Good week. Lots of tender mercies came my way, some in the form of answered prayers, some in the form of experiences that were answers to prayers, some in the form of USPS and FedEx. (:
Shekera's confirmation was yesterday in sacrament meeting. A very sweet blessing was given, and all the Hoy kids- Shana, Tiara, Lamont, and Shekera are now members. Now we wait for the parents. They will be there soon. In the meantime, Lamont continues to be rock solid. Mom, I gave him your letter last night. He told us last night he convinced his friend to come to church with us this week! Lamont really wants to serve a mission, but he is already signed up for the marines, which means a four year commitment of active duty..This week he said he talked to his sergeant about serving first, he said he didn't get a definite answer yet. So please keep him in your prayers! Lamont would make the most amazing missionary, and if anyone knows anything about getting out of the marines- help a sister out. Haha. He is already talking about mission papers. I love that family so much! The AP's requested a video of Lamont sharing his testimony and conversion story that will be shared with the entire mission. I was surprised when he willingly agreed to do it- maybe I'll share it with you next week. The two questions we were told to ask him is 1- how the missionaries (us) played a role in his conversion and 2- how the gospel has changed his life.
This week at our regular dinner at Ivan's I got to talk to his sister from Puerto Rico on the phone. It was pretty intimidating, talking on the phone makes understanding that much harder, especially when they speak 100 words/ minute. I said a silent prayer in my head, meanwhile missing everything she was saying, to help me understand her. And then I tuned her back in, haha. And I heard "Era hermoso y blanco, me sentí tan tranquilo y feliz cuando yo estaba allí. Era una cosa muy especial para mí." (It was beautiful and white, I felt so peaceful and happy when I was there. It was a very special thing for me.) She was describing the Salt Lake temple! What are the chances his sister from Puerto Rico, happened to have been to the temple when she was visiting for work in Salt Lake? I hadn't even asked her, she didn't even know I was a missionary at that point. So in my broken spanish, I got to tell her about the temple.
Robbie is doing great. Good news- he has decided he wants to be baptized! Bad news- his parents will not let him. So he will have to wait until he is 18. The family friends of his in the ward said they would keep writing me and keep me up to date until he gets baptized. He is only 16 right now, so it will be some time. But such an exciting decision for him.
Phyllis has officially been dropped. This week we had our last visit with her. She let us in, we sat down to begin, and she asked us to stop coming. She had talked to her catholic priest, who- obviously told her she needed to tell us not to come back. (What did you think he would say? It's like going to the Honda dealership and asking about a Toyota! Of course he's going to tell her to stop.) I asked her to pray for us one last time before we left, and in her prayer she still said she knew it all to be true, but couldn't continue.
Ross is trying to quit smoking. If he could give up drinking and cocaine, he can quit smoking. He already quit drinking coffee. It may take a long while, but he can do it. Pretty funny this week, we were at our usual spot in the park where we teach, and Joe, the local wanderer- came by and started chanting "nun sandwich." He's quite the character. He's homeless, we see him all the time. Sometimes he follows us around as we street contact downtown hahah.
So Perry's baptism was supposed to be Saturday, but he decided to hold off because of his girlfriend.. She is really trying to pull him towards the Jehova's Witnesses. It got pretty intense in a lesson with them.. She and her mom were there with us and Perry. Her mom started asking us about what we do as missionaries. Perry told her some of the things we sacrifice, including contact with our families. She started putting us down, saying how "anti- Godlike" that was, and went off. Perry had our back.. He threw down. Hahah. His response was
"Well your 19 year old granddaughter is working at Walmart and on heroine, so I'd say what they're doing is pretty great." Hahaha. We just sat there silently.. And then continued with the lesson. Haha. Pretty awkward. I hope Perry decides to choose for himself, and not let anything else sway his decision. Nothing else matters.
