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

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