Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 12th 2013

This week was an interesting one. We were biking less and less with it being hard on Sister Wright, she had some health issues this week, and spent most of the time in bed. This meant a couple straight days of being in our little apartment. She seems to be doing better, and continues to build her energy, but we still have to come to the apartment and let her rest frequently. She's a trooper. I always felt like the morning study time was never enough, so I have had a chance to study A LOT with her being out of commission. I study, write a letter to a less active or investigator, study some more, write in my journal, study some more, make some interesting food for Sister Wright, study some more, and when I feel that I'm about to go stir-crazy, I drop into push-ups and scream President Hank's oft-quotes "TENACITY RRRRGGGHHH" (of course I scream it in my head so as not to wake my comp)....then I study some more. I've been learning a lot, and the spirit has been a great help when we do go out, that references and stories just come to my head that can strengthen the people we talk to.
President and Sister Hanks were aware of the situation and came to visit a few days ago. They are such powerful people! They do not waste a second. They were kind enough to bring us sustenance and then President Hanks said that he wanted to speak to me in the other room. My 6'6 mission president sat on the floor of our tiny apartment bedroom and just kind of glanced at our bedframes...side story, Sister Wright was sick of laying in the same room all day, so I decided that we would have a sleepover which entailed putting our mattresses on the floor in another room and watching Mormon messages while indulging in a bit of ice cream--gotta enjoy the little things as a missionary...I started to explain, but President Hanks kind of just looked at me and just stopped and we got to important stuff. I was dumbfounded at the level to which he knows and trusts me. He told me his reasoning in giving me this assignment and assured me that I am doing missionary work staying in the apartment all day and serving Sister Wright. He loves his wife, as I asked him questions, it was cute to hear him often say, "Oh, shoot, I'm still working on that, but Liz, she's fantastic at that." I also love that his wife's name is Liz. She is amazing and did wonders for Sister Wright in their chat. President Hanks gave Sister Wright a blessing before he left which was a huge strength for her. They are just amazing people. I'm super blessed to be called to serve under them.

I've gotten to play the piano a lot which has been awesome. I played the organ for Sacrament meeting yesterday, and accompanied two special musical numbers, and a few members from the ward joined the other sister missionaries and ourselves to perform for a nursing home. They are the sweetest people alive, and begged us to come back and sing and play for them again. It was great, we will probably do it again. Music is a powerful tool. I love the hymns, it is such a miracle to have the hymn book.

The times that we have been out, we have been approached by some people wanting us to pray with them or pray for their loved ones who are struggling. I think it a miracle that despite Sister Wright and I being so young, people of all faiths see our nametags and representatives of Jesus Christ. While they are still not interested in our message for themselves, they trust that our prayers can help them. People often comment at how they can sense that we love the Savior and love our work. Enthusiasm does wonders. We are getting members of the ward excited about missionary work. Last Monday we had an FHE with a family and did role-plays with them and committed them all to share their testimony with a friend. They are great. :)

Our investigators are struggling. Kevin has ceased returning our calls/texts, and Satan is working pretty hard with our other too. Cathy is having lots of struggles, but she remains faithful. I met PJ today, our other investigator who has a crazy background, but has SUCH AN INCREDIBLY STRONG SPIRIT. She is amazing and after some struggles is finally able to meet with us again. I am blessed to be able to work with these people.

I haven't had a lot of Southern food since I've been here. Which is probably a good thing. The RS president did give us bean and bacon soup. Amazing. A Japanese family in the ward fed us fried shrimp. Likewise amazing. We cook for ourselves for the most part, and we try to be pretty fact, last Monday I stepped on Sister Wright's scale and was surprised to see it read 15-20 pounds over my normal fluctuating range. I didn't feel like I had gained that much weight, and was pretty scared that it took me less than a month to become overweight, especially when I was being diligent about my fitness/exercise. I started getting up even earlier to work out and started counting calories. Several days later when I weighed myself, I was again surprised to see it read UNDER my normal fluctuating range, I talked to Sister Wright and she said that she had to fix the needle because it got moved somehow while we were cleaning. I confirmed with another scale...I haven't gained any weight, in fact, I've lost a few pounds out here. Huge relief. Hahaha.

Love y'all so much!
Read the scriptures. A lot. They're awesome. Keep sharing with friends. Do your home/visiting teaching--we could spend a lot more time finding if members were diligent about that.
Thanks for the writing and the support, you're always in my prayers,

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 5th 2013

This week was the best week of the mission so far. Most of the time, we don't have a whole lot of success in our finding efforts. People are friendly and polite, but you can still get the vibe that they would rather we let them alone and talk about anything religious or not. We have met some great people though. One of them is known as Alabama Grandmama, we discovered her while looking for a member who hadn't attended church in a long time. Turns out she passed away, but we found her sister who lives on the same street. She is a Methodist and has no inclination to change that, but she said she had Elders coming to her house for years because they knew they could get food there. She spoke very fondly of them, and invited us to come over anytime we wanted to visit or eat food. We may stop by and see her again as she is a widow, but it can be very hard to get out of people's houses because Southern folk speak in novels and dissertations. :) I love it.

