This week has been really hard. Well, mostly the last 4 days. I'll just start from Thursday for now. Thursday started out to be a really good day. We were laughing so much and the weather was so pretty we didn't need coats. We were both in a great mood! Then we got a text from Sister Andersen that said "Hi sisters, we will be in the Goodlettsville area tonight and would like to take you out to dinner. Could you cancel your 5 and 6:00 pm appointment?" I thought nothing of it and thought "Oh they can come to dinner with our members who are taking us out!" Then I read the "cancel your appointments" part. That freaked me out. That has to be something bad. The day went on and we were both just scatter brained. We couldn't focus. We had some great lessons with Darrell and Brittany. President said he would be late and so we needed to cancel our appointments from 7:00 pm on. They came at 7 to our apartment and took us to Outback Steakhouse. They were so quiet the whole time. If they did smile or laugh, it didn't last long. We KNEW something was bad. I freaked out because I knew you and Dad were both on planes this week.
After dinner they took us home and we jokingly said "Ok bye!" because we knew something was going to happen. They came in and Sister West was giving Sister Andersen a tour of the apartment. President pulled me aside and said "Her mom is not doing well. I need you to be strong for her. Very strong." They came back, we all sat down, and President held Sister West's hand as he told her that her mom wasn't doing good. Sister West didn't cry. She was in shock. She could sense it because her mom didn't email her that much on Monday. President told her to call home and they face-timed on President's phone. She went into our study room and you could hear her laugh and love seeing her family. She said "Hi Mom!" and then a few minutes later came out and sat in the chair and said "My family wants to know if I can come home." President said yes and asked when she would need to be there. She asked her dad and he said "Well, with her kidney and liver and everything shutting down, she doesn't have that much time." He said that they could get her on a flight first thing in the morning and that she should pray about coming back or not. She decided to go and said bye to her family. They let her say goodbye to her mom. Sister West's mom still had so much power and drive in her voice. Sister West said "Hi Mom! I'm coming home to see you ok?"
"I can't wait to see you."
"I can't wait to see you too!!"
"I love you."
"I love you too!"
and then she hung up. I was a wreck. I tried as hard as I could to hold it all in. We said a prayer and both President and Sister Andersen gave her a big hug, and they left. Sister West said "Ok.... let's pack. Don't think about it. Let's just pack." So we got out the suitcases and just packed away. The Hermanas came home later and asked what was going on..... She told them and I just turned around so Sister West couldn't see me and I just cried. I had about 10 million thoughts running through my mind. Mostly I just hurt for her.
We packed all night. We got about 2 hours of sleep before President was back at 5:30 am to get her. I had written her a note and put in pictures of us and some other little things that were inside jokes and memories. I hugged her one last time and then she was gone..... I had asked her how she was so strong and she just said "I have to be. It's for my Mom."
I got one more hour of sleep that morning before we were back on schedule. If it weren't for the Hermana's I would have stayed in bed all day. They said "Well, let's get going so we don't get behind schedule." I just cried and cried. I did studies alone in my room and I just prayed and cried and didn't know what to do. I called the bishop and just cried to him. He came immediately to give us all blessings. I called the Hull's, who actually got to meet Sister West's mom during one of his concerts in Utah. They were so sad. And then as we saw people, I had to tell them. I have been out with many members in the past few days. If I didn't know them before, I will know them now.
This has been a major growing experience and thank goodness I have found blessings. I had been struggling with weaknesses for a long time. I knelt down Friday morning and just cried and said to Heavenly Father "Well... there go my weaknesses. Poof. They're gone." There's no room or time to be bad at planning, studying, teaching, coordination with members. I have no choice. I'm a lot stronger than I thought. Friday I just cried all day. The bishop's wife, Sister Sims, came out with me that night to see Debbie and when we pulled up I realized I had planned nothing for her. I broke down and told Sister Sims and she said she would share a scripture. I walked in and started crying and so Sister Sims told Debbie and Debbie just bawled. It was so sad. I just gave her a big hug!
Saturday I didn't cry until I knelt down to say my evening prayers. Sister West brought a brilliant light into my life and now it's... there, but just dim. She was always SO happy and positive and hard working and I know without any doubt that she did not go home with one single regret.
I am in a trio now with the Hermanas and we handle two areas for the next week. Yesterday they sent around a sign-up for exchanges with "Sister Rockavitch" haha. I have enough sisters that I could have someone all day every day. This ward is amazing. They have just supported me 150%. I have a ride to my last exchange of the transfer next week where I'll just go in a trio. This week is going to be exhausting, but I'm doing my best to handle it. I'm trusting in the Lord. I'm taking alone time to just breathe and pray. I'm trying to keep up with studies to get the spiritual preparation I need. I'm trying to eat good and not let myself get stressed out. I'm trying to do everything in my power to keep this area going and to keep the people progressing. I know God will make up the rest. I know that if I try my absolute best to do what is right, He will sustain me so I won't get exhausted and burnt out. I have a firm testimony of the sustaining power of the gospel. I know that the Plan of Salvation is real. I KNOW that because Sister West's family is sealed in the temple, she will be with her mom forever, for all eternity. That is why I'm here. And now that I've seen how quickly a mission can end, I'm going to serve like every day is my last, because I NEVER know when it will be.
