Thursday, August 30, 2012


Well, I'm getting transferred tomorrow. It's going to be really hard to leave Salem. But I don't want to talk about that. Too depressing.

Transfers: I don't know where I'll be going. There are seven Sister areas and I only know the three I won't be transferred to: Salem (duh), Corbin (duh) and Charlestown (because we called the Sisters and neither of them is being transferred). So my options are: Olney, IL, Paris, KY, Winchester, KY, and Berea, KY. We got permission to call Sister Ford even though she's not in our district because of another question we had to ask her and when we did she told us that her companion is being transferred. We talked about how AWESOME it would be if I got paired up with her again! We've both been asking President to put us back together ever since we were separated because neither of us were healthy while we were together and so we didn't get to actually WORK together. President always says that he'd love to be able to put us back together but "we'll see". Sister Ford said that she was talking to Sister Woodbury the other day and that she reminded her that President promised he'd see what he could do about putting us back together and Sister Woodbury said that she knows how transfers are going to go, but that President sometimes changes his mind at the last minute so she didn't want to say one way or the other because she might accidentally give wrong information. It would be a lot easier to figure out where I'm going if we knew which other areas are going to have a Sister transferred. But, since we can't call them, I just have to wait till tomorrow. At least I know I'll be seeing Sister Ford tomorrow. That's exciting. And I might even be able to see whoever from the ward drives the Corbin Sisters up to transfers if they're being changed up. My guesses are that I'll either go to Paris or to Olney. Fingers crossed for Olney so that Sister Ford and I can be together again! Either way, I know I'll end up where I'm supposed to be.

There's a lady in the ward who is awesome. She's the daughter of my "Fat and Sassy" friend. Her name is Sister Suvak (her husband is great, too, and has helped give me a couple blessings). She and I are pretty similar. We're sarcastic and know what we like and what we don't like. We connected over Barry Manilow and have been friends ever since. She found out that I love Amish people and this past week she took us to Amish Country! We went to two Amish homes where people sell rugs and baskets and things like that. It was wonderful! The best part was that I got to go onto their property and talk with them and see them up close. When I went into the first workshop where they have all of their merchandise on display, I thought I teared up a little bit and had to control myself because I didn't want this Amish lady to think I was upset. I was just so happy! They have the cutest accents! They speak "Amish" which is a form of German till they are school age and then they learn English just so they can speak to non-Amish people. But in their homes and with other Amish people they speak Amish. So they have these sweet little accents and I felt like I was on set for a movie or something. I waved at a group of little Amish girls and they waved back and I felt like they were all my friends. The two different women that helped me at the two houses were Sarah Yoder and Edna Gingerich (My Amish BFF's!) (Besides Jake Schmidt, of course. I'll never forget you, Jake!). Edna was 15 and one of 10 girls with only one brother. She was so sweet. It was wonderful. I went away with a pretty rug and a neat egg basket. I'm going to miss the Amish here in Salem! I love Sister Suvak for taking me there! She's so wonderful! She's taking us to transfers tomorrow and I'm excited to have good conversation on the way there.

This week we saw Sandra twice. Wait!-- three times. The first day was Wednesday. We watched a dvd about faith in Christ with her. As usual, I was trying to distract her son (the other one was at school) so that she could watch the movie uninterrupted. There's this Gospel Art Book that we have that he loves to look through. He loves any and all pictures with swords or weapons in them. His favorite picture is the one where the old Moroni is kneeling with his hands over the gold plates and praying right before he puts the plates in the ground. He's three and can't say his R's. Whenever he finds that picture he says, "That guy! He cuts off my head with his sword! He cuts off my head and then he puts it back on! He puts it back on and then he kills all the bad guys!" He calls it HIS picture. He's obsessed with it.

Well, on Wednesday, after he looked at the Moroni picture for a few minutes, we went through the whole book. When we got to a picture of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace with Christ, I thought he'd be excited but he got really upset. He immediately knew which one was Jesus and he pointed to it and got big tears in his eyes and said, "Why they doin' that to my God?" I told him that Jesus was ok and that he was saving those men but he wouldn't listen. He just started crying and said, "Why they doin' that to my God? They can't do that to my God! They can't burn Him up in the fire!" And he cried and cried. I scrambled to find a picture of Jesus outside of the fire and healthy but he wouldn't believe me that He was ok with any picture I showed him. Finally, I found one with him in a vision to someone with him standing clear of what look like flames and instead in safety and majesty. I said, "Look! He's ok. He got out of the fire!" His tears still in his eyes, his countenance changed and his eyes lit up and he said, "There's my God! He's out of the fire!" He grinned from ear to ear. It was a very poignant moment for me to realize that this little boy who hasn't ever been to church and who doesn't live in a very Christ-centered environment still has a spirit that recognizes his Savior. I loved that he kept calling Christ "my God" or his God. He took the injuries of Christ personally. It hurt him to think of his God in pain. It hurt him to think of someone being harmful to his God. And when he found out that Christ really was ok, he was thrilled. Am I hurt when I think about what pains Christ had to bear? Am I thrilled, knowing that Christ lives and that He can never be hurt again? Do I think of Christ as God or do I think of Him as my God?