I think the reason this week went so well is just because I know Sister Wright so much better now. I now know what makes her laugh, what she is and isn't fond of, and the best way to communicate with her. Living with a complete stranger and being with them 24/7 is kinda difficult, but we're not strangers now. We have had some amazing comp studies together and are growing and learning from each other. I'm still adjusting to the slower pace down here, but I'm slowly learning to embrace it.

We had a lesson and a church tour with Kevin. He has a ways to to, but he is reading from the Book of Mormon and keeping his commitments. He brought his teenage son who is taller than him to the church tour, so that was pretty cool, Kevin Jr. He was out of town this weekend for an athletic tournament--he coaches football, basketball, and wrestling, so he wasn't able to come to church, but we texted him scriptures to read, and he has been keeping up on them. :)

Our other progressing investigator, Cathy, who is pretty much my favorite person in the world came to church for the first time yesterday. It was beautiful, we sat right in front, and I loved sitting next to her so I could hear her quiet "mmhhmmm"s, "okay"s and "amen"s. She was compeltely engaged the whole time and took notes in Relief Society. God truly has a hand in all things because she happens to know one of the less active sisters in the ward who also came yesterday, and they get along great, so they can strengthen each other in the church. We did service painting Cathy's house (that was a nice break from weeding which we do ALL THE TIME for service for lots of people). Service is great, and seems to be a good use of our time. Unfortunately our ward has had some not so great experiences with missionaries in the past, but we seem to have the members' trust and are reestablishing a good reputation.

The missionaries in my zone are great. The zone leaders are awesome, and came and rescued us when our car battery died--we weren't sure how. They are completely focused and constantly working without complaint or ever poking fun and some of the ridiculous problems that come up with the sisters. We were pretty embarrassed when our car battery died again two days later. We were rescued by the Senior couple who is over Military Relations, Elder and Sister Aston, they feel like my parents in the mission, they are great. We learned that our TIWI (this little device that monitors our driving and tells us in an intimidating voice "check your speed" and such) was not turning off as it's supposed to and that's what drained our battery. We are getting a new one and hopefully won't have any other issues with the car besides our limit on miles since my companion hasn't been feeling super great and biking is hard on her.

We went on exchanges with the Sister Traning Leaders and that was way cool. We didn't get to do a whole lot of finding, since we only got them for the evening and we were weeding for service, but it was still a good experience to elarn from them. My temporary companion gets the same Subway sandwich as me and also does insanity, so we got to work out together.

Yesterday was the best Sunday in the mission because church was so awesome, and because of our finding experiences in the park after church. I came across my first hispanic family. Sister Wright said something to the mother, who shyly smiled and nodded. I started speaking to her in Spanish and her eyes lit up. We talked a little about the restoration and she said she wanted to learn more. I was happy to get to use Spanish, and was surprisingly way more comforatble doing initial teaching in Spanish with her than I have been in English. She is a sweetheart, I gave her number to the Spanish sisters in our area.

About 15 minutes later, we talked to a gorgeous black lady about my age with a 17 month old little girl. This was one of the best experiences thus far. She was very nice, but not interested at first. With most people, I kind of feel like we are wasting our time, because they are clearly not willing to make any changes, but with her, I felt like we needed to talk it out some more. After a while she said that her perception of Mormonism changed by talking to us, and she thanked us for the information, but said that she wouldn't read the Book of Mormon because she doesn't even read the Bible regularly and she knows that is the word of God. As I looked her in the eye and testified of the truthfulness and power of the Book of Mormon and what it could do for her and her daughter, I could visibly see her faith increase, and felt an overwhelming love for her as my spiritual sister. I asked her if she could commit to reading one chapter (3 Nephi 11) and pray to know if it's true. There was a visible change in her and she said yes and accepted the book.

This church is so true, and the only way we can grow spiritually is by turning outward as Christ does and serving with compelte obedience.

I love you all so much!! Keep me updated with news from home! I can't tell you how much I love hearing from y'all!

Sister Sheffer

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Big Kevin

Thanks for writing me!! I can't tell you how much I enjoy hearing from home and eharing that y'all are anxiously engaged in missionary work! I was one of 34 new missionaries who entered the Alabama Birmingham Mission last week, and over half of them are from Utah. I'm honestly glad that I'm not because when we do role plays and are asked to think of a non member friend to play as the investigator, many of the missionaries from Utah can't think of a non member friend. They are all talented and prepared for this mission, but I know that part of my preparation was growing up where I did and knowing non members.

I loved the MTC, but I couldn't be happier to leave there and get started with real missionary work with real people. As soon as we left it was weird being in the real world. I look at EVERYONE differently now. It's really something. The planes were an adventure, the second one was too heavy so they asked one lady on standby to get off, and without telling us, moved half the luggage to another plane. Most of the missionaries didn't get all their luggage and had to wait several days, I was lucky that I only had one suitcase and it made it.

