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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?"
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."
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!"
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