We met with Sandra two days later and she is changing. Her countenance is brighter. She's been praying like we've asked her to and she says that it's making all the difference in the world. We taught her "The ABCD's of Repentance" (Acknowledge/Admit, Be Sorry, Change/Correct Wrongs, Don't Do It Again) last week and she loves them. She's been telling everyone at work about them and her family and friends. She's lit up. It's wonderful to see. It's amazing what the Atonement can do.

She and her boys came to church yesterday! They were pretty rowdy and she was embarrassed but we told her that it was ok. They'll get used to it the more they come. I think she liked it. They stayed for the first two hours and then they wouldn't sit still and wouldn't be quiet and wouldn't go to primary so she left. But when they did, her younger boy cried and said he didn't want to leave. I'm so happy for her and for her boys. AND the best part is: she's getting baptized on October 20th! Saying goodbye to her was very hard for us, but I know that she'll be ok with the new sister and that she's on the right path.

The last part of this weekend and tonight have been and will be filled with goodbyes. I don't like it. I'm not even close to packed because I hate packing because it means I'm really leaving. But, I know that all things the the Lord has planned for me will work out for my good. He's in charge. I hate leaving these people that I feel responsible for and that I've grown to love like Mark and Sandra and Wende and Brother Hobson. But they aren't my children, they're His. He knows what He's doing and He loves them more than I do. He'll take care of them like He already has.

I better be off. Thank you for your prayers! I'll be writing you next week from a different location! Hurrah for Israel!

Love Yuns,

Sis Nelson

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bold and Golden

This week we met with Josh and John three times apiece. And we set baptism dates with both of them for September 15th. I feel like that might be a little too soon since they both have Word of Wisdom problems, but we'll see. They're both really touched by the Atonement and they both feel the Spirit very strongly. We met with them both together on Monday and on Tuesday. On Wednesday they got in a fight so we only met with John. Then John left the next day for Florida for a week so we met with Josh alone that day. Hopefully they can reconcile soon or else it might be awkward to have them both baptized on the same day. They got in a fight over an accusation about one of them that I'm really hoping is false. If it's true, the one will probably need to go to jail before things can be fully repented of. But we'll see. One thing's for sure. These two guys are in definite need of the Atonement. AND, no matter the mess they might be in right now, Christ CAN help them change and become better people.

We also had a little drama this week with Sandra. She was at work and couldn't leave but had reason to suspect that her boys might be in danger so she asked us to go to her house and see if they were alone or if they were still being watched. Then she asked us if we could take them from the person they were with and teach them about Jesus until she could get home. We aren't allowed to be alone with kids. So all we could do is go check on them and say hi to the person that was watching them. It was really sad. The next day we taught her and she said she needs to get out of the situation she's in and she knows she does but she doesn't feel worthy to repent and change her life. She feels like she can never be clean after the sins she's committed. She said she doesn't deserve to do better. She said she feels hopeless. And THAT is why Alma 36, in my opinion, is the best chapter of scripture that we have. The pain and the anguish and the sadness that comes from sin/tragedy/evil CAN be removed. It CAN be replaced by peace and happiness and righteousness and joy. It CAN. Sandra is right: we don't deserve forgiveness. But Christ paid the price of our sins. Because of that, HE now sets the terms of whether or not we deserve forgiveness. We don't have to pay the demands of justice. We are allowed mercy if we will have faith in Him. We don't have to feel sadness forever. We don't have to feel shame and guilt forever. Misery is does not have to be eternal. THAT's the good news of the Gospel!

 We read Alma 36 with her and then we promised her that she can be forgiven. Then we taught her how to repent because she didn't know how. Oh, I hope that she can see what she's being offered. I hope she can feel the strength that Christ is offering her. She needs to get out of her living situation. She needs the faith to know that things can get better if she'll be brave and act. I see so much potential in her and in her children. While we were sitting with her, right in the middle of her breaking down and crying and needing comfort, her little three-year-old who had been getting into trouble off and on throughout the lesson came in the door hiding something behind his back with a sneaky smile on his face. I got nervous and didn't want him to add to her distress by being naughty, but I wasn't about to discipline him so I just watched as he eventually side-stepped his way across the room to his mom, keeping his back away from us so we couldn't see what he was holding. When he got to Sandra, he revealed what he was hiding. It was a little yellow flower from a weed he found outside. He said,"This is for you, Mom." Then they hugged and told each other "I love you." Talk about poignant. I hope she can hold on to that, to her boys and their potential, and do what's best for them. It's there. It's all there. They can be happy. They can be peaceful and righteous. They can be an eternal family someday. It all starts with the choices she makes right now.

