Didn't just survive the crazy past week, but thrived the crazy past week.
Monday, we taught our recent convert and his new wife how to hold FHE. Fun stuff. They fed us cheesecake. It wasn't the best, but you know, it was cheesecake, so I was happy.
We got back in contact with Nicole--met her boyfriend who we're also going to start teaching. They have been difficult to reach sometimes, so it will be a process, but they are super prepared and excited to embrace the gospel. Nicole is cutting back on her smoking, but hasn't completely quit yet.
Tuesday we had our Missionary Leadership Council (MLC) in Birmingham with President Hanks and the assistants. We were trained on recent changes, that we teach lesson 5 before baptism as well as after, and we are now in charge of all the new member lessons after baptism. I like this, because the way we were trained shifted my focus into seeing eternity when we look at our investigators and seeing the end goal as the temple, rather, than having the focused goal be baptism. I think the church will have much more success with retention with this new instruction.
That night we taught Mark--we've had several awesome lessons with him. Tuesday's was super powerful. I caught a glimpse of Mark's relationship with the Savior before this life, and it was an incredibly strong experience. He is starting to get it. That night, he finally admitted that maybe he had been getting answers to his prayers, they just weren't coming as directly or quickly as he would have liked. So proud of him for finally recognizing that! He is changing so much. He hasn't touched a cigarette since the night we committed him to quit. Amazing. The next lesson we had with him, he seemed even happier, and had a folded-up fortune with him. We taught, and finally asked him what it was. He grinned, and showed us, it was something like, "God will help you overcome your challenges." He said he had never seen a fortune talk about God. So cool that AFTER Mark finally recognized the more indirect answers to his prayers, God sent him a more direct one in a way that spoke to him.
God is everywhere. He sent another investigator a text message. No lie. The zone leaders we work with had been teaching a teenage kid, and he was attending the Catholic church. During mass, he had been praying, asking God which church was right, as he knew it had to be one of them, Mormons, or Catholics. His phone lit up, and he had a text message that didn't show a sender, that said "MORMONS." God doesn't work this way most of the time, but it's interesting to see how he does give answers to those who diligently seek them.
Wednesday we got to see Anthony! It was the first time we got to sit down with him and both of his parents. Awkward moment when I was testifying of how they could be an eternal family through temple ordinances, and Gina says, "we're not married. Haven't been since '07"...they were divorced in 2007 and have just lived together and raised Anthony since then...We ended up having a good lesson, and they committed to church. Unfortunately they didn't show up. We both have a really good feeling about Anthony, and a really soft spot for the parents also, I know we will see miracles with them.
After our lesson with them, we drove up to Gadsden to meet a stake leader who took us to Girl's Camp. We split with some of the Stake leaders, and I stayed at an archery station, and had a good time working with the Stake leader whose daughter is serving in the Phoenix mission! During a time when no girls were around, and it was just us having a very deep gospel discussion, this thing called a nutria (like a beaver) charged us! We both got our feet up, and she screamed, her scream sent it running off in the other direction, but it was hilarious to me. The rest of the day, when girls came to do archery she would recount our near death experience. So funny. We ate dinner with them, participated in our ward's skit, and then did a devotional for the stake. It went really well, at the end Sister Dodini sang a song called ""Beautiful" I wish you could hear this girl sing. I played on a keyboard to accompany her.
Thursday we planned for zone training with the zone leaders, and did an exchange witht the Oxford sisters. I exchanged with my first STL--I have to admit several transfers ago, while I always admired her and the way she does missionary work, I didn't always particularly like her. This exchange we became very close. I am so impressed by her. She is going home in a month, and is more focused than she ever has been. Super diligent, consistent missionary. She was the one who had a breakdown with the new companion she was getting, but they have actually been working really well together.Miracles!
Friday we had zone training. It was great. One of the zone leaders we work with is going home, so we had a 4th of July Celebration--we did a cook out, all the missionaries contributed, and then we had a special sisters meeting, it was great.
After zone training, we exchanged with Anniston--Sister Denning and Sister Wells! I stayed in Anniston with Sister Denning and we did store contacting, a grill out with members, and then wandered around the projects (the Anniston projects are super nice), and talked to people, eventually meeting some people who let us watch them shoot off fireworks, and are letting the Anniston sisters come back to teach them and to help one of them quit smoking. Sister Denning loves Sister Wells, and is probably more prepared than anyone to be her companion, they are doing really well together, and it's neat to see some of the goals I had and things I pushed for really hard when I was her companion in huntsville, become some of her goals with her area in Anniston. Miracles. It's amazing to see people change. We learn so much out here.
Sister Dodini and I both got an impression to see a less active family while we were driving back to our area on Saturday. We had never met them. We pulled up next to a big moving truck, they were in the process of loading everything up. They are moving to Birmingham, but we got to contact the movers, and a kid who was visiting from Columbiana, and has met with some sisters there. We get to help them clean out their house next week. It was perfect timing, because chances are slim we would have caught them another time. Miracles.
That night we met with the Bowmans with the Elders. Sister Bowman, as we call her now, is seriously investigating the Book of Mormon and seeking answers to her struggles. They didn't make it to church, but they have come a long way. It was a powerful lesson. The Elders will be teaching the main lessons now, and we'll still stay involved with them, especially Sister Bowman.
Sunday we had an awesome testimony meeting. Mark was the only investigator to come, and I think he benefitted greatly from it. I was so impressed during Sacrament meeting at the goodness of the members. Especially for people like Mark who grew up with having a support group like that. The church is really amazing, that we have a congregation full of people who have promised to have each other's backs--and anyone's back who comes through the doors. What we have is amazing, and it's all because the church is true. I've gained a better appreciation of what service, and our covenants to help other does for us.
After church, we were both sick of sitting and being in a car with all the driving we did the past week, so we walked and walked and walked. (Sister Dodini's bike is still out of commission). We met all kinds of awesome people walking. I still pretty much never want to use the car again, unless we're driving to another city. Since we were still fasting, I think we had better success seeing less actives and recent converts we hadn't seen in a long time, and having members come with us to two appointments was perfect. Sister Fowler, who we live with, came with us to follow up with a contact we made last week. The mom immediately recognized her as being her kids' hero--the only dental assistant her kids will let work on them. It made them much more receptive.
Blessings and Miracles. BAM!
I'm pretty happy. Very, very happy. We get to do fhe with that same couple, and they invited Mark. So many good things. I love my mission.