Monday, November 19, 2012


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


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,



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,



...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,


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,