We went several times to Mark's this week to try and set up a time to meet with him. Every time we drove by his place, his car was gone. He lives alone so if his car is gone, he's gone. We tried all different times of the day, several times a day. Not until last night did we finally catch him while he was home. He lives one street away from us on the second story of a house. The stairs to get up to his place are pretty rickety. When we got to the top, his front door was open and I could see into his place and saw that it was very... umm... we'll say "cluttered". I felt like it was rude to look into someone's house like that so I knocked on the paneling by his front door and hoped he heard me. He had music blasting so I wasn't sure. I heard him yell hello before he knew who it was. When he saw it was us he hurried outside and shut the door and said, "My house is a mess-- But it's not as bad as Kim's." (I believe that. Brother Hobson NEVER leaves his door open long enough for us to see inside.) But I don't care if his house is clean or not. I came to talk to him about the gospel. I had photocopied a couple pages from a book Brother Vonnahme has about the "reformed Egyptian" Mark didn't really believe in and I had a Restoration pamphlet in my hand. Mark goes, "You're dropping me off some reading material?" No. He's not getting away that easy. "Well, we wanted to talk to you." He said, "Oh..." Then he looked to the side like he usually does when he's having an inner battle. Then he said, "Well, I don't know." And he opened his door and put himself halfway in, but stopped there and didn't go all the way in. I just waited till he'd look me in the eye and lifted my eyebrows like you told us you would. Then he said, "Well..." and that was enough of a relenting for me. I jumped in and said, "When would be a good time to meet?" "Sometime next week." "Ok. Which day next week?" "Tuesday. 4:30." "Great! Where do you want to meet?" "The library." "Wonderful." And then we talked about his trip to Florida and then we left. He's so funny. He drags his feet but if you prod him on a little bit, he's willing. Before we left he said, "So these will answer my questions, huh?" I'm smarter than that. I wasn't going to give him answers to ALL of his questions. Then he'd stand us up. That's why I only gave him the answers to one of them. I said, "The other two I have the information on and we can talk about them on Tuesday at 4:30." He laughed and said, "Okay." So hopefully he shows. I think he will. We talked to Brother Hobson about it afterwards and he's just like his brother. He can't stop asking questions about Mark and if we've talked to him and what he said and all that and then if we ask him a question about Mark he says, "I'm staying out of it." Or he'll say, "It's no big deal. I don't care." right after he's asked us a question. They're funny, those Hobsons.

Brother Winslow always tries to get us to come inside his house because it's so hot outside and he hates being hot (thus his wardrobe choice). Every time he says, "Want to come inside?" "No, Brother Winslow. We can't." "Why not?!?! I'm not going to hurt you." "Because it's a rule." "Well, rules were meant to be broken." "No." "Come on. I won't tell nobody." "If we break the rules, God will know." "How will He know?" "The Holy Ghost will tell Him." "Aww. The Holy Ghost is a tattle-tale!" Haha. Yes he is.

This week we got to listen to Elder Christoffel Golden Jr of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He's a white guy from South Aftrica and he's awesome. He's the perfect example of how you can chastise with love. He was chastising us left and right and instead of having hurt feelings or being defensive, I felt the Spirit and wasn't upset at all. It was different for me. But I felt like, "Yeah. I should be better about that. And I will from now on." And I felt his love for us the whole time. He was bold. He didn't beat around the bush. But he explained the reasoning behind why he was telling us these things and it was only to make us better and happier missionaries. It made me really excited to go out and be bold but loving. So, we went and visited a less-active lady who is living with a man she isn't married to and has been for 16 years. We had never met with her before but I knew all about her. We planned on going in and doing a get to know you lesson and share a scripture about the Plan of Salvation. Instead, I asked her about her living situation and her testimony. She was open and honest with me. Then I asked her why, if she has a testimony, she's continuing to live contrary to God. Then I promised her blessings and told her how much God loved her. Sister Hunt was shocked. So was I. I wasn't planning on doing that. But I'm sick of being fluffy and limp-wristed with people. They know who we are. They know why we're here. Why pretend that what she's doing is ok? To save her feelings or her pride? That just hurts her in the long run. I'm sick of pretending to be happy for people who are choosing to let go of their exaltation. So, we got real right away. What did we have to lose? She doesn't come to church. The worst thing she could do is continue not coming. When we left she got emotional and thanked us for coming. And guess what! She was at church on Sunday WITH a peach cobbler she had made for us! Haha. It was awesome. Elder Golden was awesome.

That lesson with Sister Spurgeon went so well that we did a similar lesson with Wende. As long as I've been here in Salem I've never known of Wende coming to all three hours of church. This Sunday, she stayed for all three hours. It was awesome. Be bold with people. Show them you care about them and then really show them you care about them by encouraging them to do better. They can't get mad at you if they know your intentions are pure. And if they do get mad at you, they won't always be mad at you. We (lovingly) reprimand Brother Hobson all the time. And sometimes he's upset with us when he leaves. And then that night or a day or two later he'll show up with a treat for us telling us he's sorry and that we were right. We're here to help each other get back. Is sitting quietly in the corner, pretending that sin is ok helping our brothers and sisters? No. It's not. I'm not suggesting we should try and take their agency away or make them feel bad about themselves. We should make them feel like children of God with much more potential in them than sin and stagnation.

I'll step down from my soapbox, now.

Extra Blessings: Carly & Brynn, Sister Ford, Judy, The J's
Quote of the Week: "And behold, he shall be born of Mary... she being a... precious and chosen vegetable."

Things have changed a little bit since last week. I might end up being transferred after all. I think Salem is trying to kill me. I've had weird pains in my eyes and I woke up Sunday morning with one of them swollen and red. I looked GREAT at church. The poor people at church. I think I could walk in there with an extra limb growing out of my ear and they wouldn't be surprised anymore. Don't worry. Dr. Kakarlapudi knows. I'm on anti-biotics. But I'm afraid if I don't leave soon, Bird Fungus will get the best of me. We'll see. I'm still praying about it. Maybe I should change my name to Paula. That's what Dad has been calling me lately. (It's the female version of Paul. He was a missionary that had a lot of health problems, too.) Oh well. This doesn't change much.

