Monday, November 19, 2012

THE CHAPTER'S END

We found four new investigators this week. The Spirit led us straight to this one guy who is  elect but has a lot of problems with faith. He wants to know God is there but doesn't think he can trust feelings because he's had good feelings about things before and had them turn out to be lies. He feels like scientifically he has to prove that there is a God. It's weird because he said his life goal is to know God but at the same time he hasn't been able to be convinced yet that God is there. He's crazy smart. He has a genius IQ but works at McDonald's  ecause he doesn't know how to channel his intelligence. The other girl we met is in high school and sincerely felt the spirit when we talked to her and committed to reading the Book of Mormon right away. Her mom joined the church when she was a baby so she doesn't know anything about the church but wants to know everything. The other two we added are a father and son. The father is in our Ward Mission Leader's drug rehab support group and he's already in the middle of the Book of Mormon. He showed up at church yesterday with his son and wants to be taught.

We had a lesson at Shirdy's this week with his mom and Adam and Maelyn. Shirdy calls me Vegas and he kept telling me that I don't belong in the city but I belong in the country. He said over and over again, "What're you gonna do if you get home and your mommy answers the door and takes one look at you and says she don't want you no more and shuts the door?" Then I'd respond, "I guess I'll have to turn around and come back here to Kentucky." "You hear that, Adam? We'll make a country girl outta her yet!" Then I'd say, "You don't really wish that on me though, do you, Shirdy?" He'd laugh, "I aint sayin'." Then came his favorite part, "Oh, Vegas, I'd give anything to have my eyes (his eyesight) back to see you livin' in the country, barefoot and pregnant in the garden with some chaw in your mouth and your teeth fallin' out! I'd give anything in the world to see that." "Shirdy! I like my teeth right where they are, thank you very much!" "I'm serious, Vegas. We'll find you a nice country boy without no job and you can settle down and become one of us." "No job?" "Well, yeah. None of the other girls have husbands with jobs. It would be unfair to get you one that did." Adam and Maelyn were rolling. He kept insisting that that is what is in my destiny: pregnant, no teeth or shoes and married to a bum. How romantic. 


I finally asked him, "Why, out of all the missionaries you've met, are you so set on ME being the one who comes back and turns into a hillbilly?" That's when he dropped the jokes and got all serious and sentimental and said it's because I'm the one who has the heart and soul of someone from the hills. It was very sweet. All kidding aside, the people here in Kentucky have some of the purest, humblest hearts I've ever come across. It was one of the best compliments I've ever been paid to be told I have a heart like one of them. Then Adam broke the silence by saying the real reason I'm the one Shirdy wants to see in the country is because I'm such a city girl that they'd all be entertained hearing me scream and squawk anytime a bug popped up. All we did was laugh and laugh that night. Shirdy shared his conversion story with us and I think it's a really good tradition that's been started of Saturday night pizza night at Shirdy's.

I don't know what else to say. This week has been surreal. Sister Ford and I can't believe this transfer went by as quickly as it did. It's been an emotional week. I think I've done a pretty good job of blocking out the thought of going home until this week. But Sister Ford and I have been talking and crying together about how when the mission is over, it's a chapter that's complete. You don't come back to it the same way it was before. I'm going to really miss Sister Ford. We feel like when we met last Christmas that we weren't forming a friendship, we were picking up where one had left off. We feel like we were best friends in the pre-existence and promised each other we'd serve missions and find each other here on earth. What a blessing that the Lord let us keep that promise. We're convinced we were besties with the Vonnahmes and Adam and Maelyn and Sister Smith and June, too. Maybe not all eight of us were good friends before, but that Sister Ford and I were inseparable up there and so when the Vonnahmes came by to say hi to one of us the other was always there. The same goes for Adam and Maelyn and Sister Smith and June. You couldn't be my friend without being Sister Ford's and vice verse. Oh, and we were best friends with Moroni and Teancum, of course, too.

I've done a lot of being grateful this week. I've been overwhelmed with how blessed I've been to be a missionary and to meet the people I've met and witness the miracles I've witnessed and learned the lessons I've learned and feel the way that I've felt. I'm too blessed. Just too blessed.
I know that Christ lives. I know that He died for me because even though He knows I'm imperfect, He sees potential in the person I can be and the happiness I can receive. He loves me enough to let me learn and grow and struggle. He loves me enough to rescue me when my head is about to go under because I can't tread water anymore. He has sent me His gospel through prophets and scriptures. He has given me access to His Atoning sacrifice through His priesthood power which is on the earth.
There is a plan for me and it's one that results in happiness. I don't have to be alone in this fight I've been sent to fight. Nothing here will last forever, but if I make the best of the things I have while I have them, I can one day hold on to happiness and joy and peace FOREVER and let go of pain and sadness and turmoil FOREVER. Hurray!!! This is all because of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. I know that they restored the gospel and the plan and the priesthood to the earth through a valiant man named Joseph Smith Jr. They've given me gifts of instruction in the Bible and the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. They've given me prayer and church and family and commandments all to allow me to be happy now. They are very much aware of me and of my everyday life. They move in my life constantly. I love them and cannot ever thank them for everything they've done and will continue to do for me. My mission has blessed me profoundly and permanently. It has been the greatest gift and opportunity and blessing of my life.

I love you all. Thank you for every prayer and thought and letter and email and sacrifice you've given in my behalf. I'm too, too blessed.

I'll be seeing/talking to you all very soon.


The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sister Brooke Nelson

Friday, November 16, 2012

A HILLBILLY OPERATION

One score and maybe two years ago, in a barren land far, far away from the hills of Kentucky, in a home that is now occupied by a Skeksi named Derek, his Gelfling wife Lindsey, and their Podling children, there lived a half-Lamanite couple called the Larkins. In later years they would have three children join their family. But at that time they didn't have any. So, to fill the time until their kids would join them, the wife, Laura, took a liking to keeping a little girl who lived two streets away named Brooke. Brooke loved being with Laura. Her days at Laura's were spent singing and twirling and coloring and eating Nilla Wafers with frosting. One of Brooke's favorite things about being at Laura's was being able to play Laura's electric organ. Brooke would smash and squash those keys as fiercely as her 4 year-old hands could pound keys. As she played she could just feel herself becoming the next Phantom of the Opera. These were glorious times. One day tragedy struck: In the midst of one of Brooke's powerful, moving organ sessions, her arms flying, and notes ringing out in poetic chaos, she was overcome with the passion she felt for the music and lost her balance atop the bench on which she stood. As she fell to the stone floor beneath her, the bench itself toppled, shoving the wheels at the bottom of the bench's legs directly in line with the trajectory of little Brookie's big toe. The two collided. The unfortunate angle at which the wheel hit Brooke's toe somehow managed to slice into her, removing her toenail entirely from her body. The girl hit the ground and the nail bounced and ricocheted along the tile until it slowed to a stop and rested amidst a puddle of blood. Naturally, Brooke began singing out cries of agony. Laura, puzzled by the shift of sounds came running to the girl's aid. Through time, young Brooke recovered. The nail grew back, but never again in the same way it had before.


Twenty-three years later, Brooke recorded the following story:


At the beginning of this week, my toe began started giving me trouble. It was sore. Within a few days if anything touched it, it pulsed with pain. I figured this must be the dreaded "ingrown toenail" I had heard so much about from people like Joel and Dad but had never experienced for myself. I racked my brain to think of what it was I was supposed to do to take care of it. I realized that I had no idea. I would just laugh at Joel or Dad's pain and then go back to watching Rugrats or Doug or whatever it was that Nickelodeon was playing at the time. So, I called Adam. I figured that since he's lived all over the world with the army that he'd know all about them and what to do to get rid of them. I called him up and asked how to tell if I had an ingrown toenail and we decided that I did in fact have an ingrown toenail. I asked how to get rid of it. He said to come over the next day and he'd get rid of it for me. Sounded good to me. So, the next night I hobbled into his house wearing a pair of slippers because anything else was too painful for me to wear on my foot. I don't know what I was expecting. I thought it would hurt, but I didn't realize HOW MUCH it would hurt. I mean, when he sat down all he had in his hands was a pair of fingernail clippers so it couldn't be that bad, right?


