Such good things happening!
Our mission has instituted an idea from the zone leaders serving in Madison. It is called the "Hour of Power." Every day from 5-6, we focus solely on inviting people to be baptized. The purpose is....to invite more people to be baptized and to get the timid missionaries out of their shells. Miracles have been coming of this from all over the mission.
Tuesday was hectic, and we were scrambling in that hour to find people we could invite to be baptized. President's letter last week discussed "living on the margin." The idea is the miracles happen in the last 20 minutes, the last door, all that. In the last MINUTE of the hour of power on Tuesday, we were in downtown Florence, and I saw a man sitting on a bench. We engaged him in gospel conversation, and I invited him to be baptized at 5:59. Nothing happened. He wasn't ready or interested. As we continued to walk, Sister West sees something shiny in a little boutique. The boutique closed at 6, but the girl working there let us in. He had a great conversation with her. She had recently married and moved to Florence. She is Catholic, and her husband is Methodist, and she was interested in the church. We have been in contact with her and are going to lunch this week. Talk about living on the margin. We were blessed to find other people who allowed us to teach them.
We had an awesome lesson with Jeanine, she finally opened up to us about how difficult it is for her to get over her baptist background, and coming from only hearing anti about the church, to attending and seeing it's good. She agreed to start the lessons over again with a clean slate. We taught her the next day with the assistants who came up and offered to work with us. There were a ton of kids in the house, so it was kind of crazy. She has gotten a little distant from us since then.
Her sister Destiny wants to be baptized so badly, her mom's heart just needs to be softened to allow her to do so.
A good sister from the ward took us out to meet the many less-active Spanish speakers in the ward. It was a good time. There is a family who quit going to church, but still believe. They have two teenage kids who have not been baptized. They agreed to take the lessons as a family again. I'm excited for the chance to have regular lessons in Spanish.
I can't remember if I had talked to y'all about Erica and Keneie. A few weeks ago on a prep day, and while Sister West was looking for blackberries, I started talking to this young couple. They were hilarious and agreed to have us over. The first lesson was awesome. Erica has an incredible mind. She has a military background and despite her being so young is wise beyond her years, while maintaining a playful, childlike demeanor. Keneie was just funny and seemed like a good guy. They had only been dating for a few months. Erica is 6 months pregnant from a previous engagement. They were committed to becoming a family, and we kept family as a focus during the lessons.
Our second lesson, Erica responded great, and Keneie didn't seem sure about it anymore.
We got a text from Erica on Friday and knew something was wrong. She called us and informed us she and Keneie were no longer together. We didn't hesitate to secure some chocolate and meet her at the library. She explained unfortunate circumstances, and we discussed that as well as the gospel. She had told some of her friends she was thinking about converting to Mormonism, and they responded with anti. Erica said that wasn't anything she had read from mormon.org or any of the literature she got from us. She wasn't phased by it, and simply asked how she should respond. This girl is golden! We invited her to be baptized, and she has a date for January 31st. We just came from her house, and she read from the introduction of the Book of Mormon to 1 Nephi 8. She gets excited by the story, and related it to herself. She is so solid. She was stoked to come to church yesterday, but got called into work. She has a hard time making ends meet, and is a little nervous about providing for herself and her coming daughter. She told us, her second job had her scheduled most Sundays, but she specifically asked for the 31st off for her baptism. We went over Sabbath day today, and told her in order to be able to be baptized, she has to come to church. She responded with such faith, and will get Sundays off no matter what. Erica is incredible!
Wednesday we had interviews with President Hanks in Tupelo, about a 2 hour drive from us. The gps we have doesn't help in the least for long distance trips like that, so driving there and back was an adventure, and rather stressful for me. Hermana West has great trust in me. We determined to see a part member couple we have been trying to get in with all transfer. They managed to avoid our calls and texts. They work in scouts and we had tried to catch them at the church on Wednesday nights before, but hadn't managed to get more than a minute exchange with them. The bishop said that was normally about as good as it got with them. We went directly to see them when we managed to get back into Florence. We were both so tired! We brought cookies for them to the church, and somehow I ended up talking to the husband Joe about cars and guns. Hermana West talked with Bethany about wedding stuff. We were in. They didn't hesitate to schedule a dinner with us. Joe made seasoned chicken strips and I made tortillas, refried beans, and Spanish rice. It was delicious. We were even more in. They love us now. Bethany agreed to start the discussions. Miracles!
Another reason for being so tired after interviews is that Hermana West got the news that she will be training this coming transfer! She is SO nervous. I know she will be an awesome trainer, and we have been going hard in her training. God has been blessing us so much. Our teaching pool has increased tremendously this week, Hermana West is spiritually maturing right in front of my eyes, and we are just seeing miracles everywhere we work. Tracting has been even more effective, and it is just incredible to see what is happening here in Florence right before our eyes.
Yesterday. Oh man. Ward conference, and it was awesome. After the block we were part of a new member lesson for a 50 year old recent convert named Amanda who was baptized just before we got here. Amanda said she couldn't help but wonder how her life would be different were she raised in the gospel, perhaps she would be married and have a family. WE assured her God still has those blessings for her. She then got determined and said she wanted to get off her butt and do more, and asked about our schedule for team-ups. That has blown up recently also, and we will have 5 team-ups this week, including her now. She is excited. It's awesome to see the gospel continues to change her.
We had a team-up after her lesson with a woman in the ward. She has a beautiful, musical laugh like Grandma Sheffer's and uses it often. She is delightful to be around. Our plans for where we intended to go changed after a sister in the ward asked if we could teach part of a RS thing for this activity Tuesday. We were to pick up a packet from a sick sister in Killen. We decided to go out there, and then work that area with our team-up, Sister Young. When I looked over what members lived in Killen, Diana stuck out to me. The elders had been seeing her, but had only managed to get a ride out there once this last transfer and didn't seem too enthused about how things were going with her. We asked Sister Young if she knew her, and she gasped and said, "I haven't seen her in YEARS, I LOVE Diana." We went, and once Diana realized who she was, she was overcome with joy. She has an incredible conversion story, and immediately committed to coming back to church, especially since she learned her old, dear friend was now in her ward, and she expressed her lifelong desires to be a missionary, and to go through the temple. This is her year. That was an amazing experience.
God is so good!!!
Sister Liz Sheffer