[An additional bit of news from a separate email: [I have to tell you quickly about a tender mercy I had yesterday. I was at church and my eye was really bothering me. I talked to Tom Roberts who is a doctor in the ward and I didn't want to because I've heard the other doctors in the ward say that they're supposed to see people as patients in their offices, not at church. But Wende and Sister Hunt made me. He looked at me and was concerned about my eyes and the swelling and right then and there wrote me a prescription for Augmentin and told me to start it right away and to call my surgeon first thing in the morning. In my head I was thinking, "I don't have the money to buy that stuff." But I didn't say anything. Well, he wrote me the prescription, looked up the price and then pulled out $40 from his wallet and handed it to me and said, "This should cover it." I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say no thanks, but I wouldn't have been able to start the medicine if I did. It made me want to cry. I don't know how to thank him. But I know that he was listening to the Spirit because why else would he have given me the money I needed. It's making me cry right now, just thinking about it. I'm too, too blessed.]

The Church is still TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis Nelson

To Nina from Sis. B Nelson                                                                                                                       August 13, 2012


Whenever you hear missionary stories over the pulpit at church, you hear about miracles.  You hear the success stories.  You hear about how someone’s heart was open and ready and how their life has changed for the best and about the unbeatable, unmatchable, unbelievable joy that a testimony of the restored gospel produces  You hear about how this joy is felt not only by the new member, but also by the person who introduced them to the gospel. You don’t really ever hear the stories about the people who say no.  People don’t tend to share the stories about being yelled at or ridiculed or avoided.  You don’t hear someone at the pulpit tell how they’ve lost a friendship or a family member because they shared their testimony of the gospel with them.  You don’t hear about the sadness and the hurt feelings, the discouragement, the tears.

                My sister, Nina, is eleven years old.  She recently got up the courage to write her testimony in a Book of Mormon and give it to one of her dearest friends.  She was even brave enough to read her testimony before handing her the book.  She gave it to her friend because she loves her and wants her to feel the joy that she feels.  Nina was shocked when, instead of appreciation or respectfulness, her friend responded with anger and even started mocking Nina and the beliefs she holds sacred.  Stunned, but still sure that this gift would bring peace and light to her friend, Nina asked again if her friend would take the book.  Her friend became angrier and gathered her things and started to leave our house and walk home.  Ina followed her with the Book of Mormon, pleading with her friend not to be mad, but to take the book because it means so much to her.  The next day when Nina went over to play at her friend’s, no one called her Nina but referred to her as “missionary” in a degrading way and purposefully did things that they knew went against what Nina believes and then teased her about them.
                This is obviously NOT how Nina imagined sharing the gospel with her best friend would go.  This isn’t your typical pulpit experience.  It’s one that ends with your head buried in your mom’s lap crying tears of sorrow and pain.  It’s one that leaves you asking why your attempt to share happiness was met with contempt and ridicule.
                I understand why we don’t hear these stories in church, why we don’t share these stories with each other.  We want to encourage one another.  We want people to know that the outcome can be great.  It can be wonderful.  It can exceed wonderful.  We don’t share the rejection stories because we don’t want to discourage people or create fear of sharing the gospel.  
                But the truth is that there are people that say no.  There are people that get angry.  There are people that persecute us and belittle us and despise us.  And it’s hard to take; and it hurts.  Yet, Elder Jeffrey R Holland said this about missionaries, “When they struggle, when they are rejected, when they’re spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword, they are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best life this world has ever known.”
                Experiences like Nina’s are important.  They define us. They force you to evaluate where you really stand, what you really believe:  Do you I still know that Jesus Christ lived and died for me?  Do I still believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet?  Is the Book of Mormon the word of God?  Is my testimony worth more to me than my pride?  Than my popularity?  Am I willing to keep opening my mouth?  Am I willing to face more rejection?  Was I seriously committed when I promised god to stand as a witness of Him in ALL times and in ALL things and in ALL places?  Am I willing to share the gospel with everyone I meet?  After one person says no, am I willing to try again with someone else?
                Not all missionary experiences are pleasant ones.  That’s why we’re afraid: they could say no.  Sometimes they do.  But, if the gospel means that much to us, if they mean that much to us, why aren’t we following them out the door with a Book of Mormon?  Why aren’t we reading our testimony to them face to face?  Why aren’t we insisting that we have the answers they’re looking for?  That we know why they are here on this earth?  THE reason they’re here and what their assignment is and how to accomplish it.  Sure they have their agency, their choice.  And they do.  And some will choose to walk away.  But, when the end has come and when everything is clear, we can look them in the eyes and not feel guilty and not have to worry that they’ll say, “Why didn’t you tell me?  You know that whole time? I thought we were friend!  They didn’t you tell me?”
                Nina’s friend left that house that day angry and upset AND without a doubt in her mind that Nina Nelson believes in Jesus Christ and the restored gospel, and that Nina wants her to have the same thing.  Nina stood shoulder to shoulder with Christ that day.  No doubt she made Him very proud.  She set a shining example for me.
                She reminded me of something that gets passed around the missionary world that I really like.  I’ve even written it out and signed my name under it because I so completely agree with it and want my own life to reflect what it says.  Legend has it that it was written by Henry B. Eyring, but I haven’t been able to verify that.  Either way, it’s my new creed.  It’s called “The Fellowship of the Unashamed.”