Wrong. He started in with the clippers and I started grabbing onto the couch to hold myself still once I realized how badly it was going to hurt. Then he pulled out his pocket knife. That's when I started freaking out. He told me to calm down and told me whatever I did not to move my foot or he or I would get cut. I was like, "Isn't that what you intend to do with that knife: cut me?" Maelyn offered to sit on my leg to keep me from moving it. I thought of Joseph Smith and promised that I could hold my foot still as long as they'd let me watch the whole thing so that nothing would catch me off guard. Sister Ford sat next to me and offered her hand as a squeeze toy and believe me, I squoze that hand purple. They gave me something to bite on, but that didn't stop my yelling and trying to bargain with him to stop and my accidental outbursts of humming the Star Spangled Banner to try and keep me from yelling non-missionary words. The poor dogs. You know how they have 6 of them? Well, three of them were terrified and three of them were smothering me trying to lick me and make sure I was ok. My cat, Delilah even came over and tried to calm me down. It was not a pretty sight, I'm sure. Maelyn's dad is always home but stays in the back bedroom and they bring him all of his food and he never leaves the place. Even he came out to see what was going on. Of course we were all laughing the whole time (it was the only thing I could do to keep myself from crying). But then Adam told me that if I needed to cry I could because this was the worst ingrown toenail he's ever seen. How? How did I get such a bad toe? The only thing I can think of is how when I was little the entire thing was ripped off and I couldn't walk forever. The nail has never grown in a straight line since. Anyways, Adam got to the point where he asked Maeyln where the razor blade was so I begged him to stop. Just for a second so that I could psych myself up so that I wouldn't freak out and kick and either lose my toe or make him lose his finger. I have no idea how long we were sitting there with me singing/screaming and the dogs howling and Maeyln and Adam yelling at each other at how to do it and Sister Ford silently allowing me to squeeze her hand in two. It seemed like a half hour. But Sister Ford just told me it was really only about 15 minutes. Phew. It was crazy. The only other time I've been in more pain that's intense pain like that in such a concentrated amount of time was when I lived in China and kept having to go back to the dentist to get those medicine-less route canals. Yikes. It was only AFTERwards that I found out that most people go to the doctor and get all numbed up and make a procedure out of getting those things removed. I can see why. When I asked Adam and Maelyn about it they said, "Yeah, some people go to the doctor to get them removed, but out in the country we use a razor blade. It works the same way and it's not near as expensive." Gosh. So, I had my own hillbilly operation this week, thanks to Dr. Lay and Nurse Collins. Maelyn's dad said he was most impressed with my ability not to curse. So, maybe this will open doors for him to actually start learning more about the crazy Mormons that are always at his house that he's never cared enough to talk to. By the way, my foot is feeling loads better.


We had a good week with Adam and Maelyn, despite my operation. Adam still has some fundamental questions about the priesthood and Joseph Smith though so we're trying to resolve those by reading the Book of Mormon with him. Maelyn seems to be doing a lot better lately. She finally had a moment where she felt like she recognized the Spirit talking to her! She was so excited! And now she's more determined to feel it again. They came to church yesterday which always makes things better. Sister Ford spoke in Sacrament Meeting and I gave the Sunday School lesson so it was nice not to have to worry about people offending them over the pulpit like happens a lot out here.


We added a new investigator this week who is the mother of three and whose husband was just this week deployed to Afghanistan. She seems like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Hopefully she'll let us back in like she said she would. I know she'll find peace through Christ.


The Corbin Sisters came up this week for a blitz and we had a great time. When they came they had two presents for me: a jar of peaches from Sherry and a t-shirt from Otis. They're the only two people who know I'm in Berea and I think it's hilarious and sweet of them to both want to send me gifts now that they know I'm so close. The shirt Otis sent me is so adorable because he sent a note with it about how he's been looking and looking for this ever since he met me and just barely found one. He knows I like UK and UK's colors are blue and black. But he also knows that my favorite color is red. Red is the color of UK's rival. He's been trying in vain to find me a red UK shirt ever since. I guess he finally found on the other day and bought it and couldn't wait to send it to me. It's red tie-dye. I love it. And him.


There's a young couple I think I've told you all about here named Michael and Jan and they have a little baby named Skylar. We're working with them on getting married and after we told them about eternal marriage they decide dthey wanted to get married now so that one day they could all go to the temple. So we've been trying to help them start making plans for their wedding. Jan told us that she wants a John Deere wedding dress... we suggested maybe a John Deere sash to go with her wedding dress. She didn't know what a sash was so we explained it to her and she decided she wants a John Deere sash that says, "Jan and Michael" in tractors AND she wants a John Deere wedding dress. She also insists that she's wearing camo boots under her dress and they're getting married on horses... So if any of you see any John Deere sashes/dresses, let me know.. haha.


I think Berea is the first area I've been in where visiting less-actives is actually productive. Sister Ford and I have visited about 10 less actives in the last two weeks and about 7 or 8 have actually come to church because of it! It's a miracle! I don't know what's different out here that wasn't in Corbin or Salem, but something's working. And we're getting referrals out of them, too. Hallelujah!


I haven't done quotes of the week in a couple weeks because I've been too depressed, so I figured I'd make up this week with a bunch that have happened this week. I'll just go ahead and explain them now, as well. No extra blessings this week, but that's to be expected. No one wants to waste a stamp on the poor lonely girl who they'll see in a week or two... haha. Don't feel bad, I'm just joking. I've slowed my letter writing down, too, because I'll be able to call/see you all soon enough.


Sister Ward who is very timid and serving in Corbin was telling us about her personal scripture study and said, "I've decided I want to be bold like Moroni" and then she added once the realized the rest of Moroni's story, "But not to the point where I threaten their life!" Haha. Like we assumed she'd ever threaten anyone's life.


Sister Ford went and started her study early the other morning and I didn't understand why so she explained, "I wanted to motivate myself to exercise to I ate a brownie. It didn't work."


The blind guy, Shirdy, had us and Adam and Maelyn over the other night and he asked Adam, "You ever been in a room when a baby was born?" Adam said "no". Then Shirdy paused and thought for a second and said, "Then where was you when you was born?" Haha.


Sister Ford is too funny sometimes and it makes me laugh real hard and then I start coughing and wheezing because I'm an asthma child. The other day she was making me laugh so hard that she finally said, "I'll stop being funny so you don't die."


There's a lady we teach who takes care of her father-in-law all day and whenever we leave their house he says, "Make sure you take him with ya in the back seat! Jesus, that is." Don't worry, we do. Though it has sparked a new question in me: does Jesus need to wear a seatbelt? He's God so he can't get hurt, but he probably obeys traffic laws, so I'm not sure.


When Sister Ward and I were on our splits this week we were led to two or three houses of people who didn't accept our message, but who I could tell were very spiritual people. They all seemed to be genuinely happy that we were out doing what we're doing and commented on how much they respect Mitt Romney. I know that it must have been hard on several of you when Romney lost the election this week. But I've seen first hand the great publicity he gave to the church. Eventually we were led to a man who opened the door and talked to us about Mitt and said that he was sad he had lost and then took a Book of Mormon and said that he and his wife and two children are looking for a church right now and that he wants us to come back. I hope you all don't feel like you failed or anything. I know I've been silent about the election because I'm such a Scrooge when it comes to politics. but I want you to know that I am grateful for Mitt because of the doors has literally opened for me as a missionary because of his stellar example of how much of a role Christ plays in the LDS members' lives. He did much more good than you all can see right now. But I promise you that this wasn't really a loss in regards to missionary work which in my own objective opinion is the greatest cause we can be a part of in this mortal probation.


I love you all. I know that Christ died and now lives for all of us! Hope is a commandment! The Church is TRUE! Share it!


Take Him with ya in the back seat!


Love Yuns,


Sis

HOME GOIN'

I told you all that we started teaching Trinia again, right? We had called her periodically because she had been so set on baptism and it was so abrupt the change in her that we knew she had a testimony and hoped that she'd let us come back when she was ready. Well, one of the times we called and left a message saying we loved her and missed her, she actually called back! We asked if we could teach her again and she said she'd love that. So we went over and she looked awful. She had scabs all over her face and her skin underneath the scabs was blotchy. Her legs and arms looked awful, too. She had been picking her face in her sleep and would wake up with scabs and reopened scabs every day. Her dialysis always kept her feeble looking but that first time we saw her was shocking. That first lesson her heart was still pretty hard but the next week was probably the best lesson I've ever had with her. She was in a great mood and asking questions and saying how our church is for people who really mean it and know it. She said she wanted to start reading and praying again and cried through the lesson. I cried through the lesson, too, and so did Sis Ford. Though we were mostly crying because she was coughing so horribly. It was heart-wrenching to watch her body convulse as she struggled for breath. It made me sick knowing smoking had done this to her. Still, the lesson was FILLED with the Spirit. We hugged her as we left and she told us how much she loved us.

The next appointment we had scheduled with her was supposed to be Tuesday the 30th of October but ended up needing to go to the doctor because she felt so awful so we decided to reschedule for Thursday. She passed away that night in the early hours of the Wednesday morning. So, she technically died on Halloween. It's been a weird, hard week. I wish so badly that she could have quit smoking last month and that she could have been baptized before she passed. I hate knowing she's in Spirit Prison. I hate it. It makes my stomach tie itself in knots that won't come undone when I think about it. But I am grateful she's not stuck in her body anymore. She was in so much pain. She was miserable.
Her funeral was yesterday. This is the 2nd investigator Sister Ford and I have had die on us. 2nd funeral we've been to together. (The last one was Randy Hobson in Salem.) If the only thing I knew about our church was the way we do our funerals, that would be enough for me to want to be a member. There's really no comfort or peace at the funerals of other denominations. Though it was quite the experience attending a Southern Baptist funeral... er, "Home Goin' " as the Reverend kept calling it. Our church gets out at 2:30 and the funeral started at 3:00 and was in Berea which is about 20-25 minutes away from the chapel in Richmond. So we booked it out of Relief Society and walked into the funeral home two minutes before it started. 


We walked in the doors and instantly felt like the odd ones out and not just because we were two Mormons among 120 Baptists but because we were the only white people in the room. AND, there was only one entrance to the room and it was at the front of the chapel so we had to walk past everyone staring at us. When we finally made it to the very back we noticed two other white people. So we made up half of the white population. We sat down and I braced myself for what I was sure would be an experience that had it not been for such a sad occasion, little 6th grade Brooke and 6th grade Brynn would have jumped at the opportunity to have. As soon as we sat down the funeral director and the reverend closed the casket and the reverend took his place at the pulpit. Do I really need to describe it for you? I'm sure you all already have imagined it up perfectly in your heads. The reverend looked wonderful in a broad, dark purple suit with a gray beard and a horrendous, black toupee. He was wearing gold jewelry on 6 of his ten fingers. His voice shook as he spoke. He referred to Trinia as "Sista" and all of the people who participated in the services as "Brotha". A brotha read the 23rd Psalm and then the reverend re-quoted it about 4 times in his own sermon. Another brotha said a great prayer where people talked and "Amen"ed the whole way through with him. 

