We started something fun this week. It was the Assistants idea. We were all sitting in Branch counsel and they told us they just called people in their phones who they didn't know. They didn't know if they were members or less actives or investigators.. they just called! They would say "Hey buddy what's up it's the missionaries! We want to come see you!" They got 6 appointments out of it. So we tried it. It's hilarious!!! We found a less active that we're hopefully going to meet with soon. We have had some really good laughs out of this finding idea!
We're being patient with Cha. We had a very cool lesson with her this week. We had her come to the church where we had hot cocoa and a TV with Christmas lights around it. We watched Finding Faith in Christ (which I LOVE) And we talked about how much her Heavenly Father loves her and how to show respect in prayers. It was very special. We talked about Jan 5th as a baptism date. She's going to work towards that goal but she didn't promise anything. I'm also working on trying to see the vision for her. Meaning I'm trying to see her as a Relief Society president, a Primary teacher, a faithful visiting teacher. Her next major step to gain a strong testimony is just to read the Book of Mormon. But she hasn't. We even got her a picture book to make it easier. We're going to start just reading with her soon.
I saw Sister White yesterday at the Christmas devotional. She loved seeing me! We talked for a long time and she thanked both of us for the sweet letter. Her son Michael found a new home and she made a copy of the letter and gave it to his caretaker! She is so sweet! She is doing so much better too. She asked me to come see her soon and since we're going caroling with the sisters next week I told her we'd stop by. I love her so much!! She totally made my night!
We got a new investigator this week! Kardo!! He was born in California in 89 and lived there till 2000. He went back to his country Iraq (where his parents are from) and went to school. 9/11 happened and he couldn't get out of the country. (To go to school he had to forfeit his US citizenship) He couldn't get out and so he tried to join the US army. He did and fought for 4 years. Then he came back here and now is going to criminal justice school. He's so cool! We gave him a Book of Mormon and we met with him on Friday at the church with a member, Chelsea. He said he looks at the book everyday and wants to read it, but he just doesn't have time. We encouraged him to read it and he said he would try to for at least an hour each day!! He also told us how hard it is to see his friends die and wonder where they are, and he fears dying. We knew right then that we're teaching him Plan of Salvation next time. We invited him to the Christmas Devotional last night and he came! We could only go if we had investigators coming. He originally told us he could, then couldn't because he had to show his house, and then he finished and could! So we all made it in time for the last talk.. PERFECT FOR HIM!! Elder Nelson talked about military people finding peace in the gospel and that missionaries have that message. So perfect!! Me and Sister Giles were sitting there both silently praying that something would apply to him. That totally did!! Then during the last song I prayed to see Layne in the choir, a piece of home. I didn't see him but the last shot was of the First Presidency.... a piece of home. I started to tear up. Heavenly Father knew what I needed to have a little bit of peace in my heart. I needed to see my prophet. A piece of home. That was such a good evening. That is one thing that I have learned this week is that the Lord does hear and answer my prayers.
You should have seen the place where we had stake conference. THE MUSIC CITY CENTER IN THE GRAND BALLROOM. It was so cool!! That building is beautiful and I could see the city.. or most of it through the fog.. from the top.
And the stake is so musically talented! They had a children's choir do the prelude and one little girl looked exactly and sang just like my little Haley Parker. And another girl looked and sang exactly like my little Mia! They were precious and I miss my little buddy so much!!