I, Brooke Nelson, am part of the Fellowship of the Unashamed.  The die has been cast; I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.  I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I won’t look back, let up, slow down or be still.  My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure.  I’m finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap
I no longer need pre-eminence, positions, promotions, or popularity.  I don’t have to be right, first, recognized, praised, or rewarded.  I know live by faith, lean on His presence, walk with patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power.  My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven.  My road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, deterred, lured away, divided or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.  I won’t give up, shut up, or let up until I have stood up, stored up, and paid up for the cause of Christ.  I must go until He comes, give until I drop, preach all I know and work until He stops me.

And when He returns for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. 

My banner is clear…Brooke Nelson

          Nina is part of The Fellowship of the Unashamed.  I know it and the Lord knows it. And because He has seen that she’ll open her mouth.  He will use her and put people in her path that ARE ready to hear and accept the gospel.  And she’ll find them as she continues to open her mouth; and then she will understand as I do what Alma meant when he said, “And this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.  And behold, when I see . . . my brethren truly penitent and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy . . . my soul is carried away, even to the separation of it from the body, as it were, so great is my joy.”  (Alma 29:9, 10 & 16)
         Keep sharing the gospel, Nina.  The Lord needs valiant servants like you. And if you will stand by Him, He will stand by you.  I’m proud to say I know you.  I’m proud to say you’re my sister.  And I hope it make YOU proud when I say that YOU are a great MISSIONARY.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lucky (20)13!

Coming April 2013: Merlin Erven Nelson Anderson! or Merlina Erveneesa Nelsdotter Andersdotter!

Congratulations to my beautiful, pregnant sister, Paige, and my beautiful, non-pregnant BIL(brother-in-law), Nick! Spokane better watch out, 'cause Baby Anderson is going to sweep any and all cutest/chubbiest baby contests they have next year, hands down! No contest! I'm so excited! And happy! And grateful! Huzzah!

I'm also grateful and excited for Salem. We had interviews with President Woodbury this week. When he and I were talking he told me that he doesn't usually do this but that he's giving me the call on this next transfer. He said that he knows I've been in Salem for a long time and if I stay this transfer that I'll probably end up staying here for the rest of my mission (because I only have two transfers left and if I stay next transfer it would be weird to get transferred on my last transfer). He said that he knew it would be unique because then I'd only have had two areas on my mission and will have stayed in them nine months apiece. But he can see that the ball is just getting rolling here and he doesn't want to lose momentum. And neither do I. I told him that I don't want to leave. We're about to start teaching Mark and we've been finding more and more and I feel like good things are about to happen in Salem. So we both felt like I should stay. But he told me that he'd give me two weeks to think about it. I'll give him my final decision then. And he promised that no matter what my decision is that I won't be with Sister Hunt after this transfer ends. So I've been thinking and praying about it. I'll do whatever the Lord wants me to do. But I hope that He wants me to stay in Salem. And it could change, but right now I'm feeling like He does.

Mark Hobson got back from Florida on Saturday. I'm going to give him a couple days to decompress and then we're coming for him. I've been studying up on some of his questions and I've been thinking about how I want to explain faith and how essential a testimony of the Book of Mormon is.

Yesterday, Sister Hunt and I went to the park to contact people. We spoke with a couple people that weren't interested and then we approached two guys that were sitting on a picnic table passing a guitar between themselves and playing different songs. We asked them a question of the soul and they both said they've wondered that before and we asked them if we could answer it for them right then and they said they had all the time in the world. We ended up summarizing the plan of salvation for them and briefly told them about the restoration. Then we sat down at the table with them and read the first part of 3 Nephi 11. They were both eating it up and we finally had to go because President Woodbury was trying to get ahold of me about a different person in Salem and he had called a couple times. But we talked to them for a little over and hour and when we asked if we could meet them again they were like, "How about tomorrow?" Best response ever. Their names are Josh and John. Josh is 17 and has had a crazy, awful life so far but the night before we met him had felt like instead of listening to his heavy metal music that he should listen to Christian music, so he did. He's been between foster care and his parents his whole life and in a five year period he was sent to 50 different foster homes. He dropped out of high school and has had a lot of painful things happen in his life. But he's really excited about the Book of Mormon. He kept telling me he wished his foster mom was there because she needs to hear what we were saying because she's pretty lost right now. We're going to try and make contact with her this week. John is 30 and his mom passed away but before she did they used to write Christian songs together. He can't read, but he can play the guitar really well. I'm going to ask him if I can teach him how to read and use the Book of Mormon as our practice. They're great.

We've also taught this girl named Kimberly whose mom owns a Mexican restaurant on the town square. She's 15 and she really liked the story about Joseph Smith and said we can come back any time. We want to be able to teach her mom sometime, too.

Sandra is making slow, but steady progress. It's hard because we aren't allowed to be there if her boyfriend is home and a lot of days he just decides not to go to work or to come home early so she has to cancel. But when we do get to teach her, she's very receptive and feels the Spirit.

We did an exchange this week and Sister Roberts came here to Salem with me. She's a greenie this transfer but she doesn't act like one. We were walking down this busy highway and she had no fear talking to people. She also smiled and waved at every car that passed. And it wasn't just a head nod or a little tip of the hand, it was a full on wave using her whole arm bending from the elbow. It was cracking me up. She said she just wants people to have a good impression of us. We came up to a guy at a gas station and he flat out denied me before I could finish my sentence. It made us a little sheepish and we were scared to talk to the next guy, but we did anyways and he was really nice. We talked to him about the Book of Mormon and he told us he has one and that he used to meet with the Elders and that we should stop by sometime. It was a sweet reward after building up courage.