Sister Wright is a good missionary and trainer. She has a great testimony and a great love for the people she serves, I am learning from her. Again I can see how we are good for each other. I am adjusting to a slower pace from my last companion, but that seems the way that most things operate here in the South. people just take their time. I love it here. It is green and beautiful. Montgomery is nice, even the supposedly poorer areas we serve have beautiful homes, and everything is green. people's backyard's are literally forests. The ward boundaries are ginormous, there is another set of sister missionaries, and a set of elders in the ward so Sister Wright and I only cover 1/3 of the ward boundaries. We have the nicer area. People are super nice and friendly (with few exceptions) and I haven't met a single person who doesn't love God, so most are at least willing to talk about God. Most people, while friendly, polite, and hospitable, aren't interested in our message, but Sister Wright and I had a few miracles and managed to get two new investigators this week which for this mission is phenomenal!

Thursday was kind of a tough day, we got lost a few days, and dealt with some less-tan-friendly people, and just weren't having any success. We were walking through an apartment complex trying to find an address when God sent a miracle. A BIG miracle, in fact this miracle is over 300 pounds with 33 inch biceps (actually I'm not sure). We passed Kevin, when I turned around and asked if he knew where the address was. As soon as we said hello, both Sister Wright and I felt that we were supposed to talk to him. We found out while he was looking up the address that he played basketball with mormons when he was 14, as we continued to talk, Kevin opened up a bit more, and we learned of some pretty grievous things that he had done, but is now taking full accountability and turning his life back to God to make things right, as we taught him there on the street, he testified to us that our running in to him was divinely inspired by God and that we were God's angels. He accepted a Book of Mormon and set up an appointment with us. Sister Wright and I both had to fight not to cry audibly as we walked away, and once we turned the corner, finally stopped and cried and hugged and prayed to thank Heavenly Father for putting us in his path. The truth is that as missionaries, we really do nothing. We try our best to study and work hard and be worthy just so we can have the spirit with us so people can feel it as we talk to them. Kevin's spiritual moment then wasn't a result of anything that we said, it was just the environment that we created so that he could communicate with God. that was amazing.

We met another family riding our bikes around. Oh! By the way! I got a sweet deal from a bike shop run by a Stake President who give me missionary discounts and I LOVE my bike. Biking is an awesome thing for missionaries because it makes it so much easier to talk to people. I don't if it is thanks to my sweet bike or Shawn T that I was biking in grass up a hill thinking about how much fun I was having, and my companion turned around red-faced and said "there's no way I can bike up this hill." It hadn't crossed my mind that it was a hard thing, but it was a steep hill. Biking is so much fun! My companion doesn't exactly share my enthusiasm for biking, and we do have a nice car, but when I got here the car was already over on miles for the month, so we've gotten to bike quite a bit. Anyway, while we were biking, a lady was out bbqing with her kids running around, and was totally receptive to the restoration and accepted a Book of Mormon, we have an appointment with her this week as well.

Saturday we had stopped on our bikes to discuss where we thought an address was and I noticed a little girl staring at us from her porch. I suggested that we go and talk to her and thus we met these adorable kids age 13 and 10, Tamaya and Jairaishon are awesome and walked us to our next appointment, they gave us their mom's number because they thought the gospel sounded pretty cool. Hopefully their mom thinks so as well.

The ward is mostly white, there are only a handful of black members, but most of the other people we associate with and our two progressing investigators are black. The ward has a lot of military men which is pretty cool. I love the ward and am excited to serve there. We had a few young women go out with us this week. It was a good experience.

I am wearing new marsk of a missionary--I already have some pretty righeous tan lines from my flats and my watch, and if you look at my legs you'd think I have chicken pox from all the bug bites. We did service weeding some yards, and there are lots of weeds--many of which I thought were pretty plants that were supposed to be there, and lots of bugs. It's good. The weather has been pretty kind to us, it got up to 100 one day, but I wasn't bothered by it. I love biking and the heat. It's good fun.

So pretty much, I love this! It is hard and there are lots of hard moments and adjustments, this lifestyle is so different, but I am way happy to be serving where I am. The people are great. I've got Southern black vernacular DOWN. It almost creeps Sister Wright out how much I can sound like one of our investigators. They make me laugh pretty hard with some of their stories. They are great story tellers and I love the way they talk. I am glad that I ams erving English speaking because this is awesome. I can't think of any hispanics I've seen, but it's probably the area because there are ltos of Spanish speaking missionaries who have plenty of people to teach.

Well, that is all for now, I may be able to get on after Sister Wright and post pictures, but we'll see. The camera is good.

Love you all sooooo much! Please make sure to post my new address on my blog if you haven't already and remind people how much I love mail! :D You are awesome, keep being the amazing people you are, you are doing so much good.

Sister Sheffer