COME SUNDAY, WE THREW THE RING INTO MORDOR AND RETURNED TO THE SHIRE METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING. Listen to this. We wake up to a text from C. It says, Good morning, see you at church! We go to try to wake up H. How many 21 year old kids want two random girls throwing shoes at them to get them to church? Not that many? Cool. Neither did H. It worked two weeks ago, but not that day. We did everything we could, but he wouldn't get out of bed. But we stayed positive, and called the Ps, because we'd said in their lesson that we would come by to show them the way to church. (We say that to everyone... very few people actually take us up on it.) No, so LISTEN. I call, and they're like, great, we're waiting outside. Proceed to follow us to church and be dressed perfectly, BLASTING GOSPEL BEATS. Is this real?
It is, and wait for this. I'm hanging up my coat and get a call from a weird number. It's the house-full of Africans. They say they're on their way (we haven't even TAUGHT THEM YET) and ask if they can sit anywhere. Um... Yeah, I guesssssss so. It was unreal. I had to pinch myself. Then, cutie Brother H in the ward scuttles over and tells me his daughter, who we teach once a week, is there. EVERYONE CALM DOWN, THERE ARE SEVEN INVESTIGATORS TO CHURCH. HOW DID THAT EVEN HAPPEN. It was miracle after miracle. The whole ward was just looking around and beaming at us. I wanted to run laps around the pews and high-five EVERYBODY!
So then that afternoon, we don't have much time, so we pray real hard and whooooop. Teach two people who happen to be home. First try. Then we go to the President's Fireside, because J promised to come again. But wait, he bails. We call the Africans. They're in St. Paul, but willing to meet us there. (WE STILL HAVEN'T TAUGHT THEM ANYTHING HOW IS THIS HAPPENING) We get to Bloomington and they call and say they'll be there in 15. They call back and say, "I said 50." We panic. We ask one of the assistants what we can do to be productive with the time while we send our members in to the devotional. They jokingly say, "Blitz the area?" Without a map or car. Cool. We grab our coats and run out. Totally led by the Spirit. Find some townhomes. First door we knock, lady invites us in, tells us her life's story. We share the restoration. The Africans call after the closing prayer. We sprint back to the mission home. They hear the final testimony. We teach them over the refreshments.
It was the most joyous, miracle-filled day ever. It felt not real. I know that it came from the Lord, and I know it came because we were faithful and positive through the hard days this week. I know that's true for all of us. During the hard times, we are storing up blessings. The Lord notes every faithful service and sacrifice. it's all real, it's all true. This is His work. I love being a part of it!