A couple of things I think are weird:
First thing is that since I've come on my mission, all of my friends are at least twice my age. For example: Willard-59, Otis-66, Sherry-56, Reed-54, Claiborne-64, Judy-60, Mary-83, Wende-61, Kim-52, Brother Winslow-73, the Vonnahmes-71 & 73, Rowena-83. Why not anyone in their forties? or thirties? Nope. They're all my parents ages or older. And they're honestly my friends that I'd rather hang out with than the other people I know that are my age out here. It's weird.
Second thing is that no one can understand me. Sister Hunt can be across the room and whisper and they pick it up loud and clear. But I can be sitting three inches from their ear and shout myself hoarse and people still can't understand what I'm saying. I asked Brother Winslow about it the other day and he said it's the tone of my voice. Something about it doesn't carry as well as other people's. It reminded me of that home video we have of Christmas when I was like 3. Joel and Derek were 8 & 9 and they sound like Chip & Dale, their voices are so high and squeaky. Then dad pans over to the little blonde girl in the frilly nightgown and asks me a question and a bullfrog croaks back. Oh well.

Things are looking better and better here in Salem. Thanks for your prayers and your support.

Extra Blessings: Otie
Quote of the Week: "The Holy Ghost is a tattle-tale!"
Explanation from last week's quote: Mom and I had been couped up in the hotel all day. At night there was a severe storm starting and mom decided she wanted to watch it. "I'm going to open the window. We haven't seen the sun all day--" FWHAM! The absolute second that she opened the curtains, the building directly in front of our window was struck by lightning. Haha. Mom was so scared/shocked by it that she fell backwards, screaming. It was awesome.

I love you all. I love this gospel and the hope and peace it brings to me and those I love. The Church is TRUE! Share it!

Love Yuns,

Sis Nelson

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Sun, The Rain, And the Appleseed

