Life as a missionary just gets better and better.
This week was fantastic. We started the week off doing exchanges with our Gadsden sisters. We did an fhe with one of our favorite families. The father is a recent convert, he joined the church shortly after his son left for his mission in Australia, and his daughter was just sealed in the temple on Saturday. More details about that later. :) Monday night we had an awesome fhe on temples since extended family came too and don't understand the temple or why they couldn't go inside for the marriage. It was a sweet experience.
Crazy, but as we were talking to people at church about the Nicolas, the grandmother of this same family. Said, "did you say Nicola?" She then explained that as a teenager, the missionaries had the youth proselyting and knocking doors. She happened to knock on the door of a Nicola family. They were Catholic and had 6 kids--all were baptized. We talked to Jim about this, and he said it must have been his family. He is one of 6 kids, and they were Catholic in the same town. Amazing! She knocked on their door YEARS ago, they were baptized, and the spirit led Sister Madsen and me to his door years later, and now Loretta is getting baptized. She is such a rockstar in her personal studies. She is progressing so fast. In one of our appointments with her this past week, I felt prompted to move her baptismal date UP. I asked her how she would feel about being baptized a week sooner. She said that sounded nice. She will be baptized this Saturday. These people are absolutely amazing. They fit right into the ward, and love the gospel.
In an appointment with a part member family--Cassie, a woman in her late 20s and her 8 year old daughter Angel were both baptized late last year, and the woman's father, Bill has been a great encourager, but didn't take the discussions himself. Bill and I have a good relationship, he teases me in a grandfatherly kind of way everytime we come over to read the Book of Mormon with Cassie and Angel. I almost always ask him, "so when are YOU going to come to church?" (He has said the whole time I have been in this area that he will, but always chickens out). Occasionally, I'll ask him, "so when are YOU going to be baptized?" He usually turns it into a joke, though from how he's sat in on some of the lessons and participated, I always figured he would be, but just wasn't ready. This last week, he finally admitted that he knows it's all true wants to be baptized!!! We'll start to teach him officially, and we are getting them moved into another house with his 92 year old father.
By request, I did an exchange with a sister I love dearly who received some hard news from home. She goes home in October, and really wants to give the work her all for her last leg. It hurts to see missionaries suffering. They have sacrificed so much to be out here on the Lord's errand, and when additional hard things happen, it breaks my heart. However, I know that the mission accelerates the healing process, and the greatest blessings we can bring to our families are from giving our all out here. That exchange strengthened both our testimonies.
One thing I have a testimony of:miracles happen when missionaries have to use the restroom. I've seen this so many times. The sister had to use the restroom, so we went into a gas station, as she was in use of the facilities, I talked with the cashier. After some conversation she told me about her sister who also works with her who is dealing with some of the same hardships as the sister I was on exchanges with. I got her information, and know that God will use this to answer two prayers. It will help both of them for my dear sister missionary to teach this woman suffering with some of the same issues.
While on that same exchange, we taught someone I met with another sister on a previous exchange several months ago. She is progressing very slowly, but to me, the changes she made were more apparent since I hadn't seen her since our initial contact. Her countenance and appearance is completely different! It built my testimony to see the fruit of a simple contact from months ago. The sisters have done a remarkable job. I stand in awe of these sister I get to work with. God never stops working. Alma 36:25
I made the decision that I am keeping my bike after the mission on our next exchange in Oxford. The sister I exchanged with made plans for us to bike 20 miles to another city to follow up with someone I had actually met a few weeks earlier with the other Oxford sister. About two weeks ago, while the other sister and I were biking, we ran into a man with one leg stranded on the side of the road with a broken-down truck. We biked back half a mile to buy him some water from a convenience store, and came back asking how we could help. He told us about his niece who lived a few miles away. He didn't have phone numbers for anyone nearby who could help him, so we followed his directions and biked to meet his niece and tell her of his predicament and see if she could pick him up. She was not at home when we got to her house. We weren't sure what to do, so I suggested talking to the neighbors to see if they knew when she would be home. This is how we met Katelyn. She is about my age, gorgeous, super sweet and has an 8 month old baby. We taught her and she happily agreed to have us come back and bring her a Book of Mormon. Saturday, I got to bring one for her with the other sister and teach her more. That was really neat. She was worth making the bike trip for. In fact, I loved every minute of that bike ride. On our way back, we stopped by a yard sale where the other sister met a less active member! She taught him while another man there started asking questions. He was from Mexico, so we split, and I taught him in Spanish. They were both awesome people and accpeted return appointments. God is so good. Since Oxford has a bike shop and Leeds doesn't, we got our bikes tuned up before we went back to our area. Scott (my bike) rides SO good now. It is so much easier to bike, and I just love biking! I'm definitely shipping that bike home. It's an awesome bike, and biking provides for great pondering. Especially here in AL where it's so green and gorgeous.
BIking feels great until....you stop. Then you realize that you're a sweaty, sticky, smelly mess. Sister Madsen and I drove back to our area SO happy to be back together since we did exchanges back to back and hadn't really seen each other for a few days. We were on our way to the ring ceremony for the first family I talked about, and tried as best we could to make ourselves look and smell decent enough. What a shindig! It was awesome to see such happy people, and meet so many of their friends. They played a video of the bride's brother who is serving his mission in Australia, so that was precious, and the whole thing was just wonderful. Beautiful, Great Gatsby-themed with great food and so many great people. Marriage is a beautiful thing. I caught the bouquet. Didn't fight for it, all I had to do was lift my hands. :)
Church was AMAZING!! I woke up yesterday morning thinking about a less active we met once at the beginning of this transfer. She hadn't been to church since April. I texted her something about how we were excited to see her at church and wanted to introduce her to Loretta. She didn't respond, but she showed up with her mom! She told me that we woke her up with the text, but she was glad for it. Another Less active recent convert we've been working with showed up with her kids for the first time in several months. We were so proud of her! Cassie and Angel also made it, which surprised us since they were so busy, and normally don't make it wiehn their schedules are busy. Loretta and Jim came and got to stay for the w hole block. The ward was reaching out to the investigators and the less actives and recent converts. MerryAnn is doing a fantastic job at that. It was beautiful!!! It makes me so happy!!! Sister Madsen and I are just ecstatic for our lives right now.
The gospel is so REAL. It REALly works. It really changes us, and makes us happier, and get to share happiness with others. The stories from the scriptures are real, I love reading them and then seeing the same thing happen here today.
I love y'all so much and aprpeciate the way you build God's kingdom in Arizona.
Sister Liz Sheffer