I did have a moment of great gratitude too. I was thinking about all that has happened this week. I am safe. I have companions. I have ward members who are loving and ready and willing to help. I have a car to get me around. I know the area pretty well. It's all going to be ok
We had an amazing miracle that I wanted to share with you. Wednesday I was here in the area on an exchange with Sister Squire and we went to contact a referral who had been on our list since December. She never answered her phone and her address never came up on our GPS. We found it on our iPads and so we screen-shotted the directions and found it after much hunting. Her name is Jennifer and she is 53. She opened the door and let us right in before I could even say anything. Then I explained who we were and said "You requested a missionary visit." Usually those requests are on accident or from a friend so I was shocked when she said "Yes I did! I'm so excited you came!" She has known Mormon's for years and it's always been on her mind. She went to another religion on Christmas and just felt empty and that's when she decided it was time for answers and went on mormon.org. We couldn't stay long so we gave her a Restoration pamphlet and a Book of Mormon and set up an appointment for Friday. We went back on Friday, Hermana Stokes and I, and taught the Restoration. Normally, we teach it by telling. Well with her, we just answered all her questions. It was incredible! She had read the whole pamphlet and also the intro to the Book of Mormon. She had so many questions!
Who is Moroni?
Was Mormon a prophet?
Where was the Holy Ghost during the first vision?
What is the Book of Mormon about?
I can't remember them all, but she had SO many good questions! A lot of them linked to the Plan of Salvation and so she is going to love that lesson tomorrow! She was going to come to church, but ended up really sick Sunday morning. Bummer. She is going to be baptized within a few weeks! I just know it! I can't even adequately describe how incredible and prepared she is! I love this gospel!
I feel like Heavenly Father knew what was coming this week and so He has blessed us with the most amazing miracle that I have ever seen! This gospel is so true.
Anyways... I apologize if I don't email much more. I'm just not really wanting to email today. I want to go home and write in my journal and read the Book of Mormon like crazy.
I don't even remember what happened at the beginning of the week......but here are a few things you might want to read about my week.
We had dinner at the Norris's and they are in a band called "The Barefoot Movement" and we got all of their CD's for FREE. Whoo hoo! I can't wait to listen to those in March!
I swear I walked about 14 or more miles. .... we walked everywhere and hardly anyone let us in! So we just walked and walked... but we had a lot of fun! I was on an exchange with Sister Dent, who is so outgoing and loving and easy to talk to so we had a great time! It made it a lot easier. I always get really nervous when I go on an exchange with a sister I don't know.
After District meeting I went on another exchange with Sister Squire and we had a great day! We had a lot of good lessons, one of which was with the Racey family and a member, Brother Davis. We talked about the Restoration movie and what they liked and then explained a lot about temples to them. It was a great lesson! We also taught Cha and a man named Robert, who is a great Baptist guy. He is older and he and his wife have a great niece that is on a mission. Betty, his wife, had just finished reading an email from her when we came. We taught the whole restoration and at the end offered them a Book of Mormon, and they declined!! AH! WHAT?!!! You don't want more of the word of God?! He said it wasn't part of his studies.
Sister West and I were finally back together after a couple of exchanges this week and we were doubled over laughing during studies... we were sweating running to the bus and missed it, but we missed it on purpose because we met a guy who met Sister Schenk in Nashville! He said he was reading the Book of Mormon and loving it! It was so sweet! I love moments like that where you can see the hand of God. He just moved our bus right out of the stop so we could wait for the next one.
Then everything I wrote about earlier happened..... We all put our beds together with our heads in the center like a star that night and just fell asleep holding hands. And crying.
Just cried all day. Just cried.
Didn't cry as much. It was a hard day. I love being with the Hermana's, but I don't like sitting clueless through their lessons while they speak Spanish. That's why I'm going to try to get members with me a lot tonight. I know the Hermana's want to all be together, but I need to keep the work going. If it means getting out of my comfort zone and just teaching with random ladies, fine. I'll do it. I know that Sister West would expect nothing less. So far, nothing has gone incredibly wrong. Everything is ok. I made a to-do list in my iPad to keep track of everything I'm told and all my thoughts together. It's really helping me. Then I can just pull it out and say "what's next."
That night as I prayed, I realized how close I felt to Heavenly Father. I felt His love just encircling me. I knew that He was with Sister West and me. I knew that He was not angry with me in any way that He understood and would help me. That was so comforting to feel.
They announced in church why Sister West was gone and asked for their prayers and the ward just sunk. They were so sad. I had so many people come talk to me after. I have all of Sister West's info memorized now haha The members have been great to me. They're ready to help with anything they can. Daniel, from the Nashville YSA, even found out and is going to get 2 sisters to come with him on Saturday so we can all go work. These people are the best! I love them.
I'm hanging in there and just trying to do everything as well as I can and let God fill in the rest. It's not how I would have an ideal week, but hey, I don't get to decided that. All I can decide is whether I choose to handle it good or not.
I love you!
(Just a note: As far as I understand, Sister West made it home in time to see her mom before she passed away.)
One of our last pictures.
Sister Rokovitz and Sister West. (I'm not sure who else is in the picture with them. Amber didn't say.)
Trying to comfort myself with a can of pineapple. It was shortly after this that President sent a text and told me that Sister West's mom had passed away. I was so sad.
On an exchange with Sister Dent. Such a fun sister.
A beautiful evening in Goodlettsville