I have these two worlds. The one has its orbit back in Las Vegas and the other orbits Kentuckiana. In one world I go by Brooke and I'm surrounded by people I'm related to. In the other world I'm known as Sister Nelson and I'm surrounded by friends with funny accents. In the one world I'm a normal girl. In the other world I'm a missionary. These worlds know about each other but they've never met. They're not supposed to co-exist; that's the nature of having two separate worlds. But last week, my two worlds collided. And it was crazy.
Mom came to Kentuckiana! There I was, in my skirt and nametag with my companion and two other sisters when my mom pulls up, gets out of the car and gives me a big hug. Mom. Mission. Mom. Mission. Mom & Mission. It was surreal. And it was awesome.
Mom and I spent most of the week she was here cooped up in the Louisville Residence Inn while I recovered from my surgery. But we did spend one night in Salem where she got to meet people there, and then one night at the mission home where she got to meet President and Sister Woodbury. First people she met in Salem were the Vonnahmes. The thing about the Vonnahmes is that they both talk really loud and neither one cares if the other is talking. So, whenever people go to their house for the first time they have an inward struggle trying to decide who to look at and who to respond to since they're both talking a mile a minute at you about completely different things. Add to that how tiny Sister Vonnahme is and Brother Vonnahmes "tusks" and it's a tidal wave of newness coming at you and they don't even give you a second to catch your breath and take it all in. I was excited to watch Mom and see how she handled it. She was doing a really good job of juggling between the two with only a slightly amused face till she gave herself away by quickly whispering during a lull when they were distracted, "Am I laughing out loud?" "No." "Oh, good. I'm trying to keep it in, but I was afraid I might be laughing despite myself."
As soon as we got in the car afterwards, she belly laughed for a good minute and then giggled for another two. [Mom's personal note:  I've got to add that when we went to get into the car it was POURING rain, absolutely pouring.  The Vonnahmes stood at their door to watch us until we got out of sight and so we got to the rental car, I opened my side of the car, Brooke went to hers, I hurried, smiled and waved one more time, hopped in and could NOT figure out how to unlock the door so that Brooke could get in.  Could not figure it out.  She was screaming, I was laughing and screaming, the Vonnahmes were waving, and it continued to pour.  There was more than one reason why we were laughing for "a good minute" or more after we finally got into the car!] She thanked me for letting her have the unique experience of meeting Marv and Judie and then scolded me for not warning her about how tiny Sister Vonnahme is. I told her I had warned her and she'd seen pictures. She just wasn't expecting her to be quite so small in real life, I guess. On Sunday they insisted on feeding us dinner (lunch) and Brother Vonnahme made a pot roast and we had a good visit with them again. Brother Vonnahme just read a book about J. Golden Kimball so he was trying to be as outrageous as possible and Sister Vonnahme just kept hugging everyone.
Mom also got to meet Brother Hobson and hear his conversion story. He came to church because Mom was going to be there and actually wore a white shirt and tie which he NEVER does. He told me that on a scale of 1 to 10 on first impressions that Mom earned a 9.5. (To put things into perspective he said he's only ever met two other people that earned a 9.5.) I was really surprised because he had been so nervous to meet her because he knows she liked Romney and he's a democrat and he thought Mom wouldn't like him because of it. But he was really impressed by her and when she told him he should wear the white shirt and tie to church every week he said that he would (something the Sisters have been asking him to do for over a year). Something about Mom telling him to do it did the trick. So, good job, Mom. Mom also got to meet Brother Winslow. When I called him to see if we could come over Mom was whispering in my ear, "Tell him to put some clothes on or we aren't coming," but I somehow forgot to ask him so when we went over he was in his jean shorts. He liked Mom. He thought she sounded like she was 13 years old and kept asking her how she could be my mom if she sounded so young. Then we rode in his rickety, self-made elevator down to his basement and mom screamed every time it jolted. That's when he knew we must be related because I scream like that anytime I see a bug and he thinks it's the strangest thing to scream over a bug.
Staying with the Woodbury's was pretty unique, too. Sister Woodbury cooked some delicious meals and President took the time to sit and visit with us. At supper (dinner) there were two Elders there eating with us and Mom kept calling me Brooke and I kept correcting her and saying she had to call me Sister Nelson. She would laugh and apologize and then call me Brooke again. Finally President looked at her and laughed and said, "We're going to have to send you home!" He didn't care if she called me Brooke when we were alone, but in front of other people, especially other missionaries she was supposed to call me Sister Nelson. She finally compromised and referred to me as her daughter. Haha.
My surgery went extremely well. Dr. Kakarlapudi was astounded at how well I'm recovering. On Monday I had a follow up with him and he was shocked. He said that he had just seen another woman who had the same procedure done the same day I did with less than half the work done as I had had and he said she's nowhere near as recovered as I am. I told him I had a lot of people praying for me and he said it might have helped. I know it did. Today I saw him again and he said that my healing is exceptional. I think he's pretty shocked.
The only things that have been hard for me in recovery is nausea. My equilibrium has all changed and my body has had a time trying to get used to it. Every time I got into a car for that first week, I almost threw up. Elevators made me sick. Walking made me sick sometimes. And now that I can smell everything I've been hit with nausea when a lot of smells come at me at once, too. The only thing that helps is drinking pickle juice. I don't know why. But that first day we were in the car and I thought I was going to hurl all over mom and all I wanted was dill pickles so she got them for me and I opened the jar and drank the juice till I felt better. I've gone through four jars this week. I don't know what's in that stuff, but it's magic for my nausea. Maybe it's the vinegar?
I'm getting better every day. My body is adjusting to having oxygen and it likes it. I've been so blessed. My whole zone fasted for me without telling me the day after my surgery. And I know I have many people at home fasting and praying for me. I'm so grateful. I know that the Lord is blessing me with such a quick recovery because of your faith and love. Oh yeah, when I saw Dr. Kakarlapudi today I gave him a Book of Mormon and marked Alma 36 which is my favorite chapter and he said he'd look through it! Maybe one day he'll go by Brother Kakarlapudi.
I've told you about my medical miracle. Now, let me tell you a missionary miracle. Brother Hobson has two brothers. His one brother met with the missionaries for a while but he passed away in January from cancer. His other brother, Mark, has never met with the missionaries. He's a lot like Brother Hobson was before he joined. He's drawn to the church and agrees with a lot of what we teach and he can feel something different about us, but he avoids us as best he can. Every once in a while the urge to talk to us or come to church with be so strong that he'll give in for a second and then run away as fast as he can. For example, he'll drive by the church on Sunday mornings while church is in session and sit in his car in the parking lot. But he won't come in. He'll see us at the library with his brother, Kim, and won't say a word to us. Then every month or so, one of those days at the library he'll come up to our table and say, "What are you reading about today?" and then we tell him and he says that's interesting and we'll invite him to sit and he says he can't and walks away as fast as he can. He talks to Kim all the time about the church. He has a Book of Mormon. He's come up to me and thanked me before for visiting their mom in the nursing home or helping with Randy's funeral and stuff like that but he always walks away as fast as he can after he says what he wanted to say. So, I know he's interested, but he's terrified that he's interested. This is just how Kim was. Well, I met Mark a day or two after Christmas, right after I got here to Salem. Ever since then I've prayed in my nightly prayers for a chance to teach Mark Hobson. That was December. This is August. We've had a couple run-ins with him since then and every time I wait for the Spirit to tell me it's ok to invite him to take the lessons and the Spirit never does. So I just try to have as pleasant a conversation as possible with him and let him come to us and he has, gradually, a little more often and then a little more often. He still runs away pretty quickly, but he's not as shy about it.
