It was a toughy for sure. Possibly one of the most trying weeks so far in my mission, but in the oddest way, which is perhaps why it was difficult to prescribe a solution for. Though we reached the Standard again this week and then some, we had a few experiences this week that tried our spirits. For example, on Wednesday we tracted a woman who lives and works the majority of the year in Canada, so she is sobrang magaling sa English. They let us in, and we start the lesson. When we were trying to answer questions about the Book of Mormon, she interrupted and said in a very good valley-girl accent that seemed to just be her normal tone of voice, "So like what you're saying is like that you're right, and everyone else on this whole planet is wrong." We tried explaining kindly that our purpose is to share the gospel and we allow all men the privilege of worshiping how they want, but she went off on her religious journey tale and told us she isn't part of a denomination because all of them are corrupt, and as long as she doesn't hurt anyone's feelings, she's squared away with God. She then zeroed in on me with the most condescending look and asked, "What do you think? Am I like on the right path?" Now, I was struggling not to run away at that point. Ironically, the thing that was hardest in the conversation was her speaking in English. I have experienced tough investigators before, but the fact that this woman was speaking English to me someone muddled my brain. She later told me, "I think it's so cute how you're trying to speak in Tagalog to me." Ouch! We walked out of that lesson more or less unscathed, but it was the first time I was truly grateful beyond imagination that I am not serving in an English speaking mission. I don't like English and we were both really shaken with how the woman hadn't even let us get a word in. Half of me wants to march back there and tell her, "You know what? No. Being nice isn't enough. There is a straight and narrow path that I want to tell you about. And I'm going to do it all in my cute Tagalog too."
Sister Siola'a and I were also yelled at by a less active this week too, who's husband made the mistake of finally letting us in. After teaching the husband for a few minutes, the wife came in and asked the husband why didn't he come when she called. He told her that we were just finishing up, and she said, "Fine, I'll talk to them." She told us, in affect, "Why do you keep coming back here? What's the point? We aren't ever going to come back, so why keep trying? You are making my family fight all the time and you're confusing my children. You are making things hard. Just stop trying to teach us! We're never going to come back." Now, that's just a sample a very long speech in rapid Tagalog that left me confused, left Sister Siola'a in tears, and the husband sitting there looking mortified. So I testified about the lesson, we prayed, we left. And Sister Siola'a was so made and sad and I was just trying to absorb it all.
The third experience is that Sister Siola'a and I seem to be having a turf war with another religion. Our astig golden investigator, Annie, didn't come to general conference, which means her baptismal date is pushed back. We went to her house on the appointed day to talk about it, and a representative from this other religion, which shall remain nameless, was there. We knew who she was from past experiences. We aborted and taught another lady, and upon our return, seeing she was still there, we just walked right in, since the lady knew it was our day to teach. The woman hurriedly gathered her things, apologizing because she just figured she would "stop by". I felt like a divorcee, silently sitting and waiting for the other spouse to leave to child that we shared at my house. We shook hands, and then she was gone. I was so worried that Annie was going to tell us that this other religion was started to change her mind, but on the contrary, Annie said that she is more comfortable with us and she wants to be baptized, but sh'es shy and doesn't know how to tell the other woman not to come by anymore. She revealed to us that the reason why she didn't come to the conference was because on the morning of, she was all set to go to church when a tricey (like a taxi) showed up outside, sent by the other religion to collect Annie. I was absolutely irritated with the fact that Annie could have had a gorgeous experience at conference and it was thwarted.
All in all, there were a lot of reasons to be discouraged this week, more than usual. And I didn't stay as positive as I wanted to be or as much as I should have been. And on Saturday night, I walked home with exhaustion in my heart, discouragement creeping into my soul making me ache all over. I heard that woman's words again in my ears, but coming from a much more dangerous source: "Why do you keep trying? What's the point? Things won't change. You're just making things hard for yourself. Just stop trying! They'll never listen to you." As the sons of Mosiah felt in Alma 26:27, my heart was depressed, and I was about to turn back. Turn back from optimism, turn into myself in pity instead of outward in charity. But after much moaning and groaning to poor Sister Lang, who sat quietyly waiting for me to figure out my own answer, the other half of that verse was fulfilled: "...behold, the Lord comforted [me] and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites (Filipinos), and bear with patience your afflictions, and I will give unto you success."