On Friday we got to paint Mrs. Waltraub Webber's farmhouse. She's an older widow, her husband passed away a few years ago, and the man she paid to paint her farmhouse took the money and ran with it. So we said we would do it. She's the cutest little old lady ever. She is from Germany, she has the greatest accent. The whole time we were painting she was up at her house up the road, and when we had finished all the painting we went to check on her before we left. She has been baking us pies and muffins and treats all day. She was all upset that we were finished before they were done baking, so we went back later and had pie and hot cocoa while she told us stories of when she moved to America from Germany. She moved here in the 40's or 50's, and shortly after met her also German husband. Her husband was a "master baker." She shared some of his experiences, including when her husband was a prisoner of war in Africa. We are going back to help her with the second coat on her house this week, man I love that lady. She is a character.
On Sunday we finally got to give Norah a Chinese copy of the Book of Mormon, which we just received months after requesting. Teaching was very different. Try explaining who God is to someone who knows nothing about Him. It felt kind of like trying to describe the color red to someone who is blind, haha. We simply explained that like we have a father here on earth, we have one in heaven, who created us, and loves us. Next we taught her about who Jesus Christ is, and then promised that by reading the Book of Mormon she could get to know them. It was different than any lesson I had taught before, but it went well. She seemed to understand, and was eager to read. She's a smart girl, she will learn quickly.
Saturday we had a multi stake relief society event which was perfectly timed and themed "I can do this." (I can do hard things.) My favorite speaker was one who taught how it doesn't matter how you start, it's how you finish. He told the story of an Olympic athlete from Africa who was severely injured during a race, but decided to finish, despite the fact that all the other runners had already crossed the finished line an hour before. He said "My country didn't send me 5000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5000 miles to finish." I could relate this to myself, the missionary, like any other, always struggling with feelings of inadequacy.
Alright, my highlight. We were visited by the newest member of the quorum of the seventy. Elder Stanfill's visit changed what the rest of my mission will be. It was an answer to my many prayers. I guess if you're lucky sometimes answers can come in the form of personalized advice from general authorities. Haha. Any attempt I make to share it won't measure up to how great it was. Maybe I'll share some notes I took from it throughout the next few weeks and weekly emails. President invited me to tell the story of Lamont during the meeting, he's a mission wide celebrity by now.
After the meeting, I got to talk to Elder Stanfill for a few minutes and meet him and his wife. I thanked him, and he noticed I was a spanish speaking missionary. He asked me if I had much success here, or use it much. I told him I did here and there, but not much, and how honestly I am really struggling with the language. There is just no substitute for being immersed in it. I'm in a place where not even my companion speaks the language. He shared some insight with me, some I'll never forget. Something to do with my personal future. I know that I am not just learning Spanish for the next year and a half of my life, but for the rest of my life.
He told me that this was where I needed to be, and that nothing else that I could be doing right now could be more important, that nothing else could be "changing the eternities." Some of what he said to me I will share:
"I promise you, that whether or not you see a baptism, that when you pass through the veil you will be greeted by thousands, if not millions of people who will know your name."
These men are inspired. All this came from a man I had just met. A few other things were said that are too special to share. But what a great day it was.
It couldn't have been a more perfect night, we finished the day with dinner at a members home with Cynda, the friend who we met from our Meet the Mormons movie night.
It was such a great night. The members, the husband being a member, shared with me that it took him 20 years of going through missionary after missionary after missionary until the right one came. They told me they thought I was the one for Cynda. And this was the time for her. The spirit was so thick in that room, everyone knew it.
I will share some of my notes from Elder Stanfill's visit next week, and you'll hear from him yourselves on the Saturday morning session of general conference! (I know him.) Thanks everyone for the letters and support. Love you all!
You know it's a good week when you can't pray without crying.
I am learning that obedience is the most important when it's the hardest.
And hey, if you didn't know it, the church is true.
“Sacrifice allows us to learn something about ourselves--what we are willing to offer to the Lord through our obedience.” -Elder M. Russell Ballard