|Yummy Puerto Rican meal prepared by Ivan.|
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
It was so good to talk to you on Tuesday! Only 7 months til next time. Hahah. I kind of blew it, I had a million stories to tell you guys but I blanked.
Anyway, we got our iPads! Best part..... We can read emails EVERYDAY now! So that means I will get and read them instantly now. I just can't respond til pday. Crazy huh? It's different, I already feel so much more connected to the real world, haha. Honestly not sure how I feel about it. Lots of exciting stuff. It is possible that in the near future we will be able to skype our families to join lessons with investigators here! So you guys could help teach!
Anyway, now you know I'll be checking everyday, no pressure haha.
This week was our slowest. Not much happened. We did, however get to go back to dinner last night where Ivan, the Puerto Rican made us dinner. This house they live in is a house of seven guys, it's a halfway house. They are all so nice, and they even have a "family" dog, haha. Ivan is so great, he made sure to invite my family back for dinner (when you guys pick me up in a year and a half.) Haha. It is true that Hispanic people are just kind by nature. It felt so good to be speaking in Spanish!
We saw Bill again, the man who had been studying the Book of Mormon for 20 years. His funeral service is tomorrow, so when we saw him he was understandably distraught, and showed us all their pictures and memories. Bill does not believe that marriage is eternal. His words were: "I hope one day up there I'll bump into her and see what's up. I really miss her." Basically he thinks that marriage is only something in this life. We again left him with the message of the plan of salvation, and bore testimony that his wife is waiting for him, and he will see her again. He lit up. He understands that it is no coincidence that we knocked on his door.
Danny is doing alright. He has not smoked a cigarette since our lesson, last week! Pretty amazing, considering he's been smoking 30/ day for 30 years. We had the ward mission leader give him a priesthood blessing. He was so excited, he walked in the church and told everyone "I'm getting blessed!" After the blessing he was teary and said, "I felt it again." (The holy ghost) Danny is a special guy, it will be so sad to see him go in a week.
Man, you are sure put to the test here. Everyone you come into contact with wants to challenge everything you've believed your whole life, even the members. You wouldn't expect to have those kind of conversations at dinner appointments with members. Even in gospel doctrine people always have something contrary to say. It definitely makes me work harder to root what I believe. I am constantly praying and working on renewing my testimony.
Anyway, I really love the people here. I don't want to leave Butler. 1/10 people not slamming the door is better than 1/20, like most places in PA. Should be a good week.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Well, you win some you lose some. And in this case you lose them all. Haha. This week was one of cancellations on cancellations on cancellations. But in all that time we had we met some really cool people.
D is really struggling. There was a period of four days this week we lost him. He wouldn't answer our calls or texts. This is very unusual for Danny. We left him notes every day on his door. When we finally saw him for the first time he answered the door and was too drunk to stand. We were so bummed. We talked for a while, and before we left he said a prayer. "Dear God, thank you for these sisters who care about me and love me so much they come day after day after day.. They really don't bother me at all." We've been seeing him everyday still, and he is doing better. He was at church this week, which was awesome. After church though he texted us and said "You'd better put a leash on Sis Rafaela, she was dragging me around like a lost puppy lol." Sis Rafaela is a member and was showing him around to classes hahah. Tonight we are going to introduce the stop smoking program, he even went out and bought everything on the list we gave him. He will get there, but he need time- more than we have left with him..
I've learned that the non members and converts we meet say some of the most beautiful prayers. Their raw and unrehearsed, real prayers are anything but "travel home safely," and "nourish and strengthen our bodies." Their prayers are the way they're meant to be- conversational. Whatever they're thinking, not what they've heard 100 times before. We as life- long members should follow their example.
Saturday after a lesson we found a guy named Bill. We almost gave up on finding his apartment, we had to knock on three other people's door to help us find him. When he opened the door, and we began introducing ourselves as missionaries, he saw the Book of Mormon in my hands and said wait. He returned with a dusty Book of Mormon and said: "I believe it. I've read it. I've been studying it since 1992 and I've been looking for the church that believes it for 23 years." Bill's wife had passed away just days before. He was not in good shape. I couldn't believe the timing. I asked him "Do you want to know where your wife is?" We taught the plan of salvation. His wife had been what had kept him from investigating the book for the past 20 years, being a strong Methodist.