Another brotha got up and sang in a rich, deep voice one of those haunting, soulful gospel songs they sing out here a lot about walking with Jesus. The reverend spoke some more. If it was too quiet he'd ask if he could get a witness. And he'd get one. People weren't just saying, "Amen" they were also shouting, "Tell it", "That's true, that's true", "Keep on, Preacher Man", "You said it" and "Praise Jesus". I was amazed that they all knew when to give him that feedback and when not to. There were some points where I would wait for someone to shout in response and it would be silent and it seemed like you weren't supposed to talk and then there would be other times when everyone at once would shout in response at the same time. I'm glad I didn't try to get in on it because I know I would have piped up at one of those times when you were supposed to be quiet and would have made a fool of myself. He kept saying that Jesus did all this stuff "fo' ya". He said, "Fo' ya" over and over again. Then he talked about when granny would get in her nightgown and walk down the hall opening every door and say "See ya in the mornin' " and then she'd get to the next door and say, "See ya in the mornin' " and so on and so on and then he said to Trinia, "See ya...." and everyone shouted, "In the mornin'!"

 It got pretty intense in there for a while. And then he talked about hell and how if you aren't saved you go there. He was shouting and moving his body around without actually moving his feet. And then he was done. I was smiling by the end which I guess is a good thing. But there really wasn't much peace. He didn't talk about Trinia. He actually had only seen her twice. He didn't talk about her life. He just talked about that Psalm the whole time and about how death is our enemy and how if we don't have Jesus we go to hell forever. We left and I haven't really been able to stop thinking about the whole experience. I kept thinking about how my nieces and nephews who are tiny and young know more about God's plan than most of the world. There was truth in a lot of what the reverend said, but he just kept repeating the same things over and over again without making me feel all that good. It was like a dimly lit room. The light and truth there was light, but it was dim.


It's been a weird week. Sister Ford and I keep saying the only good thing about this week is that we're companions because having to go through this week with any other companion would have made it all unbearable.


We had four people drop us on Saturday because their lives are "so hectic right now that there's not really any time for God at the moment... maybe later once things calm down". Hmm... if only they would make time for God, then their lives wouldn't be so hectic. Blah.


We taught John again. He's that little boy who is way too smart for his age who is getting baptized soon. He understands everything we teach perfectly and can teach it to others before we're done with the lesson. It was an interesting contrast to sit on the floor of his house because they don't have furniture and talk to this young boy with bright eyes devouring every word we said and taking it in and loving it and looking over at his mom in her t-shirt that had a big marijuana leaf on it, sorting through his Halloween candy for the candy she wanted for herself and telling us that cats are the souls of people who wanted to be humans but were bad. I just look at this little boy and wonder what kind of life he is going to have and see how much Heavenly Father loves him and how much potential he has. Why are some people born into the circumstances they're born into? Why was I blessed with the family and the life that I've been given? It boggles my mind.


On Thursday Adam gave up smoking. It was really hard for him and we fasted for him and I even told him I'd give up three things that I love as long as he gave up his smoking so that someone would be in pain while he was. He made it 48 hours and then he caved. He felt awful when he had to tell me. His eyes looked so defeated. He knew that he for sure can't be baptized while I'm in Kentucky anymore. That was his last shot. But it's ok. I told him that I'm proud of him, and I am. He hasn't been able to go 48 hours without a cigarette in YEARS. That's a huge accomplishment. I told him that whenever he's ready to try again that I'd give up those three things again and we would try until he beat it. He wants to be able to go into the temple so badly. We also taught him about Patriarchal Blessings this week and he can't wait to get his. I just hope so badly that he can quit smoking. I can't watch someone else get as sick as Trinia got and know that they did this to themselves. Please continue praying for him. I don't care when he gets baptized or who is there, I just want him to have this happiness that's waiting for him.

This week wasn't all bad. We had interviews with President Woodbury and while we were there one of the Senior Couple Elders gave us blessings. I was told in mine that I wouldn't be able to see all of the reaping of my labors but that I would hear about them once I was home. The blessing told me I have a work to do at home. I'm so grateful I got that blessing because the next day was the day those four people dropped us and Adam gave in and smoked again. That blessing helped soften the blow.

We haven't had much problems here from the storm. It was really rainy for a couple days but that's about it.

I really am sorry that this email is so depressing. Our district leader called last night and was like, "Wow. You sound so depressed." So we told him about our week and he was like, "I wish I had something encouraging to tell you but, honestly, our week was awful, too. I'm sorry." Sometimes you just have bad weeks. What can you say? The Church is still true. Christ still lives. Sometimes that's all you have to hold on to. Sometimes the only thing you have left is your testimony. But, that's enough. You hold on to that until the storm passes. Eventually the sun will come back out. I know it will.

Trinia's "home goin'" and people constantly talking to me about my mission ending has made me think a lot about the Final Judgment. I've been reading about it and praying about it quite a bit. There's an Elder in the ward with us and he said something that really struck me the other day. He said that when we stand before the judgment bar it will be like a movie comes up on a big screen that shows everything that's ever happened in our lives. The title will come up and it will have our name in bold letters. Then he said that if we use this life as the time we've been given to prepare to meet God, our movie title could read:

The Life of Brooke Nelson
Edited by Jesus Christ

That's how I want mine to read. Through Christ we can have all of those moments that we're ashamed of, all of those moments we wish we could take back, all of those moments we wish we could forget edited out. Erased. Cut. Gone. We can be forgiven. Sadness and pain can be replaced by happiness and joy. It can. It can if we will choose Christ. That's the hope that keeps me going after I mess up for the billionth time in a row. We can conquer all things through Christ.

Sorry this is all so over the place. I hope that Enzo had a good birthday. Tomorrow's election day. Crazy.

I love you all. The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis

FOGGY ANSWERS



...notice the vulture behind us -- over Sis. Ford's left shoulder
For my birthday Lainy wanted to take us to explore some caves. Is this something that I would ever think of on my own? No. Is it something that I would want to do even if I did think of it on my own? No. Why did we do it? Because I can't say no.
So, because it was P-Day we had to hurry and get everything done that we could because she wanted to pick us up at a quarter to 2. We drove out in some hollers for a while till we came to a little country church. We park and hike up a dry creek bed until we get to some big rocks with an opening for people to crawl through. She hands us flashlights. I make her reassure me that there aren't any bats or spiders or bugs in there. She reassures me that they don't like this cave because of the climate inside it or something like that (LIES! I don't know why I believed her! Don't ask me because I know I'm an idiot and I'm already mad at myself about it.). So we start walking around in there. It's cold and you can't hardly see a thing. It's not like in the movies where there's an easy path to walk on and the whole cave is lit up. You have to shine your flashlight on the ground so you can see your feet and try not to slip on the muddy, loose rock as you climb up and up and then go back down. The whole time you're slipping and the large rocks are sliding. I hated it. Then you have to constantly be watching your head and stooping over and then crawling and then literally crawling on your stomach because the space ceiling is so low. And this is through cold, muddy water. At one point we were climbing up some rocks and Sister Ford gasped and I jumped and asked what is was that she saw. She was speechless and Lainy said, "There are some crickets in here sometimes." Sister Ford was like, "Yeah. Crickets." I instantly wanted out of that place. Lainy told us we were only a little ways away from the other side of the cave. 

So, we come to the other side and we can see sunlight again and I'm excited to get out of that place and then Lainy's like, "Ok, let's go back through." I was like, "Uhh... we have to go back through? Can't we just walk around the cave in the sunlight?" She said we could try but she had no idea how to get from there to where we had parked. I was still oriented enough to know which way we should walk but she insisted that if we walked that way she wouldn't get back to the car in time to make it to work. I was pretty mad, but I went back in. She was like, "Do you want to explore in here?" Neither of us wanted to. We just wanted to get out of there. We'd come to a fork and she'd be like, "Do you want to take the short way or the fun way?" "The short way." I felt a little bad but then again, I didn't because she knows me well enough to know that I would be miserable in there and then LIED to me to get me to go. No bugs? Bologna. Those "crickets" it turns out was the biggest spider Sister Ford had ever seen and S. Ford only lied because she knew if I knew what it was that I would have freaked out completely. No bats? What about the bat that flew AT MY HEAD? Ew. I was so upset. AND, as we were driving away Lainy pointed out where the other side of the cave comes out and it wasn't far from the car at all. She knew that whole time that we could have just walked back to the car in a few minutes. Why do people enjoy making me miserable? I don't enjoy it. We left there cold and muddy and I was angry and we were tired and we still didn't get to go to the Amish store like I had originally wanted to on my birthday. Woe is me. I hope everyone feels sufficiently sorry for me.