Of course, I came to my senses, realizing all the good things that happened this week. Wana, an old duck of a woman easily (almost too easily) committed to baptism and circled the date on her calendar with a devout pledge of "Okay, I'll be ready!" Another investigator read her assignment without being hounded to. Another is getting excited about family history. A tract in the first lesson started crying during her closing prayer. We randomly found who we thought when we tracted them were potential investigators, but then turned out to be what we thought were former investigators, who then we found out were actually in-actives from 1985 who love missionaries.
Yet, "notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me His great and marvelous works", I felt my strength slackening (2Ne4). I felt, as Nephi did, encompassed about by the enemy of my soul.
In case you were wondering if I was going to tell you all this icky experiences and then leave you hanging, just hold on. I'm getting there. There is a purpose. Anyway, then, after much frustration, I remembered the lyrics of an old Girls' Camp song: "He promised me there would ever be anything that I could not overcome. His power is more than enough...Because in the strength of the Lord, I can do all things. He knows how to change the weakness in me. So I will let His love lift me up. He believes I can do hard things if I will trust Him and walk forward in the strength of the Lord." I felt strong again, and I almost wished Satan had a body just so I could punch him in the face.
I remember that this week is Holy Week, which is a big deal in the Phillies since 80% of the population is Catholic. This is the week Jesus Christ atoned for us with His love-filled sacrifice. I feel like people focus on the fact that Jesus took on the sins of the world, but don't forget He also took on the pain. The disappointments. The broken hearts, the hate, the loneliness. I know compared to most, my personal lot in life is nothing but a mosquito bite, but to me, I'm tempted to point to parts of my life and say yes, THAT was pain. I'm tempted to think the phrase, "No one understands what I went through". But there is One who did, One who took on my burden and tells me I don't have to carry it anymore. He took my sins, and yours, my pain and yours and makes it possible for us to be free again. Because of the Atonement, the discouragement I felt this week isn't mine alone to bear. The homesickness and the exhaustion is carried by someone stronger than I am. Isn't that wonderful? We are never alone! Even walking home the Saturday night, when I nostalgically looked at the stars and yearned for something, anything familiar, I still wasn't ever, not even for a second forsaken.
I remembered this week the words of one of my favorite Hymns, "I Stand All Amazed".
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.
I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
When I was younger, I remember singing those last words from the chorus in sacrament meeting. I remember when once I leaned over and asked my mom, "Why do we say that? Why do we say that it's wonderful that he died?" Well, little me, I have the answer now. If He didn't die, we couldn't live. Without Him, we'd be lost. His sacrifice was nothing short of wonderful.
My marveling did not stop there. It continued yesterday, Easter Sunday, the day we acknowledge the Pagkabuhay na Muli, or Resurrection of Christ. Because He broke the chains of death, we all will live again. And our bodies will be perfect, even as His is. What a promise! Of course I had already been grateful for that, but God sent me a reminder in the form of a man named Tony. We walk by Tony's shop a lot, and he's always smiled so big and reached out to clasp our hands through the window bars. We later found out from his sister that Tony had a major stroke in January. We visited him yesterday. Because of his medical condition, Tony can't speak more than baby babble. He understands, but cannot reply unless you can understand his odd speech. The stroke hit half of his body. The muscles in his right leg, arm, and the ones in his chest have deteriorated, leaving those parts of his body looking like a child's' and leaving Tony nearly immobile. I watched as he had to pick up one hand and move it with his other to have them both placed reverently in his lap. And as we taught him the first lesson and watched his eyes light up and hear his excited babble, I felt overwhelmingly grateful that because Jesus Christ rose from the dead, we will too with perfect minds and bodies. Like it says in Alma 4):23, "The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame:. Looking at Tony, I felt filled with light, thinking of how wonderful it will be when Tony's body is restored and I meet him as a resurrected being. Because Jesus Christ rose from the grave, "where o death is now thy sting"?
Things aren't temporary. In this month's general conference, Dieter F. Uchtdorf said it beautifully: "In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings. Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless13 and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny. The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."
Endings are not our destiny. I am so grateful for Easter. After the week I had, I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father for gently reminding me of His Son's sacrifice and triumph. I'm grateful for my trials, this week and it any other, that in some small way I can gain eternal perspective. I'm grateful that Jesus Christ loves us enough that He died for us, that "with his stripes we are healed" (Mosiah 14:5). I'm grateful for the Resurrection and the priceless gift of immortality that is given to all mankind. No matter how tough life is, that is something to rejoice over. No matter how bleak the situation is, like Tony taught me, there is always a reason to smile. I think Neal A. Maxwell said it best when he affirmed, "We say, humbly but firmly that it is the garden tomb - not life - that is empty."
I know my Redeemer lives.
Happy Easter, everyone!
All my love,