Yesterday afternoon as we were walking home from an appointment, we came upon a guy sitting on his porch. He was so friendly, and invited us up. He was Puerto Rican, and as we found out he spoke Spanish, we did too. We only got a few sentences out before he stopped us. "Wait!." He came back with his friend and his ten year old son from inside the house. "Okay, go." We continued teaching. He was so excited he found some fluent Spanish speakers. His friend, Ivan, turned out to be an amazing guy. This house was a half-way house, and he shared his recovery story. He had been a heroine addict all his life, until he became sober two years ago. He spoke about a void he had in his heart all his life.
This void he spoke about, put into all people's hearts by trials or heartache is what enables there to be place in their hearts for our message. Our trials humble us. I am a witness of that. I think it one of the blessings we receive when we are set apart as missionaries is the blessing of not only love for the people, but grief. To feel what they feel, and in part take the weight on our own backs. After all isn't this what Christ did, literally and through the atonement?
"Only God can count the sacrifice, only God can measure the sorrow, only God can know the hearts of those who serve Him- then and now." -Elder Eyring
In D&C 97:8: "....all among you who know their hearts are honest, and are broken... and are willing to obey their covenants by sacrifice- yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command- they are accepted of me."
Gary, the Puerto Rican, and Ivan invited us back this Sunday for some "real Puerto Rican food." Can't wait. They were good people.
We saw Sandi and her son Dominik again, Dominik is quite the handful. He was seen way too much for a four year old, and it explains the behavior. Sandi is still fighting meth addictions, and the two of them have spent most their lives homeless. Though we can't do much in ways of money for them, I had the idea to bring them all the leftover meals to them. We get fed every single night here by the members, and they all send us home leftovers, which we do not eat (tryin to fight the statistics, yafeel? We also walk with ankle weights everywhere we go as we tract and walk places hahah. Excited to use my fitbit. ) Anyway, we started bringing them leftovers, that would otherwise be thrown away. She is so grateful for them.
We do meet our fair share of crazies out here. Haha. We always text a member in the ward, Brother Matson, who volunteers to work and teach in the Butler prison, to approve if we can or should not see people. Most of the people we meet have been in there, and we will either get a "go ahead," or a "proceed with caution, move by the spirit." And sometimes it is a "no." Haha.
This week we had quite the gang on Sunday. We filled almost two pews, us and our investigators. I wonder what the members think, gang is the appropriate word, haha. Soon enough we'll have all of Butler prison in there hahaha. I wonder if anyone ever mistakes my fitbit for a house arrest bracelet hahah.
Sister Davis and I got asked on a few dates this week.. one a 35 year old ex- convict hahah. We kindly explained we do not date as missionaries, but if they had interest in Jesus Christ and our message, we would love to share it with them. Hahaha
We are being safe out here, we are being smart. Each and every decision we make makes has big consequences- and who we meet. Which route to take, which street to walk, to walk or to drive, etc. It is a difficult skill, to distinguish your own thoughts from the spirit. In the conversion story of Bill Carpenter I told you guys to watch last week he said:
"When the spirit speaks to you you have to act on it, because if you don't it departs, and opens up your agency."
Anyway, it's been another good week. Thank you for all the prayers, support, and encouragement.
Love you all,
This week was one with many miracles. For lack of time I'll name a few. This sure is a crazy place, haha. We are yet to teach someone who isn't currently using or has been on heroine or in prison. But man do I love these people.
We go see our investigator D every week. We went to visit him on Friday night, and he answered the door, drunk. We were devastated. The night before in another great lesson he had told us he was getting baptized, but that he was going to do it in Oklahoma, where he's moving to live with his nephew.
For the first time I was able to be so bold with him. I asked him what had changed from the time he left that lesson to when he got home and started drinking. "The second I leave the devil grabs me and pulls me down, I am weak. He's got a hold on me." He broke down for the first time, and so did I.