After the caves we got back a little before 6 and took quick showers and got ready and went over to Adam and Maelyn's. They had made me a country dinner and some cake. They had joked that they were going to get me trick candles but I told them with the way my asthma's been lately that that might send me to the hospital trying to blow them out. So, they said they'd get regular candles instead. LIES! Trick candles! They were actually pretty funny because I honestly didn't expect them. Adam was cracking up. He even tried to help me for a little bit and Maelyn was like, "You're the one who bought them! You should know you can't blow them out!" We still tried. And then everyone got to eat cake that I had essentially spit all over as I tried to blow out their hilarious candles. Then, an even more hilarious thing happened: for Sister Ford's birthday her mom sent her a new outfit: skirt, shoes, sweater, everything. Well, she was wearing the whole thing that day and we were at RaJean's holding baby chijuajuas and the one she's holding pees all over her sweater. Then we head to Adam and Maelyn's and we're sitting talking and one of their dogs starts coughing like it's dying. We both look at them and ask if he's ok and they say he's fine and that he does it all the time. So, we keep talking through the coughing and then Sister Ford starts yelling in disgust and I look over and the dog has thrown up what looks like blood all over her skirt! So Maelyn starts screaming and jumps up to get a towel and Adam and I lose it. We were laughing so hard. Sister Ford couldn't be mad because she's a missionary and you aren't allowed to be mad as a missionary but as soon as we got in the car she started gagging and cursing that dog. Haha. Don't worry. It all came out and the dog is still alive.
We added a few new investigators this week. One of them is named John and he's 8 and he's awesome. His Halloween costume this year is an Indian Zombie. 

Our next door neighbors that are taking the lessons had their little puppy get run over by a car this week. It was really sad. They seem to be making slow and steady progress though. Except that I've been both of them with cigarettes in their hands since our last lesson! I hate tobacco.

The ward had a Fall Festival on Friday and Adam and Maelyn showed up and we all played corn hole. (Remember corn hole? It's that really popular/awkwardly named game that's like horse shoes with bean bags). The set they had this time we played was "Transformers" and it was the Autobots vs Decepticons. It was awesome. They had a pie making contest and the bishop had his counselors be the judges. These two guys were sitting next to Sister Ford and I trying to decide on how to rank them all and they were cracking me up. They're both in their late 70's/early 80's and can't hear too well so I imagine they can't taste too well either. They couldn't remember which ones they had tasted and then would like one so much that they'd eat the whole piece and then wouldn't have any left to compare with another one they liked. When they did make their decision they were afraid people would throw pie in their faces if they didn't like the results. They were both sincere and honest when they said that next year they hope they don't have to judge again because it was stressful and hard on them.

We had an awesome teaching experience this week with a recent convert named Sister Butler. She is so stalwart and devoted and wants to badly to everything perfectly and understand everything right away. Her prayers are the most humbling, awe-inspiring I've EVER heard. When she talks to God, she's talking right to him like he's in the room with her. She loves Him and respects Him and trusts Him completely. Anyways, she was telling us how she doesn't understand why she's doing the same things she's always done to be close to God but she feels farther away from Him lately but she doesn't know why. It instantly resonated with me. Sometimes I wonder why my prayers seem to go ignored or put off for so long and I struggle feeling close to Him as strongly as I do at other times. I wanted to comfort her and tell her why those phases in our life come through no fault of our own. I wanted to so badly because I understood her plight. But I didn't know the answer myself. So, I asked her what she thought and hoped maybe she'd be able to come up with the answer for both of us. I said, "Why do you think that sometimes we don't feel Him as strongly even though we're doing everything we can to feel Him?"  
I was praying like crazy as I asked it that she would have an answer and that she wouldn't turn it back on me. She said, "I don't know. Why?" 

And then I saw flashes of a memory and started telling the story of that memory: I was living in China at the time. It was late at night and my friend and I were out in the big city for our last night. Our flight left the next morning for America. The fishing village where we lived was about 40 minutes or so outside of the city. The buses were closed for the night so we took a taxi home. It was foggy that night. The closer we got to the village the thicker the fog got. We we came up to the turn that would take us to our village when the taxi driver stopped the car and told us to get out. We were shocked and told him we couldn't see through the fog to get home and he said he didn't care and to get out because he wasn't driving through any more fog. So, we got out and he drove off. We looked into the fog. Nothing. I couldn't see my friend. I couldn't see my feet. I couldn't see my hand unless it was about 6 inches from my face. No matter how many times I blinked or waited for my eyes to adjust, my vision didn't get any clearer. We had been left there and our only options were to stay where we were and freeze to death or start walking, even if we couldn't see. 

Oooh, it was scary. But what could we do? So we linked arms and started walking in the direction we knew home was. The road to our place was about a mile and a half or two from where we were dropped off. We walked slowly so as not to fall. We stuck close to each other. And then we used the light. We couldn't see worth a spit but we could tell if the fog was lighter or darker in certain spots. We knew that there were lights lining the road back to our apartment so we clung near those for dear life. We would see the light and walk towards it. The closer we got to it the brighter it got. But, once we were in the light we didn't have any idea where to go from there. So, we could stay in that light and freeze or we could venture back out into the darkness. The only way home was to walk back into the darkness. So we did. We would walk towards the light and then pass it and have to walk back into the darkness until we saw the next light and walk towards it. Once we reached the next light we'd have to walk into darkness again to get to the light just beyond that one. Every time we stepped beyond the light into the darkness, I was scared, terrified really. But I couldn't stay in the comfort of that light and still make it home. So, we'd walk in the dark until we saw the next light and be flooded with relief when we saw it and as we approached it. I was so grateful for those lights being placed periodically so that we could make sure we were on the right path. Those markers, that light, is what got us home that night. It took us over an hour and believe me there were tears along the way and there were times we got so scared we were paralyzed for a second or two. But those lights saved us. Without them we couldn't have found our way. If the light had been constant, we wouldn't have known where to go or how far on the path we were. So, the darkness helped us, too. We eventually made it home, over an hour later, and the relief of being in our apartment and being able to see again and breathe again and knowing we were going home home the next day was overwhelming.

Sometimes we have spiritual lulls or spaces of darkness to encourage us to find more light, to find the light that's even beyond the light we already have found. The light comes in and out of focus. The guidance seems more and sometimes less bright. But it is always there, marking the path. We sometimes have to step out into the darkness to prove to the Father that we'll keep going, even if we can't see, even if we feel lost or without direction. Moving forward like that despite our fears and despite our cloudy vision allows us to move along the path. And the light always shows up again if we're looking for it and adjusting our course once we find it. The path is still there and we're still on it, but sometimes the path has to get dark so that we can be guided by the light.
I stopped talking and the spirit was thick. Her question had been answered and so had mine. It was so cool. She came up to me in church yesterday and gave me a big hug and an even bigger kiss on the cheek and thanked me and told me how that story had opened her eyes and made her feel peace in where she is right now with the Lord. If only she knew that her question had helped me get an answer to one of my own that has been troubling me for so long. I should be hugging and kissing her. The Lord works in marvelous and mysterious ways. It was such a miracle and tender mercy that He answered two of His daughters in such a special way. It's one of the only experiences on my mission where I can truly say I had no idea what to say and it was literally put into my mouth the words and the ideas that I should share. As Otis would say, "Our God is an Awesome God!"

Extra Blessings: Aunt Suzanne, Gr'pa Buck, Otis, Hayley x 2
Quote of the Week: "I know I don't snore. I stayed up all night once just to make sure and I'm tellin' you, I didn't snore once!"

I hope everyone has a safe Halloween. Can it hurry up and be daylight savings yet? I'm dying in the mornings! Love you all! The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,
Sis

CHEETOS TREES AND SHERBET SUNSETS


Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to everyone who wrote me for my birthday today. It made me so happy and grateful to be so loved by so many wonderful people. It took me an hour and 20 minutes to read them all and because of it I'll have a shorter email today but I guess that's a welcome relief from my usual epistles. Extra Blessings: Sister Noakes, Kaylee Ogden, Pinegar Grandparents
Quote of the Week: "I know the Bible says "Thou Shall Not Kill" but it doesn't say anything about torture."
Quote from last week- Maelyn has a cat named Delilah that has turned into my cat and I love her. She comes and finds me as soon as I come over and if she ever leaves I just sing "Delilah" like they do on Sunny 106.5 and she comes running. Maelyn wants to get rid of her because she keeps getting into the fish tank and killing fish. She said, "When you go home you're taking that cat with you to Las Vegas." I was like, "My mom would kill me if I showed up with a cat... either that or she'd kill the cat." Maelyn was like, "Just say, "Mom, she's a Cat of God! You can't shoot her!" Delilah will be fine if your mom knows she's a Mormon Cat." Haha.


