I hope everyone had a good week. Mine was full of lovely weather - cloudy, windy, and cool. Sister Jaya doesn't like it, she and the locals are always exclaiming, "Malimig, malimig!" (cold). Yesterday, I found myself even a little chilly! A miracle, right? I love it.
I find myself again without much to tell you all, though more than last week at least. So I'm sorry if my email seems, once again, a little less than super exciting, I'm sorry. I'll try and find a python to wrestle with so I have a riveting story to tell you next week. Exciting things that have happened this week...
I had the first hot shower I've had in eight weeks. Mind you, it was still a bucket shower, but while I was still majorly sniffling with my cold, the last thing I wanted to do was take a freezing shower. Sister Pace suggested I boil some water for my bucket, and though I was hesitant, I went for it. Mixing the boiling water with the freezing provided me with a delightfully warm shower. After the first scoop of water, I felt like a thousand knots in my body were immediately loosened. Since then, I've done the boil water routine every night. I love my warm showers. Everybody be jealous.
Funny moment: I was having fun with a towel around my shoulders and an umbrella in my hand, and Sister Jaya says, "You know, with your hair like that, you look like Diana." Knowing immediately that she meant Princess Di, I giggled for a long time, dancing around like a fool. So apparently, I'm Molly Ringwald, Marilyn Monroe, Barbie, and Princess Di. My portfolio of people that I-don't-actually-look-like-
My mail continues to trickle in, and I've gotten a few Christmas cards now. Thank you to the Mumford's, the Travisano's, the Toronto's, the Petersen's, and Grandma Margaret. You're all awesome!
My reading of the Bible has slowed, putting me in the middle of Exodus. I've turned my attention to Jesus the Christ, which is an 800 page book that James E. Talmage wrote. Having picked it up earlier in my mission, I had read up to chapter six of it with difficulty. It's very beautifully written in rich english, but sometimes it can be hard to read, and most missionaries have told me that it's the "last resort" for reading. But for some odd reason, this week I started to devour it, and in the past week alone, I read to chapter 21, breezing through over two hundred pages like it was a bit of light reading. And I LOVE it. Wow, this book is incredible. So detailed in the chronological life and the works of Christ, and then on top of that, it really explains some difficult doctrines that I had been confused on before. Just this week, I feel like I've grown so much in the knowledge of our Savior's life and His teachings and miracles. So many things that I didn't know before were made clear to me. I seriously love this book.
We visited Jon Maldo again, the older man we tracted, who quoted scripture to us. He graciously accepted us and we explained the Book of Mormon in more detail since he was a little confused why the prophets in the Book of Mormon didn't appear in the Bible. While we were explaining, he quoted a lot more bible verses at us, which although could seem annoying, I rather enjoyed. I found it extremely cool that this man knew so much scripture by heart, and in English to boot. I feel like I really about getting better about loving the people. We had a little hiccup with Jon Maldo about the Godhead. He told us they were just one, and even after we explained the separate beings of the Godhead with the aid of a scripture in Matthew, and after we all seemed to agree that the Godhead are only one in purpose, he still seemed a little tripped up on it. Sensing his argumentative nature, Sister Jaya expertly turned the discussion back to the Book of Mormon, which Jon Maldo promised to read. He's so intelligent, and he said that he enjoyed talking to us.
The next day was Sunday, and Sister Jaya and I were again discouraged as none of our investigators walked through the door. We sat in dejection for the first half of sacrament meeting, when Sister Jaya slapped my arm and motioned to the window. Flying out the door, we found none other than Jon Maldo walking hesitantly up to the church! YES YES YES. And there was much rejoicing! We brought him in and he listened quietly to the speakers. Toward the end of sacrament meeting, a member nudged me and pointed outside. Confused, I walked outside to see the Lotivio family, our investigators who had made no indication of a firm commitment to come! The mother and father stood nervously outside with their two small girls, and we practically dragged them inside, waving aside their apology for being late with big smiles.
Jon Maldo only stayed for sunday school, and although I think he had a nice experience, he went off a little at the end when given a chance to speak about how the Godhead is one again. Elder Wilcox was looking pointedly at me while our investigator passionately quoted the bible to our instructor and he showed me a note that said, "Note to Sisters: Cover the Godhead" and we were just frantically nodding at him that we did. Jon Maldo is religious, that's for sure. I'm still hopeful for him. He came to church, didn't he? Progressing! The Lotivios stayed for the remainder of the block, the mother going to nursery with her kids and the father attending priesthood. I'm so happy about them, especially since they hadn't come the last three times they committed to. I hope they had a good experience and maybe this opens them up a little more to us. How cool is that though? After so much discouragement, God softened the hearts of our investigators! I feel a little more on track now.