Richard G Scott once said "Once a person goes on your list, he goes on Satan's list too, and you have to work harder than him."
Before we met Danny he had been sober for a year. It was as soon as we started teaching him, he was going in the right direction, he started working on Danny hard. The harder we work the harder the adversary works on the people we meet. As a missionary you are wrong if you think the second you enter a person's life it will be easier, and come easily. It will only get harder before it gets better.
"The devil don't kick no dead dog." He is not going to work on someone who's already beat.
For the first time I was very bold with him.
"Do you want this more than you want that drink?" I told him that the reason things were so hard is because he had such great potential. I pleaded with him to keep trying. I told him he had two choices when we left that night. He could sit down and finish that drink when we left, or he could dump it down the sink and stop waiting for tomorrow.
We got a call from D that night. "I texted my nephew and told him a Mormon is coming to town. Because I am getting baptized in Butler. I know in my heart that it is right."
He has a long, hard way to come in the next few weeks. He must quit smoking and drinking in three weeks. We will be seeing him everyday.
If anyone has been prepared for our message, it is Danny. I know he has been waiting for us for a long time.
The weeks only get harder and harder, only because I am working harder. This week we taught a quarter of our zone's total lessons. We doubled the average number of lessons here. We quadrupled our amount of investigators. Good things are happening here. The area was in a place of standstill, and now they are moving. We talked to every person we passed this week, we walked everywhere. And everyone listened. I knew the place was on hold when I arrived.
It takes being bold to be successful.
We had a lesson with the Hoy family. At the end of the lesson I addressed the 18 year old son Lamonte, and asked him to think about what he wants out of our weekly lessons. We got him to open up for the first time, and for the first time since the missionaries started visiting them last year Lamonte came to church. Bow-tie and all.(: We were so happy when he walked in the door.
I've decided to walk everywhere rather than drive, so we can talk to everyone. It is scary thinking about how your decisions can impact people's lives, maybe even their salvation. My decision to drive would have cost 18 new people this week their chance at our message. Maybe the decision to take the short cut cost someone else's. It is hard learning to decipher between your own thoughts and the spirit.
Tuesday night we were looking through former investigators when I came across a woman named Angie on the list, who had been taught and was to be baptized back in September, but had a brain tumor and had moved, and not been contacted since. I felt like we needed to go see her.
I was honestly expecting her to open the door to us, welcome us in, and ask when she could be baptized. Haha. Instead, her son Dj answered the door. He told us his mom had moved, and joined another church, and declined our invitation to hear our message.
Pretty bummed, we were leaving when a woman who was in front of the house, his next door neighbor who had overheard us said, "wait, don't go."
She shared with us some of the things she has been going through, and told us she knew we were sent here. She and her son Dominik had lived in homeless shelters and under the freeway much of his life. She is currently battling some serious addictions. She and her son were at church on Sunday, she came prepared with a notebook and took notes on everything. She was so cute and excited to be there.
Being out here is so humbling. I realize I have taken not only my family and my circumstances for granted my whole life, but the gospel. Did you know that not everyone in the world is Mormon? Because apparently I didn't. I'm out of the bubble of Utah. Growing up there I've never even questioned questioning the things I grew up knowing- that the church and the Book of Mormon are true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet. And now I am here, where the name is laughed at. I think this can tear some people's testimonies apart when they go on missions. It is necessary for everyone to reach a point in their life, even if they have been a member their whole life, to really ask for themselves if it is true. Missionary work can be heartbreaking. But to see people like Danny, like Lamonte, and like Sandi and her son walk into church on Sunday morning brings so much happiness, the real kind.
Everyone's heard the saying "Imagine the people in white." As in to imagine them being baptized. But when I meet a person, maybe someone sitting drinking a beer with a cigarette in their hand, that they sometimes do or don't move to shake my hand, I imagine them in a white shirt and tie. Maybe a suit and tie. I imagine them past the baptism, in their everyday clothes. I see past the missing teeth, I know what the influence of the gospel would have on their lives.