Monday we went on a hike with Lainy, Adam and Maelyn. It was gorgeous. The leaves were in the middle of changing and I kept gasping and catching my breath at every new tree we saw. My favorite are probably the Cheetos Trees. Their leaves turn as bright orange as Cheetos. It's unreal. The only other thing that has stopped me in my tracks like that out here in Kentucky are the Sherbet Sunsets. They are so bright that they look like you could just take a spoon and scoop sherbet right out of the sky. I love it. When we got to the top we could see Jackson County and we took some Pocahontas pictures and then I scared everyone half to death with how close I liked getting to the edge (it honestly wasn't that close at all, they're all pansies) and then I was scared half to death when a flock of vultures started circling us. These aren't the singing, Beatle-esque, "we're your friends" type of vultures, either. They are about as big as a German Shepherd and they aren't timid. Hurray for not being dead because they didn't attack us or try to eat us. After I calmed down a bit, we had a lesson up there on the pinnacle and then went back down. Lainy and Adam had a race to the bottom. 
Lainy Mountain Woman and
Adam the Lamanite


Lainy was barefoot. I couldn't get "come run the hidden pine trails of the forest" out of my head. And Adam was hollering like a true Lamanite as he chased after her down the mountain, off of the beaten path. It was nuts. Lainy cut her foot open and Adam tried to give her a band-aid but she wouldn't take it. We now call her Mountain Woman. She's taking us to some caves this afternoon.
Adam got that tattoo when someone gave him $100 plus the cost of the tattoo if he'd go into the parlor and get the first thing they saw.
Of course he took him up on it.
We met a lady named Wanda this week who said we could come back and see her this week. I'm very hopeful about her because her name is Wanda, but she's not old. She's about our age. Cool, huh?We also met a lady in the middle of the hills in a place called Irvine. (It is not pronounced like we pronounce Irvine, California, but instead it's pronounced like Erven, aka Papa Elf aka Baby Stone aka Gr'pa Buck aka Erven Jean aka JoJo). She's total country in every way except for the fact that she's Mexican. Seriously. If you walked around her house and saw her chickens and her miniature horses and her 17 dogs you would expect an old white lady to answer the door. But instead it's a Mexican lady who was raised in California. She's awesome. Her name is RaJean. 
We set a date with this girl named Emily this week! She's our next door neighbor. We went for our follow up with her a couple days later and she's crazy sick. We also had a great lesson with this young couple who have a baby and the guy's brother who lives with them. They were set to come to church and the morning of they got a call saying that her uncle was in the hospital and that his grandpa had died. Ugh. I hate Satan! Why? Why can't he just take one weekend off? 

Good news! We heard from Trinia and she said that we could start teaching her again! We visited her and she looked awful. It's sad to see how people's lives change once the Spirit is gone. I hope this time she'll stick with it.


We also met a girl this week who is white named Octavia. She was extremely nice but said that she is mad at God and had to fight back tears while we testified to her of his love. I can tell that she's in a lot of pain over something. I hope she'll let us come back and teach her. 

Friday night was a special night. Our ward went to the temple and we went along and brought Adam. He couldn't go in of course and neither did we but we walked around the grounds and then went into the waiting room where non-members are allowed and had a lesson with him and the Temple President came out and spoke with him for a while. The temple president was from Alabama and so is Adam so they connected over that. Adam loved it and said he wants to come back someday and actually get to go inside. We told him that it would take work but that it would be worth it. Hopefully he can stay strong. He still doesn't have a place to go if he moves out and he's worried about that, obviously. He doesn't want to be living where he is anymore though and would be gone if he had somewhere to go. Please pray for him.

Phoebe is still doing well. She just doesn't want to have to leave her old church because it's like family and if she leaves they'll only have 9 members. I told her we want to teach the people in her church and baptize them so that she won't have to leave them and she'll get to come to our church like she wants to because she knows it's true. She liked that idea but I think she's too scared to invite us to meet with some of them. I hope she'll be brave and open her mouth about it.
Saturday was Sister Ford's birthday and we had a fun day. I love being with her. Sometimes we laugh and have so much fun that it feels like we're being bad or something. But then we remind ourselves that the Lord is the one who put us back together so He must want us to be this happy. 

Yesterday at sacrament meeting not one of our investigators showed up and only one of the members we work with showed up. The Elders didn't have anyone come. Every talk that was given and every lesson I was thinking about how these people had been inspired to talk about those things to answer Adam's questions or Maelyn's or Phoebe's or Julie's. I started thinking back on other people I've taught in my last areas. I started thinking about people back home. I just get so sad that people reject all of this happiness. Commandments aren't dues that some mean boss makes us pay. It's not like someone is there saying "if you'll go through this much sadness or deny yourself this much happiness, I'll reward you with blessings." What he's saying is "If you keep this commandment you'll be happy. On top of that happiness, because you've been obedient, you'll also be blessed. The word "commandments" is synonymous with "blessings". I went through the Sacrament Prayers the other day and listed out all of the commandments we have to keep in order to be blessed with the Spirit. Then I went back through and realized that every commandment was a blessing, too. 

Try it. You'll see for yourself that all the Lord asks of us is to allow Him to bless us. All that He's saying is, "Here's some happiness. Please take this happiness. I want to give you happiness. Free happiness! Happiness, happiness, happiness!" And all we have to do is take it. That's all. And yet, so many times I think I know better than Him or I forget or I ignore it. I search for happiness in things that can't last. I've watched others do the same thing. This happiness lasts so much longer than the buzz of a cigarette or high you get from a needle. This stuff lasts! And it's pure! Why? It's sitting right here for them. Why do they not take it? Ugh. It's so sad to watch people wish they were happy and then reject the only thing that will truly make them happy. Still, there are people who have found it and who hold on to it. And I know that Satan will not win in the end. The wonderful thing about Christ's Atonement is that it enables us to overcome no matter how many times we fall or mess up. WE have the power. We don't have to accept misery. Because of Christ we CAN be happy. And I hope that the people that I'm here learning about and loving will grab hold of it. 

I'm so grateful for the home and the ward and the friends and the family that I'm blessed with. I know that I'm very unique in just how much I've been blessed. I can't repay the Lord for it, but I can do my best to share what I've been given.
This is Christ's Church. I'm proud and honored and grateful to be a part of it. The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis

Friday, October 19, 2012

GRYFFINDOR!!

Here's how it happened: So, because there are only 7 English Sister Areas if you can find out who will be at transfers then you can figure out who's going where. I had to call Sister Hunt in Salem to remind her to bring something she had of mine to transfers and she told me that Sister Clemons was training this transfer. I instantly asked where Sister Ford is going. She said, "I'm not telling, you won't get it out of me." Silly girl. That told me everything right there. So, I couldn't wait to get to transfer meeting the next morning. As soon as I saw Sister Ford I was like, "Are we serving together?!?!" and she was like, "I don't know." and she tried to hide it from me but her eyes were shouting, "We're going to serve together!" So I said, "You can't hide it from me! We're serving together!" And then we hugged and laughed and she told me that when President had called Sister Clemons the day before (President always calls personally to let people know they are training) he asked to speak to Sister Ford. He knew she'd be upset to be transferred because they have a family of five that she found that is getting baptized in a couple weeks. He said, "I'm sorry Sister Ford. The Lord wants Sister Clemons to train. I do have some news that should help though: you'll be serving in Berea with Sister Nelson." She was like, "Hurray!" Of course she's sad to leave that family but she said the only thing that could have helped her get through this is being back with me. 



We were so excited. We've both been begging him every time we see him to be put back together. At transfers President stands at the pulpit and there's like 100 or so missionaries sitting in the chairs and he just calls a name and the missionary stands up and then he says "will be serving in ____ with ____". Sister Woodbury always gets out a sorting hat and places it next to him. We all try to get him to put it on but he's too shy. So, since Sister Ford and I are such Harry Potter nerds we ran to Sister Woodbury before the meeting started and asked if she would try to get President to wear it and when he got to us if he would shout "Gryffindor!" She laughed and said she'd see what she could do. When he got up to announce the transfers we all shouted for him to put on the hat but he wouldn't. I figured he wouldn't. About halfway through the list he got to us. He said, "Sister Ford (she stood up) will be serving in GRYFFINDOR!" I stood up and we both shouted and hugged and the rest of the room was cheering. It was so unexpected because President is so serious and reserved. When everyone finally calmed down he said, "Just kidding, she's serving in Berea with Sister Nelson." There were cheers again and we were giddy. Everyone came up to us afterward and were like, "How did you get President to do that? Shout Gryffindor AND put you all back together!?!?!" We just responded, "We're magic." Haha. It was so awesome. Sister Ford and I have been having so much fun together. I loved Sister Mickelsen but she and I are very different people. We worked well together that way but we aren't boon companions like Sister Ford and I are. It's amazing the difference it makes in your mood to be paired with someone that you enjoy and who views missionary work the same exact way you do. We can't stop laughing. I think it makes people like us more to see how much fun we're having. It's such a blessing. 

Adam has had an up and down week again. But it's been mostly up I think. We took him to the Berea library to see one of the original Book of Mormons that was printed in the very first edition. It was so spiritual. We held one of the first 500 copies. That book changed lives. It changed my ancestors' lives. Who knows where all that book traveled before it ended up in the library? Who knows which missionary took it with them on their travels? Who knows how many people read those exact pages and picked up and moved everything all to follow the promptings they had received while reading that book? It was great. We loved it and so did Adam. He keeps asking what I want for my birthday and I finally told him I want him to be done smoking by then. He's trying really hard. He's also been reading on his own the last couple days before he does other things that he loves. He didn't make it to church because his "alarm got moved into the other room somehow." Hmm. I wonder how that happened... Maelyn has been hot and cold with us. We're going hiking with them today and hope to have a spiritual lesson while we're there.


We met the fattest cat in the world the other day. I swear she will one day die of diabetes. Her owners call her Sabrina but Sister Ford and I don't think that's a fitting name for such a fat cat so we renamed her "Empress Zhgi Zhgi." We were taking pictures with her and she was getting really mad but she didn't want to move because it's too much work so she would just turn her head away and growl. Sister Ford and I are obsessed with her and talk about her till late hours in the night.