Saturday, Sister Hunt and I were walking around the town square trying to find people to talk to and hand out cards to. At one point we felt prompted to go up behind the square to a street and walk there for a minute. As soon as we got to that street, Brother Hobson drove by and pulled over and we talked to him for a couple minutes there. As we were talking to him, a car honked its horn as it passed and it scared me and made me jump. It was Mark. We watched him slam on his brakes and turn into a little side street as if he was going to come through the square back around and talk to us. I got really excited and got out this custom pass-along card that I had just created the day before that has some of my favorite questions of the soul on it and offers a free Book of Mormon. And I also got out an Articles of Faith card. I was nervous but excited.
Well, Mark must have chickened out because one block down we saw him pull back into the street and head off the opposite direction. Bummer. So, we said by to Brother Hobson and kept walking around the square for a while. We found a new investigator named Kimberly which was awesome. Then we walked down the main road some more looking for more people to talk to. For some reason, I felt prompted to turn down by the railroad tracks. We did and we started walking down this almost deserted street that has an old factory on it that went out of business. There aren't any houses on it and there's very little of anything on it. Sister Hunt was like, "Why are we walking down this street?" I was like, "I don't know." But we kept walking it. A single car drove by and pulled over and asked why we were walking down this street and offered us a ride. I said no thanks and handed the driver a pass-along card and we kept walking. Haha. It was weird.
We finally came up to a sketchy laundry mat and I saw a guy and walked up and gave him a card. Then we turned to keep walking and I hear someone say, "Hey, why don't you stop picking on my brother?" I turn around and see on the other side of that man's car is none other than Mark Hobson. My heart skipped. He smiled. "I'm just joking. I'm sorry if I scared you earlier." My heart sped back up. Is Mark Hobson really opening up a conversation with us that has more than a two sentence exchange? We small talked for a couple seconds while I waited to see if the Spirit was going to let me talk gospel with him. I felt really good. I cut the small talk because I didn't know how long Mark would talk before running away and he had already started walking the opposite direction twice and then turned back around. It looked like he was trying to have a square dance with himself or something. I needed to ask him now, before he could get away.
"Can I give you a card?"
"Well, sure."
YES! He pulled out his glasses to read it as I explained, "Those are some questions that I've had that God has answered for me through the Book of Mormon."
"Oh. Nice."
He studied it for a second and put it in his pocket. Then, instead of running away, he became very candid and cut to the chase. "Look, girls, I think your church is very nice and I admire a lot of what you do. But I can't accept the idea of a modern day prophet, especially at 14 years old. I also have a hard time with the idea of reformed Egyptian when no one has ever heard of reformed Egyptian and I also know that Paul said we aren't to preach any other gospel and you preach a new gospel. Those are the problems I have with your church. But I really like your programs especially with charitable work and a lot of other things that you teach."
So I told him we respect his desire to believe something fully and the research he's done. I mentioned Samuel the boy Prophet which he hadn't really thought of before but I didn't really want to get into the gnitty gritty right there. I want to sit down with him and explain that if someone knows the Book of Mormon comes from God that all of the other questions that someone might have will be answered or they'll fall by the wayside.
So I just said, "Those are good questions. Can we sit down with you sometime and talk with you about them and about our church?"
And then I held my breath. I've been praying for this for 8 months and I've been as cautious as possible because I didn't want to scare him off or push things too hard too quickly. So I held me breath.
"Well... sometime. Sometime that would be good."
That wasn't a good enough answer for me.
"Sometime... in the near future?"
"I'm going to Florida next week and school starts soon, but when I get back, we could get together. That would be nice."
I had flashbacks to Jake Schmidt and commanded myself not to yell and do a fist pump.
"Ok! So, when you get back from Florida, we'll get together and talk about your questions and about the church, right?"
Then we had a little more small talk. And then he went into the laundromat and we walked back to the main street. I accidentally let out a little scream once we turned around but I'm hoping he didn't hear it because he's in his late 50's maybe he has bad hearing. Once he was inside I started rubbing my hands together and singing and I just couldn't believe that we had just talked to Mark Hobson and that he had said we could teach him! Prayer works! It works, it works, it works! That's when I introduced Sister Hunt to the Johnny Appleseed song:
The Lord is good to me
and so I thank the Lord
for giving me the things I need--
the sun, the rain, & the appleseed
the Lord is good to me!
It was an absolute miracle! Miracle, I tell you! The Lord had led us down that first street to get Mark thinking about us even though He knew Mark would chicken out. Then the Lord led us down that deserted, dead street because He knew where Mark was. And He knew that for some reason, Mark would be willing to talk to us that day. And since he had already seen us a half hour before he had something to start up a conversation about. He knew all of this. And He let me be a part of it! It was so AWESOME! It was definitely all the Lord's work and His timing and his placement of all three or really four of us if you count Kim earlier. It was so, so wonderful.
The next day Kim called and told us that he'd been talking to Mark and Mark had mentioned running into us. Every time I've asked Kim about Mark he says that he'll be a tough sell and that Kim doesn't want to get in the middle of it. So he said that he asked Mark if he really would meet with us once he's back and he said that he would! He told Kim he really does plan on meeting with us! Oh, I'm so excited! This is the best thing ever. I'm so, so happy. I just know that Mark Hobson is going to accept the truth. It might take him a while, but he will. I feel it in my bones!
I'm so grateful to be a missionary. I'm so grateful that I've been allowed to stay here on my mission despite several and very weird circumstances. I know I'm a spoiled brat. Most people don't get the allowances and chances that I've been given. And I don't know why I've been given them. But I'm very, very grateful for them.
Extra Blessings: Shannon, Judy, Otis, Aunt Suzanne & Kate
Quote of the Week: "I'm going to open the window. We haven't seen the sun all day--" FWHAM!
Quote explanations: Sister Vonnahme's hair sticks straight out unless she gets it permed. Well, she was so ill for so long that she went months without getting it permed and one day she told Marvin that she didn't care how weak she was the next day that she was going to the salon because in her words: "I am SICK and TIRED of looking like a scarecrow!"
Brother Vonnahme and I were talking about how annoying and loud CT scans are and he said, "It sounds like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang played by a drunk!"
The Church is TRUE! Share it!
Love Yuns,
Sis Nelson