So....some updates on our gators from last week. We went back to teach the three older black men--whom we had taught in a storage shed type thing. I know it sounds really sketchy, but just trust that it's not, it's completely open and facing a road. I promise we're being safe. Anyhow, we went back to teach them and were surprised to see not only the three men we had taught previously, but an additional 5 other people. Upon seeing our arrival, Mr. Shephard excitedly shouted out, "my teachers are here! Now y'all folk need to listen to what these two ladies have to say!" ONe middle-aged white man chuckled and said he would listen, then asked what church we were from. When he learned we were mormons, his demeanor changed and he immediately started bashing. Sister Hall shrank, and I politely defended and answered questions. We had an interesting discussion. He had no valid argument, which was apparent to the other people there. In the beginning, he wouldn't let me finish a sentence until Mr. Shephard piped in and told me, "why don't you just TELL him what you told us the other day about your beliefs." I replied, "I would love to, Mr. Shephard, but I'm afraid he won't listen." The other man back down a little and said he would like to listen to what we had to share. We shared a short restoration lesson and testified. The spirit was present until the white man started bashing again. At this point, we were just trying to get out of the situation. I felt a little trapped, so finally just stood up, smiled as genuinely as I could, and said "It was SO nice to meet you, we have to be getting along now. Mr. Shephard felt really bad, and expressed his desire to read the Book of Mormon. We left him with a copy and are trying to find a way to meet with him by himself this week. The other two gentlemen are very kind, and we enjoy discussing the gospel with them, but they are not open to change. I still have a good feeling about Mr. Shephard, whom they call "Shep."
We had an AWESOME lesson with Byra when we went to her home and taught the restoration. She said there is no way this could be fake. We asked if she would be baptized, and she said yes, but she wanted to be baptized in a river. We can make that happen. We tried to commit her to a date and she said she would have to pray about it. When we followed up the next day, she hadn't had time to read the pamphlet all the way through again and pray as she had committed to do. She asked if we could come with her to her church, and she would come to ours the next week. We made sure she understood our purpose as full-time ministers for our church. We are still hopeful she will step up and keep her commitments so she can feel the spirit again and get answers to her prayers.
Wednesday was my first exchange in several months not as an STL. It was nice. Sister Carr came with me. We had both heard about each other, and had seen each other at MLCs and other meetings, but had never had the chance to work together. I took the opportunity to plan a good day on the bike. That felt way good. I loved getting some good sun and having a chance to bike hard since Sister Carr is a pretty strong biker. Leeds was her first area and she was there a long time, so it was cool to get to talk about everything that happened in the area. We went to a part member family we are starting to work with. The 16 year old, Tricia, is not baptized and isn't huge on religion, but agreed to hear the discussions. It was a powerful lesson. Tricia isn't used to feeling the spirit, so we had to spend some time talking about that. I think it was most powerful for her dad, who pretended not to be listening, but we would see him looking through the pamphlet, and we asked him to explain the priesthood and what it has done for him to be able to exercise it. He bore a sincere testimony and expressed a desire to exercise it again in his family. I want so badly for this family to be eternal. They want it too, but will progress slowly. That is just fine, as long as they are in an upward trajectory. I love this family.
Thursday we had so many sweet experiences. It hit me hard while I was studying that God cares about what I am thinking, and He knows and cares about what is troubling me. Having received a greater understanding of this led to more sincere prayer and telling God of my desires. It was amazing to watch the rest of the day how God was fulfilling those desires every hour of the day. We were using the gps to find a less active recent convert we had heard about named Chip. Sister Hall is still learning how to work the gps, and told me it was two houses before the actual house. We were on a highway, so I couldn't slow down enough to turn into that one, and turned into next driveway. I figured we may as well knock that house while we were there. We found a young man named Gavin, who knew Chip, and had been asking him about the church. We had a good lesson with him, left him a Book of Mormon, and set up a time to meet with both him and Chip. We were surprised to meet Chip, he is HUGE, super tall white man with a few piercings, dreadlocks, and a multitude of tattoos. He is the absolute nicest, neatest guy. He was excited we had met Gavin and said ever since the missionaries came and started meeting him, Gavin would ask him to tell him about what the missionaries said after every lesson. Gavin is a little socially awkward, and was nervous to meet with people, so Chip was ecstatic that Gavin was excited to meet with us. We're excited to teach them together.