Sister Ford's Birthday is on Saturday and then on Sunday it's Brother Vonnahme's and then on Monday it's mine! Crazy! Please don't feel like you need to send me anything. I don't have room to bring anything else home with me so I'll probably just have to leave it.
Sorry I don't have a lot of time today. We got stuck talking to someone in the library again.
Thank you for the prayers for Adam and the other people we're teaching. Oh! Phoebe played her mandolin for us the other day. It was awesome. She sang us some real backwoods songs about Jesus. I loved it.
Extra Blessings: Sister Noakes, Mom and Dad
Quote of the Week: "Mom, she's a Cat of God! You can't shoot her!"
D&C58:28 talks about how we are agents unto ourselves. We have power to choose. No one decides where we will end up in the eternities besides ourselves. Christ is offering the chance for the Celestial Kingdom. WE are the ones who choose if we will make it.

The Church is TRUE! Share it!


Love Yuns,


Sis

Light Vs Dark

Who else jumped out of his/her seat when President Monson announced the changes to the age requirements for missionaries?!?!?!?!?! We were watching in a room with 10 missionaries and you better believe we all had to shhh each other because we were all gasping and whispering and freaking out and we couldn't push pause on the projector so we were cutting into Prophet time for the people around us. Even after we quieted down, I don't remember the rest of what President Monson said. My minds was reeling. This is going to CHANGE EVERYTHING! I'm not joking. This is going to change the single adults and the marriages in this generation and the amount of missionaries both male and female who make it out on missions. This is going to change the church. In turn this is going to change the world! Seriously! I couldn't be more excited. I was tingling that whole first session of conference! To quote one of my favorite songs ever: If you want to make the world a better place, (take a look at yourself and) make that-- CHANGE!


Lainy, the girl who drives us around sometimes and killed that enormous spider, got her mission call this week to Salt Lake City. Haha. She was expecting Costa Rica. I'm happy she'll be in Utah though because I've been telling her that wherever she gets called to, I'll move there and repay her service to us and drive her places and take her investigators to church and stuff. With her call being in Utah, I actually can.


We had a really hard night the other night. We were leaving a lesson we had with a girl in the park and as we did, we passed three people sitting at a picnic table. We started talking to them and they were friendly at first but when they found out who we were they started laughing at us and saying how they didn't think we'd want anything to do with them because they were drug dealers. We testified of the way our lived had been changed because of Christ and promised them that their lives could change for the better and the happier, too, if they would come unto Him. At the mention of Christ they started mocking and demeaning Him. I hate confrontation, as you know, so usually when people are mean, I try to walk away without saying much and with maintaining a smile on my face. But when they started laughing and mocking the sacrifice Christ made when he performed the Atonement, I was frozen there. I was so mortified at what they were saying that I couldn't move. They could tell how those things hurt us when they said those things about Him because our demeanor changed. They said, "Oh no! We've made them mad, now!" and kept laughing. Sister M was silent which is unusual for her. I wanted to be silent, but I couldn't. I told them that what they had said and were implying about the Savior and His love for us had offended me because He means so much to me personally. The main guy said, "They sure must hate us now." I told them I didn't hate them, but that we wouldn't be staying to speak that way about Someone so important to us. I wished them the best and then we left. I know that this isn't a unique missionary experience. This happens everyday to missionaries all over the world. But it was still hard. President Woodbury gave us a thirty-day study packet about the Atonement about thirty days ago. I've learned much and have felt so much love from and for the Lord. To have people mock Him, who loves THEM so much, it made me shake. It made me so sad. That was Sister Mickelsen's first encounter like that and it was hard for her to recover for the rest of the night. I'm so sad for those three. I'm so sad that they would say those things. I hope so much that they repent. I would hate for them to have to stand before the judgment bar and have to watch that conversation played over and have them realize just what they had said and just Whom they had said those things about.


The next day, Maelyn finally told us what she thinks about us. Things were at their boiling point and we had tried to get her to talk to us but she wouldn't admit anything was bothering her, yet would complain and be distracting through every lesson. So, we told Adam we'd rather meet with him somewhere else and Maelyn freaked out and said we had to have the lesson there because she didn't want him meeting with us without her there because she doesn't trust what we teach him because we're encouraging him to move out. We ARE encouraging him to do that so that he can keep the Law of Chastity. (I don't know why we or Adam should be ashamed of thinking it's the right thing to do.) Sis M was on the phone with Adam when this happened and I was on the other side of the room and I could still hear her screaming and cussing in the background, demanding we come over. It was everything Sister M could do to get me to agree to go over there. I hate girl drama. I hate those conversations where girls have bottled stuff up forever and then scream and cry at each other for three hours. We went over though after I said a prayer and realized it would happen eventually and at least if we did it now, with as much of the Spirit as we could, then Adam wouldn't be stuck being the in between anymore. So, we went over and Sister M started bearing her testimony and Maelyn interrupted and she and Sister M had it out. I just sat there wishing I could leave. I was quiet until Maelyn told Sister M that she doesn't have a problem with me, just with Sister M because she thought Sister M was a liar and then started talking badly about the Church saying that the Church shouldn't send out missionaries that are liars. That's when I finally opened my mouth. Ugh. The visit ended with her giving us hugs and sending us home with a peanut butter roll she had originally intended to give to someone else. She and Sister M talked together and laughed and Adam and I talked about some of his gospel questions and then we left. We thought things had been smoothed over. We hadn't. She still won't meet with us or answer our phone calls. It's sad that because Adam is progressing, she has chosen to stop her progression.


We met with a recent convert from two months ago who has been reading anti and won't touch the Book of Mormon or enter our church building. After the week we've had, I didn't want to meet with her, but it was Sister M's last chance to see her so we did. There's so much sadness around people who reject Christ and His teachings. It's something I never want to have to deal with in my own life. It's just so dark and depressing.


Hurray for the fact that with the freedom to choose darkness we also have the ability to choose light!


This week we watched the Testaments with Phoebe and she cried and knows that Christ came to the Americas. That movie is so powerful. It has been the turning point for so many people's conversions, including Adam and Otis.


Speaking of Adam and Otis-- Oh my goodness! So, we all know how much I love Otie and I'm on course to feeling that way about Adam. Well, last week Adam went down to his mom's house for the weekend which is in East Bernstadt which is where Otis lives and the stars aligned and all my dreams minus one came true! Otis cooked him some meat and opened his house for the Corbins Sisters and Adam to come over and hang out on the farm and have a lesson! The only thing that could have made it a fulfillment of ALL my dreams minus nothing is if I had been able to be there, too. Otis and Adam hit it off! They're like peas in a pod. Sister Earl called me and told all about it and so did Adam. I guess Otis found out he was going to be there and started making food the day before so that they'd have a good meal when they all came over. Otis has two German Shepherds that are very protective and wary of newcomers so they wouldn't let Adam come in the house right off (which is funny because Adam has 7 German Shepherds of his own. I know, they're MFEO.) so Otie took him on a tour of the property and showed him the horses and the chickens and the pig and the pond and while they were walking around I guess they both got to talking about acorns (No, I can't adequately describe what a conversation about acorns entails. I've had them with both individually with Adam and Otis though so I'm sure they were able to talk for a good while about them... again... MFEO). Then they connected over the time they've both spent in the service and about flying airplanes (Otis was in the Air Force and Adam flies airplanes). MFEO. Then they started talking about the church. Adam's biggest struggles right now have to do with all of the people in his life, besides Mormons, telling him NOT to join the Mormons and dealing him out pretty heavy consequences if he does. Otis's family wasn't thrilled about him joining the church, either so I think it was good for Adam to get advice and encouragement from someone who has actually been through it. Then they talked about the Book of Mormon and Otis told him how he had been against it at first (just like Adam was) but that his whole life has expanded and gotten better because of it. Then they ate and chatted some more. Then they went out to Otie's garden and picked some hot peppers that Adam brought back to us and then they made plans to ride horses together sometime and possibly go shooting. Ahh! I wish I could have been there! But I'm so glad they met. Adam came back and said he really liked Otis and told Sister Mickelsen, "Mickelsen! You have to meet Otis! But when you do you're gonna want to stick close to me so I can interpret for you. Nelson can understand hillbilly but you'll be lost." Haha. I don't know why Adam thinks that he's any easier to understand than Otis is. Haha. I love them both. I can't wait to watch the replay of that day in Heaven someday!


Adam is doing well. He's having trouble quitting smoking so we're going to have to move his baptism date, but he came to 4 out of the 5 conference sessions this weekend! He was the only non-member there! He showed up at the church at noon on Saturday and stayed there with us till the priesthood session ended at 10 that night. We don't live in the same city as our church building so none of us could go home between sessions. It was a LONG day even for nerdy missionaries who think Conference is better than Christmas. And Adam stayed the whole day and asked questions the whole time. He really liked the talk by Echo Hawk to the Lamanites because we always tell him he's a Lamanite. He also really liked President Uchtdorf's talk during priesthood session about airplanes (Adam flies planes, remember). He then came to the next first session yesterday and was rocked by Holland's talk. He's still looking for a testimony of Joseph Smith, but he agrees that President Monson is a prophet so it will come soon.