Another odd miracle is that we ran into the Cantreras kids - two little girls that told us that they didn't want us to teach them anymore - and they attacked us with hugs and demands of why we never came to see them anymore. We were confused, but delighted. Now, we're teaching their inactive mother, them, and their old brother and sister. And last time we taught them, the kids all committed to a baptismal date of March 1st! Crazy miracles happening right and left!
Things are finally happening!
I received a lot of compliments on the musings of last week's email, so I thought it'd be okay for me to give another blurp at the close of my email. Hope you don't mind.
We taught a lot of less actives this week, which reminded me of a talk that I recently read from last year's October General Conference from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf called, "Come, Join with Us". If you're interested in reading, here's the link: http://www.lds.org/
I was struck by the sincerity in Uchtdorf's words as he beautifully implored all less active members of the church to return and reminded them of how much they are loved and appreciated. He also talks about members in the church who are perhaps feeling less than appreciated or perhaps considering ending their dealings with the church and urging them to try and remember why they started to love the church in the first place. This talk isn't a demand, but an invitation, and he so perfectly reminds us that, "In this Church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth. It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the Church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves."
I appreciated that reminder and second that wholeheartedly. There can be any number of reasons why someone becomes inactive in the church, some of which are outlined in Uchtdorf's talk, but that doesn't mean that they're condemned or forgotten! Of course not! As a missionary, part of my job is to help less actives remember the joy and love they felt while active, and as we say so often in conviction and pathos, "How great is my calling!" Since these emails are published to an online blog, I felt the need to make it clear that if you are inactive or perhaps struggling in your faith, you are not condemned, you are not weak. You are loved, and as Uchtdorf puts so eloquently, your talents are needed in the church, your viewpoint, your experiences.
This talk mentions one of my favorite scriptures in the Bible, and since then, the simple verse has been hitting me again and again, and was further clarified by me researching it in Jesus the Christ. When Christ was born on the earth, the common conception of the Messiah was a political figure that would strongly defeat the Romans and free God's chosen people (of Abrahamic lineage) from their tyranny. At one turning point, accounted in John chapter six, when Christ outright states his purpose in the world and debunks that theory, explaining that he is the bread of life and all men that accept him may have eternal life, it caused many people of his thousands of disciples and followers to turn away from him and seek him no more. Even His apostles were a little miffed with this new information! At that, Christ turns to them, after seeing probably hundreds leave, and he asks, "Will ye also go away?"
I literally can't read that sentence without emotion rushing through me. Christ is asking His apostles, his friends if they are also going to leave him, if they're also going to turn away. They aren't just bodies or servants to him. He cared if they left, because he loves them.
Will ye also go away?
And then Peter answers on behalf of them all saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
I love the way Elder Uchtdorf ends his talk: "There are times when we have to answer the same question. Will we also go away? Or will we, like Peter, hold fast to the words of eternal life?
If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us! If you have left the faith you once embraced: Come back again. Join with us! If you are tempted to give up: Stay yet a little longer. There is room for you here.I plead with all who hear or read these words: Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him. Come, join with us! For here you will find what is precious beyond price."
I would be lying if I said I have never doubted the faith I have. I would be lying if I said that there haven't been times of confusion, fear, or wretched feelings of if I'm in the right place. I would be lying if I said that I have never been backed into a corner. I would be lying if I said that I had never been offended by someone or had a question that made me ask questions. But after all of that, I know that if Christ stood before me and asked me those words, "Will ye also go away?", I could not answer in any other way than by holding firmly to the faith that I do have and replying:
"Lord, to whom shall I go?"
I'm on a mission because I know it's where I'm supposed to be. I have a testimony of this gospel, a dedication to this church that no one can take away from me. Despite the hardships, I know that there is no where I would go that could bring me more joy, more truth, than here. I'm here to do the Lord's work. Sometimes it's hard to keep that in my sights, but this is why I'm here: To invite others to come unto Christ. I again testify to Elder Uchtdorf's words and say that if you've left, there is always room here. If you've found yourself backed into a corner and are thinking about leaving, please don't. Remember how loved you are. You are not condemned, please don't think you can't come back.
Come, join with us.
I hope all of you have a great week. I love and miss all of you, and I hope you don't mind my occasional rants.
"Called to Serve"
"The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends" - Oklahoma
"Radioactive" - Imagine Dragons