Friday was our district meeting which was AWESOME, and we were blessed to meet people in our apartment complex who were open to us teaching them. We met one part member family that does foster care. We had an appointment set for yesterday, but they flaked. Still a blessing to find them. We have another appointment tonight to help one of our neighbors' sons with his reading and writing and then teach them. We also met this DeAnn who is way neat. She works as a paramedic and has two children. Zoe just turned 12, and Isaiah is 9. They're way fun kids. They invited us to their birthday party, which was Saturday. It was crazy! There were so many kids! I'm glad we went, because DeAnn definitely needed some help. It was really fun. She loved the aspects of the gospel we shared with her and invited us to come share our messages in her home. So excited!
The women's broadcast was so wonderful! I love President Uchtdorf. What truth that God knows something we don't know. He teaches over and over that I don't have to understand his part, I only have to understand mine and submit, and just DO.
I loved Ward Council. The Bishop and other leaders are awesome! They are so willing to help, and missionary-minded. It was a great fast and testimony meeting, we got to teach gospel principles on Charity. This was cool, because Sister Hall pointed out how we were able to live what we taught later that day. We were visiting some less active members, and met one family that was getting ready for their son's 16th birthday party. I was so happy the mom accepted our offer to help. We went to work and transformed the house and finished a cake in 45 minutes. Mom, you won't believe that she handed me 8 pictures and things that needed to be hung on the wall along with some nails and a hammer, and said "put them wherever you want, if I do it, I'll get OCD and take forever." I was a little intimidated, but remembered back from the Young Musicians' Summer Festival before my senior year of high school at BYU, one of the piano teachers saying pianists can measure perfectly with their hands if they pretend to play an interval. I used this to hang the decorations, and think they turned out pretty good. The family was happy with it. I love that the mission lets us do things we wouldn't normally be comfortable doing. Cleaning their bathroom wasn't even gross to me (even though it totally was gross). Sister Hall and I were just happy.
May I just take a minute to talk about how much I LOVE vacuuming?! It all started about a year ago when we got bed bugs and I had to vacuum the whole apartment along with the mattresses, and UNDER the carpet. It was nice since as an introvert, I need time by myself to recharge. Missionaries NEVER get time to themselves, but I learned that nobody tries to talk to me when I'm vacuuming. Thus I found a polite way to have alone time. It's therapeutic. I love Leeds, but our vacuum didn't work very well, so it was even more stressful to expect to see instant results, and not get them. Now our vacuum is wonderful, and their carpet was nice and dirty, so instant results were sweet. I also just love this family. We got to share a short thought from our study about the Stripling Warriors which ended up being perfect for them. I'm excited to go work with them more, now that we have a good relationship.
The mission is absolutely crazy. I think I have had a freak-out session on average every 1.25 days that I conclude in my head there is no way I can continue to live in such confinement, or just keep going, or not be by myself. However, every time I battle this in my head, something in my heart takes over and finds a way to give a little more to someone who needs it. Then I'm fine. Arrows are out again, and I can keep laboring. Every. Day. At the end of each day when Sister Hall and I have come in, we have talked about what a great day it was. Every single day we have been together we have been able to see the hand of God.
I love Sister Hall so much. I am so happy God sent her to me so we can learn together and support each other. She is such a good soul. She shared more about her family life, and I am in awe at the legacy this girl is creating for her family.
I know that God loves us and cares about our thoughts and desires.