I hope everybody loved Conference. I did. I cried for about five minutes after that man's solo with the Choir to "Does the Journey Seem Long?" Elder Hales is looking better, isn't he! And I thought it was cool to be able to go to Priesthood Session. It was my first time. I sort of like Relief Society's better... but it was still neat. I'm guessing that has something to do with the fact that RS session is for me while priesthood session isn't as much for me. I was grateful I went though not only because we were able to be there with Adam but because Elder Christofferson spoke in that session and he's my favorite. I'm still SO EXCITED about the amazing announcement about missionary changes. Goodness. I know it's not my choice, it's yours, but if you are eligible and able to serve a mission, DO IT! It will change your life. You will never regret serving a mission.


I can't describe the gratitude I feel for the Savior and what He has done for me. I don't think I'll ever feel like I've done enough with His name and with the calling He has allowed me this last year and a half in being a representative of Him. Yet I am honored that He has allowed me and continues to allow me to be one of His missionaries. I'm grateful to know that without opposition, we could never appreciate all that we've been given and that we would never be able to grow. Without agency and opposition, we could never have the joy that comes from choosing the right and choosing out of our own will. I'm grateful that despite trials and evil that there is still righteousness and victory through Christ. I love watching people choose Christ and seeing the change that comes into their lives and into them personally. I've been able to see miracles in my life but the greatest miracle I've ever seen is the miracle of forgiveness and change that comes through the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.


Sister Mickelsen is being transferred tomorrow. I have no idea who is coming here to Berea. I always think I have an idea, but I never do. I'll tell you all about her next week. Cross your fingers that I get Sister Ford!


Extra Blessings: Sister Ford, Otis, Judy
Link of the Wee(n)k: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-lowers-age-requirement-for-missionary-service


The Church is TRUE! Share it!


Love Yuns,


Sis

Monday, October 1, 2012

GOSSIP ESSENTIALS

Why? Why did I say that last week was one of the longest week of my life? Don't I know by now how ironic the Lord loves to be with me? I've learned my lesson. Last week: long. This week: LONGER. Next week? Who knows.

True or False: Sister Missionaries are responsible for planning weddings. If your only other option is two 19-year-old farm boys the answer is TRUE. Sister Mickelsen and I helped with/planned a wedding this week. No, it wasn't for our investigators; it was for the Elders'. But when the young bride approached us and asked us for help with desperation in her voice and tears in her eyes, all I had to do was imagine the horrifying results of having no choice but to leave 6'5", burly Elder Forsgren arranging the bouquet and tender, lanky Elder Frye coordinating Brides' Maids dresses and I couldn't bring myself to say no. Of course we had to help her. 


It's misleading to say that a wedding can be simple. It was simpler than most weddings, but no wedding is simple. The word "wedding" is composed of "web" (just with a backwards "b") signifying details, details, details that suck you in and then "ding" signifying noise, signifying chaos. In reality "wedding" means chaos, details and no way out. Hence the LONG week. Thankfully we had two members that stepped in and took a majority of the load from us after a few days. But it was still a lot. The wedding was on Friday and the couple got baptized on Saturday and were confirmed on Sunday. If I ever have to deal with a wedding-baptism again I won't do them that close together. There wasn't enough time to focus on the beauty of each event individually so I think both ended up losing the spotlight they each deserved. But, we weren't in charge, we were just asked to help. And they are now married and members of the church which are two very good things.

Aside from the wedding, we had drama with our own area this week. Maelyn is having a hard time with the fact that Adam is getting baptized. She's mad that she was the one who first started meeting with missionaries and now he's met us and wants to be baptized and because of it he's moving out and she'll lose her roommate/boyfriend/person she "can't live without". She feels like the Church has ruined her life. She has gone from trying to motivate Adam to quit smoking to buying him cigarettes just to make it harder for him to get baptized. She is no longer friendly towards us unless Adam is there because he gets mad if she's mean to us and she doesn't want to make him mad. She went from calling us every day to no longer answering our phone calls or texts. She's stopped reading the Book of Mormon. She has stopped coming to church. She has turned cold. It's heartbreaking. 


Add to the loss of Maelyn the fact that Adam is going to have to lose his mother as well and it's no wonder that Adam can't kick his cravings. He's under so much stress and anxiety and turmoil. We're trying to show him that he doesn't need the nicotine to calm down. He can use prayer and the scriptures and gum and music but it's hard. He's going to lose his home, his girlfriend, his family, his addiction. He's going to lose everything. And when he's talking to us we can't say we know how he feels. We don't. All we can do is encourage him and pray for him and point him towards the Savior. I wouldn't blame him if he didn't go through with it. But I'd be so sad that he missed out on the blessings the Lord is offering him. That's the consolation. I know that he'll have heartache from this, but the Lord will more than compensate. The Atonement makes it possible for all our losses to be made up. This will try but hopefully strengthen his faith. It is definitely doing so for my faith. Adam has told me, and I agree, that I was brought to Berea for him. We connect. I don't know what it feels like to lose everything for what I believe, but I do feel his pain. Please pray for him.Last week in the library we met a guy named Hezekiah. He looks like Neil Patrick Harris but he talks and acts just like Matthew McConaughey. He has this light about him (no, it's not because he's attractive, it's a different kind of light). He's Atheist but lives a pretty Christlike life. He tried to say no to meeting with us but for some reason (I hardly ever persist if people say no) we wouldn't give up with him. The Spirit wouldn't let us. He finally agreed to meet with us the next day. 

We got talking to Adam the next morning before our lesson with Ki and I was looking up all the places in the Bible where Hezekiah is mentioned and Adam was like, "That's weird. I have a good friend named Hezekiah." I was like, "No you don't!" "Yes, I do!" Hezekiah and Adam are really good friends! So, when we showed up for our lesson that night, Ki was shocked to see Adam with us. I think he was even more shocked to see how Adam has changed since he's been meeting with us. We had a really good lesson with Ki and we saw him again on Friday and after that lesson he was like, "If I believed in God, your church's doctrine would make the most sense." We committed him to coming to a session of general conference and to read one verse a day from the Book of Mormon. He's the first person I've taught out here that isn't Christian. We have to take a completely different approach to everything we teach. It's neat though because we don't have to Bible bash. We can focus on the Book of Mormon without people getting upset and needing the cross-references to the Bible. 
Every time I'm around Brother Brown I come away with comedic gems. He's the guy who used to be the High Counselor for the Corbin Ward who gives us "roadkill possum jerky" and who says the temple is the place where the almost dead do work for the dead. Remember him? Well, he's now a counselor in the Bishopric here in Berea. At Ward Council on Wednesday people were complaining about how so many people don't go to their 2nd hour class but stand in the halls and visit. Brother Brown piped up and said, "Don't you know that the classrooms have the Gospel Essentials class and in the hallway is Gossip Essentials?" We were rolling.

Monday night we were led, completely by the Spirit, to a neighborhood to tract. The very first door we knocked we met a man with a wife and kids. He sat down with us and right off the bat asked two questions: "Why are there so many churches that fight about Christ?" and "What happens to people who never get a chance to learn about God?" I started laughing because I thought this guy must have been playing a trick on us. I figured he must know the church's doctrine real well or be a less-active member or something. But he wasn't playing a trick. We sat down and answered his PERFECT questions (questions that I actually use in my tracting approaches) and then set up a time that would work for us to come teach his whole family. He's black and his wife is white and they have two boys with rich, brown skin and gorgeous eyes like Miles'. We're so excited about them!
We also started teaching a girl this week that we met at the Spoon Bread Festival who I would have bet money was already LDS. She's not though. She met with us at the church and pulled out a notebook and took notes the entire time and then told us how much she loves the Lord and how all she wants to do as she goes from church to church is find one that can help her know Him better. She's a doll. She couldn't come to church this week because she attends two other churches every Sunday but we're really hoping to get her to General Conference. She was so sad she couldn't come to the RS Broadcast because she had to work. We LOVE her. We found out while we were teaching her that she actually lives in the Zone Leaders' area so we're bummed about that but this week we're meeting with her again and the Elders are coming and we'll kind of hand her off to them. I'm sure we'll be attending her baptism in the next couple weeks.
We took a lady on a teaching appointment with us to Phoebe (George Washington hair, we thought she was on drugs, that Phoebe). Phoebe is having a hard time because she feels like the church might be true but she has attended her church her entire life (she's 70) and she doesn't want to have to leave it. She always says, "I wish I could go to both churches but they meet at the same time!" 

Well, we took a 70 year-old lady with us who makes us call her by her first name which is Bobbi. She joined the church 12 years ago. She was raised Catholic and then converted to the Baptist church when she got married. She was in her Baptist church for like 35 years or something. She had the church's credit card, keys to every door and the church's fellowship hall was named after her and her husband! She did NOT want to leave her church. But when she gained a testimony and knew it was true she had a long struggle with the Lord over it and once she found out it was where He wanted her, she handed in the credit card and the keys and was baptized. After two years of being a member she was called to be RS President and when I met her I would have thought she was a "Lifer" because she's so knowledgeable about it all. She is currently the 2nd counselor in the RS and a temple worker and the stake's adult singles' coordinator. She's a power house. 

She bore her testimony to Phoebe and then gave a really cool analogy. She said that leaving a church isn't betraying, it's building. She compared the three churches she has been a member of to the Three Little Pigs. She said the Catholic church was her straw house. It sheltered her and helped her and took her as far as it could take her, but when the winds came huffing and puffing she had to move to the Baptist church which was sturdier and made of wood. This house took her even farther and helped her even more. But when the winds came again and again and again it finally fell. When she came across the LDS church, she knew she had found her brick home. She was finally in a church that can take her all the way home. The winds can't destroy it. She's safe here. She doesn't feel like she betrayed her other churches. She's grateful to them for the protection and the time she had with them. But she feels like those churches could only take her so far. Now, she has found a church that has it all and that is complete and that she won't have to move ever again. That really helped Phoebe and it really touched me. 