Not to be a downer this week. It has been a good busy week, and things are really changing around here. Good things are happening. I'm still doing my best,
Ps. Yes my watch is upside-down in many of my pictures, it was on purpose. Pennsylvania is famous for the PA- ramble. In other words, people do not stop talking. Sometimes we sit for an hour listening to someone talk before we can get a word in, haha.
Monday, May 4, 2015
Hey hey hey.
I'll get right to it. Haha. I'll start with the good news.
So Tuesdays we do "produce to people"- people come and get free food. It was so humbling.. People of all ages came, they lined up blocks back, hundreds of people. I think my heart is just a little sensitive for it at the moment, haha. The inmates from Butler prison were there passing out food with us. One guy came up and started asking questions about our church. He told us that he had had a Book of Mormon, and had read the first three books, but it had been confiscated a while back. We got to teach the first lesson to him as we passed out food, not your conventional first lesson haha. We may be going to Butler prison to teach him, he was great. He had a sincere desire to know more about the church. Today we wrote our testimonies on the inside of a Book of Mormon, and we plan on smuggling it in to him since he wasn't able to take anything back with him. We'll see how that goes. I believe he gets out in a few months, so if nothing happens now we will contact him then, he lives in Butler.
There was also a Jehovah's witness there, who was harassing us all night once we found out we were 'the mormons.' Haha. He started bashing us a bit. A real in your face kind of guy. At one point he asked "So what do we have to do to go back to heaven then huh?"
I answered "There are certain saving ordinance-"
Lol ,poor guy. Very good, baptism is one of them. He did that again and again everytime yelling "Wrong!" Hahaha.
People here have very wrong conceptions of 'the mormons' here. I don't know what it is... But when they realize we are mormons, there is a visible disgust that comes across their face, and suddenly it's like we're not human beings anymore. People hate the missionaries here. We hear the nicest things(((((:
It's hard not to take rejection personally, because the gospel is something I find very personal. If only they knew what they were letting pass them by. The worst part is seeing families, and literally having to walk away.
Working with inactive members is a very slow and frustrating process. Sometimes I feel more like a full-time visiting teacher than a full-time missionary. Being a sister missionary is also frustrating, No one takes you seriously.
Missionary work sure can pull at your heartstings. These people go through so much. It is black and white seeing the influence of the gospel, and the happiness and success it brings.
We had a great lesson with our (only) progressing investigator Friday night. We had it in a member's home- the Furuzzi's. It was such a powerful lesson, the spirit was tangible in the moment. He told us he 'knows the Book of Mormon is true.'
The cool thing about knowing that is that with that knowledge comes everything else- because it contains everything. Once you know the book is true, you know Joseph Smith was a prophet, and he restored the gospel to the earth, along with all the doctrine that make up the fullness of our gospel. He is so ready, but he has to quit smoking. Our time with him is short, he leaves next month.
Some more good news- we found our first Spanish speaking people. We had to drag it out of some members, they didn't want to send us into that part of town. Is there a good part of town? Haha. We knocked and they were the kindest people we have come across. It is a house of five or six Hispanic guys living there, they told us we could come back. They are so much nicer than white people, hahah. It's hard not to wish I was in Mexico. Those are my people.
We got to go to a special MLC this week in Pittsburgh, the mission president, President Donaldson, from "The district" videos taught. It was cool, only a handful of missionaries were chosen to go. We went to dinner in downtown Pittsburgh after. My new district is great. They're super fun.
We get ipads this month, PRAY that I don't have to be a facebook missionary. Hahaha It was also just approved that we can attend three different temples, the Palmyra New York temple, Washington DC temple, and Columbus Ohio temple. Next year the Philadelphia temple will be dedicated and we will be able to go there too.
Before I forget, something you must listen to. Not sure the exact name, but something like "the catholic conversion of Bill Carpenter." It's an audio thing, but I promise it's worth the listen.
Look at me being all positive and stuff. To all the people I haven't had time to reply to, please be patient, my time is limited here. Don't stop writing!
I'm doing my best out here,