Something very terrible happened this week. K... left the church. K... is 23 and was baptized about 2 years ago. He has the strongest testimony ever!! When he testified about Joseph Smith to one of our investigators, my own testimony of Joseph Smith grew. He studied doctrine and the scriptures regularly. He read lots of books. Bruce R McConkie was his hero and he quoted him all the time. I cried. I cried so hard!! As we left the library, spiritually smooshed, I decided right then and there that I wasn't going to let it affect the work. I went on trying to be as happy as I could. It was hard. SO HARD. But because of my decision, we had a miracle!! We met a lady named Linda. We passed a lady walking her dog who smiled and waved. I thought "What a nice lady. That's the kind of person missionaries pull up to, teach a whole lesson and they're baptized. That never happens." Well we prayed and got out and the dog was practically in Sister Giles lap! We talked to Linda and found out she had lost her husband and mom and that she is Catholic. Sister Giles was looking for a scripture at the same time as trying to explain Joseph Smith. She was struggling and I saw that as my opportunity. I taught Linda the restoration. After, Sister Giles commented and said that when I spoke, she couldn't see any doubt in what I was saying, and she knew that I didn't doubt Linda would listen. I was confident she'd be interested and I just spoke. The spirit truly worked through me for that and it was an awesome experience. Back to the sad story of K... The Assistants texted us and asked if we could go visit him. We gladly accepted. We texted Juliet (an RM in our ward who is K's close friend) and asked her to come. It was almost 8 pm and we knew it would take her at least an hour. Miracle though! Juliet was at the church for choir practice! We picked her up and went - 30 minute drive and K... wasn't home. Juliet texted him and asked to come see him. no response. We headed home. We got off the exit to go back to the church and K... TEXTED!!! He said we could come! We turned around, called president to tell him we'd be late getting home (he knew all about the situation) and we went back. We pulled in the same time as K... He walked up to us very happy and invited us into his apartment. He sat down with a big smile and said "Ok go!" I looked at him very sternly and said "You go" He asked what we wanted to know and Sister Giles asked why. K... put together a bunch of little things. There's a bigger problem but he just wont tell us. Sister Giles bore a powerful testimony about the Book of Mormon. I then looked at him very sternly and bore my testimony with the most boldness and the most love I have ever done. I told him that I had doubts when I came out, and about my struggle to know, and about the work it took. Growing up in the church means nothing. It helped me immensely but that is not how I gained my full testimony. It's been through trial. I told him that the Book of Mormon was absolutely true. He knew it. I knew it. And when I was finished, he quietly whispered "I have nothing else to say on that subject." We asked if we could leave with a kneeling prayer. He asked me to say it. I was freaking out. I held back tears, and prayed. I prayed for his family, for him and........ I had a very strong prompting. I thought of Mom's story, where her mission president blessed her to put aside her selfish desires. I felt very prompted to pray for him to do the same thing. I didn't want to say that because I was scared. But the prompting was so strong. I said it. We left, and I bawled the whole way home. We called President when we got home and told him everything. President was calm. He said "I've heard his testimony. He'll be okay." He will be. It's amazing how calm I felt.
I have never understood what it meant to love the members until then. I love them so much and to see them go astray hurts me. Then I thought... that's how Heavenly Father and Christ feel. They RUN to us when we go astray and they work their hardest on us! They never forget about us and all they want to do is help. I know this church is true. I know it. I know. I woke up Wednesday morning and felt that my testimony is solid and unshakable because of K... Amazing and difficult experience. My testimony will still grow, but as for now, it cannot be shaken or dimmed. The spirit is real. It tells me exactly what to do. It guides me and comforts me and mourns with me. I am so thankful that I have been extremely blessed to grow up in the church. I can't imagine how much faith a convert must have to remain faithful.
It was a hard week, but as I have relied on the Lord and kept my focus, it's worked out. I'm doing great. And I realized something this week... I've been out for 3 months! Actually I looked at it from the opposite end. I don't have 18 or 17 months left anymore. I only have 15. It's hard to soak up every minute.. but I try and I thank Heavenly Father so much for sending me out here. Thank you for your love and support.
Well.. That's about it. Only 2 more weeks until I get to call home for Christmas. It's going to be the best Christmas ever!! I love you all and I couldn't do it without you. Thank you for the huge amount of support. I hope you all enjoy Christmas... and the snow... I love you!!!
Got my flu shot this week....it hurt!!
My decorated Christmas desk.
It rained for 37 hours straight last week.