Extra Blessings: Mom, Paige
Quote of the Week: "If I've ever offended you, I forgive you."

I simply CANNOT WAIT for General Conference. I need conference. RS Broadcast was perfect! I love the new presidency! Remember Fievel: even though we're far apart, somewhere out there we're underneath the same bright projector screen watching conference at the exact same time! We'll be united for 8 hours this weekend! The WHOLE family no matter where they are will be together! Huzzah!

The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

THE BEREA TRIANGLE

Ok. I guess I should write this. I've been dinking around reading old emails because I don't want to write because this has been the longest week I've had since the beginning of my mission. But at least it's been a good long. I just can look back on Thursday and feel like it was three weeks ago. I already know I'm going to leave stuff out, but I'll give the best highlights I can.

Worst things first: Trinia won't talk to us. She won't answer her phone or the door. The other day we knew she was in there and we asked her to open up and we even sang a hymn on her porch. But she wouldn't come out. It's been hard. I hope she'll recognize the difference in her life without the gospel and that she'll know she can call us when she's ready.


Elder Edwards, Sister Noakes and I are all from Las Vegas
 and all used to be in the Kentuckiana District together.
 They're in the other zone that meets with the
 Lexington Zone at 
Zone Conferences
so we had a reunion.

Best things second: Adam! So, we had zone conference on Tuesday and it was amazing   and after Zone Conference we started a blitz with the Corbin Sisters since they had to drive past Berea to get back to Corbin we figured it would save them miles instead of having to come back up another week for the blitz. Anyways, I was with Sister West and Sister Mickelsen was with Sister Earl. Because we've been trying to make sure that Adam and Maelyn's testimonies are individual we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to teach them individually. Sisters M and E took Maelyn and Sister W and I took Adam. We met Adam at the library and we were going to show him around Mormon.org but when we got there he wanted to talk about the night we'd had at the Prices' watching that movie about Christ in America, The Testaments. 

So we did. Then he said he wanted to read about it in the Book of Mormon so we started reading in 3 Nephi. Then we started talking about Christ and sadness and hope and everything. Then he brought up temples. He wants to go inside one so badly. I told him that he will go inside one someday, after his baptism. And he was like, "Yep. For sure." I was taken aback a little because he usually laughs a little when I mention his baptism. But this time he agreed with it. So I asked him about his prayers and the answers he's seeking. He said that he hasn't had any answers yet but that he's been getting help that he's needed. I asked for what and he said for patience and purity. He said he's been so peaceful lately. So, we read Galatians 5 with him and talked about the fruits of the Spirit and talked about recognizing that his feelings are his answers. Then he asked what he'd have to do in order to be baptized and when he'd have to quit smoking and coffee and then we talked about a baptism date and I asked him to pray to know when the Lord knows he can be ready for baptism. He said he would! 

The next day we said a prayer together and looked at my calendar and he said, "October 27th." And so he has a date to be baptized on Hayley's birthday! It's so neat to see how the Spirit has been gradually working on him. He told me that his Mom will disown him and he's going to be homeless because he can't live with Maelyn anymore and he can't live with anyone else because they're all pot-heads and he can't be around that temptation. He's looking for a job right now but he said if he has to live in a tent to be baptized he will. We're praying really hard that he'll find a place to live. I know the Lord will bless him. Sister Mickelsen says, "Sometimes the Lord empties your hands so He can fill them with blessings." Please pray for Adam. The adversary is already attacking him. He's already having people die and go to the hospital around him so he can't make our lessons and he missed church yesterday, too. He's going to be such a great asset to the Church. Satan does not want him to join. Please pray for him. Oh, and after our lesson he asked what Sister West and I were doing next and we told him we had a lesson with some people and he asked if he could tag along. 

 So he came and we had almost a member present lesson (which is the best lesson to have with an investigator) except he's not a member yet. So it was like an investigator present lesson. He came in and invited them to church and really connected with them because he's really country and so are they. Then he was like, "Do they have a Book of Mormon?" "Yes." "Good. You should have them read from Three Nephi. Have you read Three Nephi yet? You'll love it!" Later on he brought up Priesthood and was like, "There's two kinds. There's the Milk... Milk? What's the Milk one called again?" Haha. So then we explained Melchizedek Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood. It was awesome. He's awesome. Oh yeah. And he's half Native American so he said he'd make me a dream catcher. He says that helps with his nightmares. I just love Lamanites.


The creepy spider is dead! Sister Mickelsen never would do it so there's this girl who has her papers in and is waiting for her call and she comes with us to appointments and stuff and she was over and before we left for an appointment I begged her to kill the spider so she got her shoe and flung him from our window onto the ground outside and then she went downstairs and smashed it and I could finally breathe again. I sent a pictures so you can take in just how big that thing really was. I will forever be a friend to Lainy Barrick because of the service she gave me in killing that spider. 

So, those who know me fairly well know that I love the show, I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. Well, we were talking to this lady named Julie (I sent a picture last week of her and her adorable fifth child, Junior. Well, she was telling us about having her first child. She said she had really bad cramps one day and went to the hospital and she found out she was in LABOR! She was 7 and 1/2 months pregnant and had NO IDEA! She hadn't gained weight and was on birth control and didn't ever feel him kicking or anything. She went from being a regular person to a MOM within an hour. It was crazy! It made me happy that I actually met someone who didn't know she was pregnant! My life is almost complete!

Berea had its annual Spoon Bread Festival this weekend. Spoon Bread is like soggy cornbread. It's not THAT bad though. It's just different. Anyways, during festival times, all the billies come out from their hills and it's the perfect place to talk to people. We walked around for a couple hours and met people and it was great. There was one thing at the festival though that I HAVE to tell you about, only because it's so Kentucky. We were walking and saw a big blow up thing like those bouncy houses people rent for their kids' birthday parties. This was shaped like a tunnel though and you could walk through it. But it was an ENORMOUS COLON. It was Kentucky's creative way of showing the different stages from a healthy colon to a sick colon. I couldn't believe it. And people were walking through it! Sister M was like, "Do you want to walk through it?" I was like, "My mother would never let me back into her house if she knew I had walked through a colon." We chose to walk around the colon. Gag. Haha.

Question: What do you say to an investigator who complains about the women who knit during sacrament meeting? I just told her, "It bothers me, too. It is not appropriate and I'm sorry that she does that." I didn't know what else to say.

One of our next door neighbors is a guy named Yohance. He's a tall, skinny, black guy and he's living with a short, round, white girl. Any quesses on how you pronounce his name? Here you go: it's yo as in "Yoda", han as in "Han Solo" and ce as in "Jar-Jar Binks". Fine... it's ce as in "Say what?" It reminds me of when Sis and BIL were dating and I used to call him Broance.

I met these people in the ward on Sunday who are related to us. Their last name is Meeks. They're from the same Athe Meeks who got killed by a tomahawk. They're from Priddy's line. We're from Athe Jr.'s line. Crazy. Cousins in Berea and cousins in Corbin and a Papaw and Mamaw in Salem. Haha.

The other night Sister Mickelsen and I were leaving the church in Richmond to get to an appointment in Berea.  The appointment was is an area that's so sketchy and cars get broken into all the time there and there's just a lot of creepy people around at night. The people asked us to just stop by for a second before going home. It was dark and if I had been thinking clearly I would have said we shouldn't go. But I was worn out from the stress of the day and neither of us thought about it so we headed to Berea. Well, the on-ramp to the freeway was closed so I decided to take the old highway. We headed south for 45 minutes and DID NOT TURN EVER. I don't know how, but after heading south for 45 minutes we pulled up in the Church parking lot again. No, it's not some loop I didn't realize I was on. I've tried repeating it in the daytime and can't figure out how we ended up back at home. We actually traveled home successfully the second time in that exact route we tried to take the first time. I don't know how it happened. It was the Bermuda Triangle effect or something. It was crazy. We were screaming because it was so wierd. Later I felt like the Lord was protecting us from danger that we would have met if we had made it to that appointment. Because we had to make the trek from Berea to Richmond a second time we barely made it home by curfew and had to skip seeing those people in the sketchy neighborhood. I know the Lord did that to protect us. I'm very grateful He did.

Ok. Well, I'm sorry, but I have to run. We just got talking to this guy in the library and we're going to have a lesson with him tomorrow. But I ran out of time on here because we were talking to him for so long so the computer is going to kick me off. But actually I'm not sorry. I'm excited to teach him.

Quote of the Week: "He that tooteth not his own horn, his horn never tooteth."
Extra Blessings: Dad, Paige, Pinegar Grandparents & Otie

Aunt Suzanne emailed me and shared with me something so profound that the new temple president in Brigham City shared at the dedication. He talked about how when Christ comes again and invites us to come see him in the temple, we won't be able to quickly call our Bishop and Stake President to ask for a recommend. They'll be with the Savior. So, we need to always have and be worthy of a recommend. I'd hate to be like those 5 virgins who were without oil in their lamps when the bridegroom came. We should always live worthily to go to the temple. Not only will it save us heartache, but it will bring us blessings.

I love you all. The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis


PS- Sorry I didn't get time to edit this. I hope it makes sense.